A new factory that will make affordable solar panels from ordinary window panes is set to open in Colorado next year, according to the Rocky Mountain News.
The AVA Solar Inc. project uses a technological breakthrough by Colorado State University researchers, and promises to produce solar panels at a price that is comparable to other forms of energy -- potentially catapulting solar energy into the mainstream once and for all.
When it comes to energy efficiency, reaping what the sun gives naturally everyday is smart and efficient. The fewer "conversions" energy goes through the more efficient it is. If the sun drives the growth of a plant, turning that plant into fuel adds a conversion, and energy is lost. Letting that plant cook underground for millions of years until it becomes coal or oil is yet another inefficiency.
The problem with solar power has never been its appeal. It has just cost too much. But the AVA Solar plan -- should it prove to be as good as it says it is -- along with other innovations are transforming solar power into a mainstream commodity. The project is one of 10 Photovoltaic Module Incubator projects funded by the Department of Energy's Solar America Initiative. That program has the goal of driving technological innovation that makes the cost of solar energy competitive with traditional forms of electric production, like burning coal, oil and natural gas.
If every house had affordable solar panels supplying a portion of its electricity, the demand for electricity from heavy-polluting sources like coal-fired power plants would drop, along with emissions driving global warming, causing acid rain and poisoning lakes and streams with toxic mercury.
And the jobs created at the factory -- as many as 500 -- show that dreams of a "green collar economy" that has at its heart technological innovation and high-tech manufacturing are a very real and lucrative path toward the future.
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