While opposing special interests squabble about the Keystone Pipeline, hydraulic fracturing ("fracking"), and carbon tax legislation, do you ever wonder, "What happened to solar power? Where'd it go?" After all, it was the green dream of the 1980s and 90s--those huge, unwieldy solar panels and cheap, solar-powered calculators were everywhere! Suddenly, though, it appeared that solar power wasn't part of the energy conversation anymore.
Appearances can be deceiving: solar energy is a huge part of the conversation in corporate boardrooms and investment circles. Having recognized the economic threat posed by renewable energy, the oil and gas industries have unleashed a fierce campaign to undermine it. Why? What's changed? Here's everything that you--as a consumer, an investor, or just an environmentally-conscious earthling--need to know about the resurgence of solar power.
Why solar, why now?
Ironically, it was those big panels, the symbols of its future promise, that lead solar energy into a temporary exile. Technological limitations lead scientists and investors to conclude that more solar power would necessitate more panels, which would take up more and more space. Economic realities imposed further limitations: gold is the best means of storing, conducting, and amplifying the sun's energy--but the notion of coating thousands of those gargantuan panels in 14-karat gold was a preposterous fantasy, one which was quickly abandoned.
Recent studies have demonstrated, however, that the key to increased solar productivity is shiny and tiny: a golden nano-key. Innovations in quantum computing, electrical engineering, and molecular chemistry have paved the way for nano-clusters, nano-coatings, and nano-photocatalysts, some only the size of a few atoms. Devices so small that they are invisible to the naked eye can be affordably manufactured out of gold. When it comes to solar power, less truly is more!
An ever-expanding market
The need for solar power increases with the advancement of many other industries. For instance, solar batteries, solar chargers, and sun-powered screens are emerging as the new wave of smartphone technology. In addition to saving money and reducing outside energy costs, photovoltaic cells can also be used in isolated locations or catastrophic outages--any time electrical outlets are unavailable.
For larger, more complex systems, solar batteries can be used as independent, self-contained generators. This would allow corporations and researchers to work in secluded areas far from the electrical grid; utility bills would vanish as homes became self-sustaining power units. Earthquakes, storms, and cyber-attacks wouldn't turn off the lights in a solar-powered home.
Massive amounts of capital are needed to wean the world off of fossil fuels. Accordingly, the solar industry has become accessible to both profit-driven investors and environmentally-conscious citizens. Crowdfunding campaigns encourage people to make small investments in a sun-powered future. Many investment firms now offer solar bonds: mutual funds for those interested in financing the renewable energy sector.
Solar power receded from public view for a while, but scientific and technological interest in it never waned. Proponents continued to research and develop it until a time when technological advances, practical applications, and investment opportunities were ripe to re-introduce solar energy to the world: that time is now.
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