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Making solar power competitive with coal

By the end of the decade, U.S. manufacturers could make solar panels that are less than half as expensive as the ones they make now.

At 52 cents per watt, that would be cheap enough for solar power to compete with electricity from fossil fuels, according to a new study by MIT researchers in Energy & Environmental Science. Assuming similar cost reductions for installation and equipment, solar power would cost six cents per kilowatt-hour in sunny areas of the U.S. — less than the 15 cents per kilowatt-hour average cost of electricity in the U.S. today.

Improvements would include an alternative to the wasteful process now used to make silicon wafers, methods of handling thin wafers to avoid breaking, installation cost-reduction, and improved light absorption, such as using nanostructured layers.

- From Kurzweil AI

Solar-power airplanes take off by 2014

Some analysts have said that we are about to enter a golden age of solar technology, as the cost of solar electricity and installations becomes increasingly competitive with established fuel sources. But will we ever use solar power to fly? A team comprised of engineers and adventurers wants to build the first plane to circumnavigate the world solely on solar power.

Bring Your Sunglasses

A tall order, to be sure, but solar-powered transportation has been gaining ground in recent years as solar cells become more efficient and batteries are engineered store more energy in less space. A solar-powered boat is currently sailing the world, and by 2014 the Solar Impulse team hopes to launch a plane that can fly by day or night solely on solar power.

Read more on gas2.org

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