Cheaper solar cells

The MIT Tech Review has a story about an Atlanta, GA based start up named Suniva.

What makes Sunvia’s product interesting is that they have made the manufacturing process cheaper.  They are squeezing a little more efficiency out of their cells (20%, which is up from the industry standard of 17%), but the cost reduction is the big story.

With Sunvia’s process, electricity from solar power can be produced for 8 to 10 cents per kilowatt-hour.  That is a competative rate in the United States.   Lower costs will result in more solar power being used to generate electricity.   More use of solar power on a small scale will also help on a larger utility scale.

Cheaper electric solar panels will result in more individual homes adopting them.  The more homes that can power their A/C system from solar during the summer, the less demand there will be on the utility grid during peak hours.    Solar panels could be used to charge a set of batteries during the day that would then charge a plug in hybrid car during the night.

Google’s Navy

Via slashdot comes this story about Google’s just-published application for a patent on the Water-Based Data Center.  The story says that water based data centers can use wave based energy and use the water for cooling.

Interesting and certainly will play well in many circles. There are also a couple of other interesting data points about the proposal.  One, having your data centers off shore, espcially if Internet commerce is involved, provides a possible tax haven.

There is also the issue of avoiding having governments demand access to your data by having it in International waters.  That is until a couple of warships show up and demand access in the interest of “national security.”

Update: The Times Online caught up with this story finally.  They provide some more detail, including that Google is looking at barges, not ships, to be anchored about 7 miles (11 Km) offshore.  The Times is also quick to pick up on the same tax angle as I did.  Being offshore means no property taxes. 

Mini-Reactors in the works.

Good news for those concerned with American Energy independence!

Plans for smaller nuclear reactors, which can be US built, have been submitted to the NRC for approval.

These small plants, which produce no greenhouse gases, are designed to produce 45-megawatts of power with a very small footprint. The unit is less than 70 feet long and the containment vessel is only 14 feet in diameter.

These can be easily placed in remote areas that currently use diesel generators and would be useful in more urban areas, such as California and the Northeast, to reduce dependence on plants that burn coal, oil and natural gas.