”The distinction between the U.S. and European solar energy markets is the difference between a newborn baby and a youth just about to enter the teenage years. We are just starting to crawl, Europe is maturing but still in need of some ‘parental guidance’ from politics.” Photo: SCHOTT/W. Breuer
”Bright Future for Solar Energy”
Dr. Lawrence L. Kazmerski, Director National Center for Photovoltaics at National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Golden, Colorado/U.S.A., on the prospects of the U.S. Solar Market.
solutions: NREL published its study »A Preliminary Examination of the Supply and Demand Balance for Renewable Electricity«. What did you find out ?
Kazmerski: It is unmistakable: the United States must accelerate its renewable energy development and deployment to meet the growing demands for electricity in this country. The report warns that there are near-term shortages in renewable electricity supplies. These shortfalls could diminish with continuing federal and state support and the continued ramping of the industry in the next decade.
solutions: How do you estimate the role of solar energy in the U.S.A.?
Kazmerski: These solar markets have been forged by forward-looking decision makers in California, New Jersey, Nevada, New York, New Mexico – and a few other states. Concurrently, the U.S. public is becoming more aware and more concerned with the seriousness of global warming and its consequences. The U.S. Solar America Initiative has been an excellent first motivator. The U.S. is at the tipping point for solar, and what happens in the next year or two will make these technologies ”spread like wildfire”. I am very optimistic.
solutions: What do you think about the projects Stillwell Avenue subway station, Coney Island, and Nevada Solar One ?
Kazmerski: These two projects are high visibility and excellent examples of successful starts of complementary advanced solar technologies. The Stillwell Avenue subway station provides about two-thirds of the electricity needed for the subway station and its shopping arcade and is part of New York’s forward- looking program to use clean-energy sources as part of its public transportation system. Nevada Solar One is the first large concentrated solar power (CSP) facility built in the U.S.. The parabolic mirrors move with the sun and focus the suns,s thermal energy onto evacuated receiver tubes, which collect the heat. This heat is then transformed into 64 mw of clean electricity, enough to service 40,000 homes in Las Vegas during the peak load times of the day. This project heralds the rebirth of solar thermal in the south-western part of the U.S. Other projects are now planned or underway not only in Nevada, but also New Mexico, Colorado, and California. All part of the growing solar boom, perhaps the 21st century ”sun-gold” rush.
solutions: What do these projects teach company leaders and politicians in the rest of the country ?
Kazmerski: First, they have clearly shown that these technologies work – they are not just ”in the future”. Second, they have already been effective in bringing together some political forces to implement these technologies. The electronics industry sees PV as real – just look at the roles that Applied Materials, GE, and other companies have taken. The investment community sees a future, with venture capital funding in the 250 million Dollar range this past year. But we need real commitment – a revolution leading to the use of clean renewables. I worry that we don’t fully grasp the immediacy of the problem in the U.S. I truly know that the U.S. can have 20 - 25 per cent of our electricity from solar by the time this century is quarter over.
Dr. Lawrence L. Kazmerski
SCHOTT websiteDownload this article as a PDF file
More about photovoltaics from SCHOTT