Ask a conservative what he thinks about alternative energy, and you'll probably get a snort of derision. Oh sure, he'll give you the song-and-dance that it's good to have windmills and solar panels around, but they'll never make a real dent in what we need – which is oil, and more of it...as if we can drill our way to energy independence. But if certain interests have their way, America will never be energy-independent.
First, let's make the case that alternative energy is not only doable, but economically sensible:
• Today 2% of Germany’s power is supplied by solar (17% of German homes are solar-powered), and if the country follows current trends, it will be 20 percent by 2020. This is despite the fact that Germany is not exactly known as a mecca for sun-lovers. The energy utilities are required by law to purchase any excess energy that solar-powered homes make...which means that there are a lot of homes in Germany that are making a profit from solar power.
• Last year a solar cell was developed that was more efficient than is the current design of nuclear power plants. The efficiency of nuclear reactors is limited to around 33 percent, because water can be heated to only a certain temperature and only a certain amount of heat can be taken out of water. Boeing – yes, Boeing – hopes to introduce their high-efficiency C3MJ+ solar cells around the globe as early as January, 2011. The cells are able to convert a whopping 39.2% of sunlight into electricity.
• Currently, In 2010, power generated by wind comprised 15.4% of all electricity generated in Iowa.
• A new design for nuclear fuel rods (from solid to hollow tubes) has been shown to increase power output of pressurized water reactor (PWR) plants by 50%. This isn't easily implemented as it sounds, for one of the major factors of the design of a PWR is to nearly eliminate – not just minimize, but to totally eliminate if possible – low-flow areas in the piping where radioactive particles (crud) may collect – and if the fuel rods are hollow, then that's more flow-killing surface area that has to be considered. But the concept is proven, and all that remains is (ugh!) the engineering.