Thursday, April 28, 2011

The New Solar Reality - Boeing Assembly Goes Solar

20080921_62 Solar power stationImage by Bush Philosopher - Dave Clarke via FlickrBy Hugh C Collins

For those who remember when solar energy was a sort of hobby for enthusiasts rather than a major energy initiative, vindication is coming, daily. Boeing has just announced that it's building a major solar energy plant for its South Carolina Boeing 787 assembly plant. This is a big departure for an industry formerly glued to fossil fuel power. Elsewhere, industry majors like Mitsubishi and Ayala are working together on solar power.

Solar has come a long, long way in recent years, and the new efficiencies are driving rethinks of energy strategies at the top levels of industries around the world.

This may seem like a suspiciously sudden turnaround by sectors which were previously remarkably unreceptive to solar ideas, but it's actually a result of much better business management and a new generation of businesses which are looking for better options to meet energy needs.

The facts are pretty simple:
  • Solar technology is now able to prove it can deliver on the scales required to provide massive amounts of energy at economic prices.
  • The cost of fossil fuels is becoming ludicrously high for industry. These costs are overheads that the industries simply don't want or need.
  • The cost benefits of solar are now fully measurable, and those benefits are huge. This is a real bottom line equation, and it's the main driver behind the reversal of energy policies by industry and commerce.
  • Solar is a comparatively much simpler type of technology, with a much shorter and far less complex supply chain. Fossil fuels prices vary widely because of supply chain issues (ironically, the cost of oil can inflate the cost of shipping oil and coal, a self defeating situation if there ever was one).
  • Fossil fuels are commodities, and their prices can be very negatively influenced by the futures market and the live buying market to absurd degrees. The pricing of fossil fuels is so convoluted and the potential for massive price rises so common, that businesses and industries have simply had enough.
The real turning point for solar power came when solar was plugged directly into the grids. This was irrefutable proof of large scale production capacity, and it didn't take long for the penny to drop with industry decision makers.

Interestingly, it was economic sustainability which finally turned the key for solar power's entry into heavy industry. Businesses and industries assessed the situation on economic grounds, meaning on their own terms. This might have been expected by the environmental movement. Corporate managers usually aren't ecologists or environmentalists. They're not trained to assess environmental values. They are, however, quite capable of assessing the economics of their own businesses, and drawing the right conclusions.

This is the real stamp of approval for solar power development on the scales required to deal with the environmental situation. Boeing needs gigantic amounts of energy for production, and it knows down to the last watt how much power it needs. This is a tailor made solar project for a specific purpose, and it's likely to be the first of thousands.

Solar power in its future sense has arrived, and that future's looking pretty bright.

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