[Earth Policy Institute]: World
production of solar cells–which convert sunlight directly into
electricity–soared to 742 megawatts (MW) in 2003, a jump of 32 percent
in just one year. With solar cell production growing by 27 percent
annually over the past five years, cumulative world production now
stands at 3,145 MW, enough to meet the electricity needs of more than a
million homes. This extraordinary growth is driven to some degree by
improvements in materials and technology, but primarily by market
introduction programs and government incentives.
Coincidentally, a TV news report last night talked about the pending
return of the nuclear power industry in the US — where no plants have
been ordered in 25 years — despite the still unresolved issues of the
nuclear fuel cycle, waste management, decommissioning of plants (some
now approaching 60 years old). “This may be our only alternative to
oil,” someone actually said. Hmmm… have they looked up recently? (Dr. Don Aitken, senior scientist for Union of Concerned Scientists, observed that Earth’s daily solar flux exceeds our current global energy budget by a factor of only…17,000!