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Sunday, October 14, 2007
Solar Energy - Photon Power Generates Profit
Image: courtesy Sandia National Labs (www.sandia.gov)

From The Sun - A Huge Industry In The Making

The best scientific brains humanity can find are converging on one area very rapidly, and that is in the developing industries associated with the Sun. It is becoming very clear that the future for oil and gas is limited, and that we must leave some fossil fuel resources for future generations to use for their plastics and other technologies yet unknown. The rush is on to build renewable energy industries in solar energy, wind energy, and geothermal energy. Many nations already realize that this new technology will last for thousands of years, not just the limited future in the case of oil and gas, and that these sources of energy can be designed to produce almost zero emissions and provide real energy security.

Investors wanting to take a position in solar energy stocks should focus on two areas: Solar Voltaic Power and Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) companies. theirEarth will search for the leaders in these sectors and cover this in another investment article. Companies and research development scientists that are involved in solar energy will soon be a very 'hot' commodity purely because the returns on investment from solar energy will be huge and provide long-term cash flows. Nations and companies working in these new solar fields will soon start to guard their Research and Development technology with higher security because the patents and intellectual property will become priceless. The new solar industries will drive economic growth far in excess of the boom that was generated by the IT and Internet industries of the eighties and nineties.

Solar Photovoltaics convert the sun's photon energy into electricity by capturing the energy in panels and converting this to DC (direct current) electricity. Photovoltaic Panels are found in many commercial applications already like calculators, sailing yachts, and in remote areas to run equipment, when no other source of electricity is available. The required panel surface area to generate unit watts (power) is continuously shrinking and becoming more efficient at photon energy conversion to electricity. This efficiency improvement is making home installation of these panels, in regions where the sun is consistently strong, a viable commercial business. The key industry challenge for humanity is to build these panels to last so that we are not creating more waste for ourselves in the future. Quality and durability will need to be part of the commercial equation.

Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) converts photon energy to thermal energy. CSP works on dish sizes suitable for mounting on the roof of a home, and in absolutely enormous collectors as found in some research applications run by the United States Department of Energy (DOE). This is still a huge research area and will become an enormous future energy industry as the sun's photon energy can be converted into many megawatts of energy if many collectors are located together. It is estimated that the solar energy business will be as much as trillion dollar global industry within fifteen years (if hydrogen production is included in this estimate). Many of the world's deserts are excellent locations to capture the solar energy. Hydrogen will play a role as a storage media of clean energy from the sun and as a distributable energy for transportation applications. More direct (and efficient) photon energy transfer media could be invented in the future that allows for direct transfer of the concentrated photon energy over long distances.

Those countries and companies that take a leadership position in these industries and motivate their people to universally adopt the new technologies like solar, wind and hydrogen energy will find they are intellectually and financially so far ahead of the other countries that don't. The corporate game is changing rapidly and currently it is not too late to join the renewable energy club if one is motivated and willing to work hard.
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