Solar power

One thing I've always wondered is why people don't use more solar power. Especially in southern and equatorial regions where there's plenty of sunny days. There are week long stretches where there's not a cloud in the sky, and everything outside is baking in the sun. Everytime I look around, I see all this potential energy that could be converted and used. That's probably because I was going to be an astrophysicist before I switched to medical physics, so I know how much energy there is hitting the Earth in the form of sunlight.

Solar cells (also called photovoltaics in the industry) are thin and easily applied. Nowadays, solar cells are more efficient than they were a few years ago. You can put them anywhere. On the roof of your house, the top of your car, on your garage. Anywhere that gets sunlight.

They're brittle you say? Encase them in a clear plastic box. That'll protect them from getting pooped on by birds too.

They don't generate enough power? Who cares. So what if a bank of solar cells can't generate enough power to run your house. All you need is for it to generate power so you don't need to draw as much from the power grid. You still get lower energy costs. And if you can generate enough to run your house, then terrific!

Expensive? Sure, but in the long run, you'll be saving money.

Storage batteries? Only if you're generating more energy than you use. And even if you do, you could probably negotiate with your power utility to funnel the excess back into the grid for a credit on your power bill, lowering your power costs even more.

Solar power can even be used to heat water, giving your hot water heater a break.

The US needs to seriously look at alternative sources of energy, instead of digging for more oil or beating countries into submission to get theirs.. When I was in elementary school back in the 70s, energy conservation was the big message. We were always told to turn the lights off in empty rooms, walk instead of taking your car for short trips. Use public transportation. This was the time of the big oil crisis, OPEC embargoes and all that, although at the time I was too young to know or care about that stuff. The oil crisis is over, oil still remains a finite resouce, but consumption has skyrocketed.

Now, as I go around my daily routine, I see everybody driving big SUVs and trucks that get a few dozen miles per gallon of gas. I walk around downtown during the evening, and there are empty office buildings with all their lights on. People drive their cars down the block to the grocery store. Heck, in my apartment complex, people drive the hundred meters or so it takes to just get to the pool!

Now, I'm certainly not a tree hugging, hemp wearing rabid environmentalist. I don't think everyone should stop driving gas guzzling cars. I do recycle what I can. I drive my car to places where I can't walk to, but I don't carpool (athough I've thought about it). I'm just wishing people would be more responsible and forward thinking about their resource consumption.

I certainly don't think we're headed into a energy crisis. We have energy issues, definitely. Witness what happens every summer when energy usage jumps as people crank up their air conditioners and fans. Nothing emergent or catastrophic yet. It will happen eventually though, and sooner rather than later if nothing is done about it now.

Things to read and consider:
Energy Crisis: Chicken Little Speaks
Is There an Energy Crisis? at ABC News
The Coming Energy Crisis?
Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
How to Make a Solar Power Generator for Less Than $300
Solar Energy International, a place to buy stuff to 'solarize' your house.
Alternative Renewable Energy at Energy Conservation News and Resources