Wednesday, March 25, 2009

DOE stimulates Solyndra

Solyndra recently received DOE loan guarantees to support construction of a new manufacturing facility. Good for them. The guarantees illustrate the challenges as well as the benefits of government support, though: the law authorizing them was passed in 2005, applications were due by the end of 2006, yet Solyndra is the first company to actually receive a guarantee. Inclusion of funds in the recent economic stimulus package no doubt helped the process along.

Solyndra has an interesting technology, with CIGS solar material deposited on a cylindrical substrate. The idea is to keep the same cross-sectional area facing the sun at all times, without the complexity and cost of tilted mounts or tracking motors. It makes sense, but unfortunately they haven't shared much information about cost or performance. Third party sources tell me that their installation is as simple as claimed, but are more skeptical about how cost effective the panels are once installed.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

So where have you been, anyway?

I joined an Internet startup in 1998. Even then people were saying things like "biggest change since Gutenberg." The original Napster launched in 1999, and iTunes in 2001. I've been watching ad pages in industry print magazines shrink for most of that time. So count me among the flabbergasted that Traditional Publishing seems to be only just realizing that there might be a problem with their business model.

Really? You think?

Sheesh. What rock have they been hiding under for the last decade, anyway?

(Link by way of the Daily Dish.)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

She's alive!

No, I haven't died or quit. I'm sorry about the lack of posts in recent months. I've been transitioning into different (and mostly bigger) projects for some new clients, and am still working out the necessary load balancing. I hope to be more conscientious going forward, and appreciate your patience.

Apples vs. oranges

A new study from MIT compares energy and resource consumption of various industries on a pound-for-pound basis. Yep, energy consumption per pound of output for manhole covers versus integrated circuits. Not surprisingly, integrated circuits consume a whole lot more energy. A more useful metric might be energy consumption per dollar value, or perhaps a ratio of value in to value out.

While it's tempting to dismiss the study as obviously ridiculous, energy consumption is an important issue for energy-generating technologies such as solar power. The more energy it takes to make a solar panel, the longer it takes for solar panels to start reducing net fossil fuel consumption: the panel has to recover its own energy cost first. Unless the solar industry generates more power than it consumes, it's hard for it to claim to be "green" or "sustainable."