StratoSolar-PV is a new type of electric power plant that builds on the foundation of current solar photovoltaic (PV) technology. It could prove to be a complete, long-term clean-energy solution that avoids the cost and reliability problems of current solar, wind and nuclear solutions. By providing cheap, clean, energy, anywhere it could be a solution to global warming induced climate change. More
The problem: Most of the world’s energy comes from burning fossil fuels, which adds CO2 to the atmosphere. The consensus of the world scientific community is that rising CO2 levels are warming the planet and causing climate change. Warming of over one degree Celsius is already evident and climate variability is already exceeding expectations for that level of warming. Governments have generally accepted the truth of the situation for some time but the unwillingness to accept the economic costs and political consequences of the measures proposed to reduce CO2 emissions have resulted in little change in the status quo. There is no political will by governments to impose costly change or by citizenry to demand or accept costly change, so the default behavior is effectively to defer substantive action to a time when either climate change has a tangible cost (like very high food and/or energy prices) or resource constraints (like peak oil) force the issue. This is likely to take a-decade or two by which time we will have passed the generally agreed goal of not exceeding a 2-degree Celsius average temperature rise. Within the current political and economic constraints, there is an emerging awareness that the only way to cause substantive change is by developing market-competitive carbon-free energy alternatives that are cheaper than fossil fuel energy. Market competition driven by profitable investment opportunities should then result in the decline of fossil-fuel energy use. A solution: StratoSolar-PV Solar PV based on crystalline silicon (c-Si) is a well-established technology with a forty-plus -year history of cost reduction along a consistent learning curve. However, even with the recent dramatic reduction in PV-panel prices, electricity generated by PV systems at the sunniest locations costs more by a factor of two times, than electricity generated using fossil fuels. To get costs down to competitive levels will take around 5 doublings of current cumulative generation capacity. This is a capacity of 1Terra-Watt to 2Terra-Watts compared to today’s 80Giga-Watts. The recent growth in PV installations worldwide has been due to the support of massive government subsidies, mostly in Europe. In a world of growing fiscal austerity, subsidies for PV electricity are reducing or disappearing. As a result, PV manufacturing capacity is declining as demand has slowed dramatically and the industry restructures. With slow growth in PV capacity, costs can not reduce significantly and as a result, PV will remain a very small provider of electricity. Were governments worldwide to maintain current levels of subsidy (with say Japan and China making up for Europe) PV may reach an installed capacity of 1TWp to 2TWp and become cost competitive in between ten and twenty years. StratoSolar-PV power plants reduce the cost of PV electricity by more than a factor of two. In energy, a factor of two is of enormous consequence. Almost all technologies are increasing in cost. With fossil fuels, the fuel costs are volatile and can temporarily drop, but the trend is inevitably to higher costs. A doubling of effectiveness makes today’s PV technology immediately viable and cost effective without subsidy. In addition, StratoSolar-PV technology avoids other large costs limiting the deployment of both intermittent wind and solar power. It does not need spinning backup generation or massive re-engineering of the electricity grid to transport electricity thousands of kilometers. StratoSolar-PV is also an affordable alternative for northern cloudy locations like Germany and Japan. This book is an attempt to explain StratoSolar-PV power plant technology and why it can be a real and complete energy solution that provides abundant, clean, cheap energy exactly where it is needed. It is perhaps the first economically credible solution to mitigating climate change due to CO2 induced global warming.