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November 09, 2006

Wired News: Solar Powers Up, Sans Silicon

In a world where sun-powered garden lights seem like a nifty idea, new technologies touted by solar energy startups sound very far out. Entrepreneurs promise that soon solar-energized "power plastic" will radically extend the battery life of laptops and cell phones. Ultra-cheap printed solar cells will enable construction of huge power-generating facilities at a fraction of today's costs. And technologies to integrate solar power-generation capability into building materials will herald a new era of energy-efficient construction. Those are ambitious goals for a technology famous for powering pocket calculators, but investors are paying heed. This year, solar startups have snapped up more than $100 million in venture capital to develop printable materials capable of converting sunlight into electrical power. Soaring energy demand, as well as short supplies of polysilicon, a key ingredient in most solar cells, is fueling interest in alternative materials. "These technologies look incredibly more real than they did five years ago," said Dan Kammen, founding director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at the University of California at Berkeley. Kammen predicts solar sources, which today produce less than 1 percent of power consumed nationwide, could eventually meet one-fifth of U.S. energy demand........

Posted by dymaxion at November 9, 2006 01:16 PM

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