Spectrolab, a division of Boeing, has developed a solar cell that converts 41 percent of the sunlight that strikes it into energy.
This solar cell can potentially bring the cost of electricity down to $3.00 USD per kilowatt-hour over the life of the panel. Currently, Hamilton's hydro utility (Horizon) charges $0.055 cents per kilowatt-hour. The cost difference is huge but the efficiency is increasing. As recent as 1995, the record for a solar cell to convert sunlight to electricity was at 24 percent.
Let's assume that with all the additional charges on your hydro bill, that your costs are double - $0.11 per kilowatt-hour. If solar cell efficiencies continue to increase and the cost per kilowatt-hour drops to $1.00 - at $1 per watt, a solar panel rated at 1000 watts would cost $1000. It would take 9000 hours of use to break even.
Assuming an average of four hours of sunlight per day, that would take six years. At $3.00 per watt the break-even is 18 years and at $8 per watt (which is the average commercial panel sold today) is 48 years, which is longer than the expected life of the panel.
We are burning or converting carbon from fossil fuels that has been trapped as a solid or liquid for eons and releasing it into the atmosphere as a gas at a rate of 1,000 barrels of oil per second (equal to the volume of five large tanker trucks).
Since 1859 we've burned 1.5 trillion barrels. We are at the halfway point - Peak Oil - which means there are about 1.5 trillion barrels left of extractable oil in the earth.
However, with our current rate of burning plus skyrocketing demand, the forecasted rate of consumption shows we will burn the remaining oil in only 20 years.
The good news is that the sun radiates about a kilowatt of energy per square meter on the surface of earth every second.
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