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Published on March 25th, 2008 | by Clayton

130

How Solar Panels Could Power 90% of US Transportation

solar, solar panel, solar power, electricity, renwable power, energy

[social_buttons] In January, Scientific American writers unleashed an ambitious plan to halt global warming, eliminate our dependence on petroleum and the substantial trade deficit, boost the economy and create 3 million jobs, and brighten the dismal forecasts for the mid twenty-first century.

The plan is conceptually simple but would be substantial to implement:

  • Construct a 30,000 square mile array of solar panels in the Southwest,
  • along with concentrated solar power arrays and,
  • a massive direct-current power transmission backbone to distribute electricity throughout the country.
  • Excess power produced by the photovoltaic arrays would be distributed and stored as compressed air in below-ground caverns.

Development of such a system could provide almost three-quarters of the nation’s electricity by 2050.

If this sounds like fantasy-land, it’s not. The technology is already here, and even if it wasn’t the need for renewable power is very real. Some scientists are calling for an all-out Manhattan-Project-style focus on developing alternative energy sources. One thing is almost certain: if we can’t move beyond coal as our (worldwide) primary energy source, we’re in for a rocky future.

I’ve written several posts lately about plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and their need for renewable energy charging sources. PHEVs are a stepping stone as the future of transportation heads toward electric vehicles powered either by batteries or hydrogen fuel cells. Solar power would be the ultimate source of clean energy for either type of electric vehicle.

The authors of the Scientific American article think all of this energy can come from solar power. Here are some excerpts:

  • Utilizing only 2.5% of the sun’s energy falling onto the 250,000 square miles in the Southwest suitable for constructing solar power plants could match the total power used in the US in 2006.
  • With a massive investment in solar power plants and infrastructure, solar could provide 69% of US electricity and 35% of total energy (including transportation) by 2050.
  • If wind, biomass, and geothermal power sources were also developed, the US could produce 100% of its electricity and 90% of its transportation energy (in the form of hydrogen) from renewable sources.
  • To make this happen, the US would have to invest $10 billion per year for the next 40 years. For comparison, the US is now spending $12 billion per month for military involvement Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz. The entire solar array would cost approximately 15% of the total bill for both of these operations. $420 billion is also less than the tax subsidies paid for the nation’s telecommunications infrastructure in the last 35 years.
  • A conversion to renewable energy of this scale would displace 300 coal and 300 natural gas-fired power plants, and eliminate all imported oil. Even better, greenhouse-gas emissions would be reduced to 62% below 2005 levels.

In sum, the potential is there, but it’s going to take some work. As the authors conclude:

The greatest obstacle to implementing a renewable U.S. energy system is not technology or money, however. It is the lack of public awareness that solar power is a practical alternative—and one that can fuel transportation as well. Forward-looking thinkers should try to inspire U.S. citizens, and their political and scientific leaders, about solar power’s incredible potential. Once Americans realize that potential, we believe the desire for energy self-sufficiency and the need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions will prompt them to adopt a national solar plan.

Related Posts:

Plug-In Hybrids Could Require 160 New Power Plants By 2030 (Or None At All)

How Biodiesel Fuel-Cells Could Power The Future (And Your Car)

More Solar Energy Facts

Plug-In Hybrids Use Over 17 Times More Water Than Regular Cars, Researchers Say

Tesla’s First Electric Vehicle, 2008 Roadster, Now Under Production

Subaru Unleashes R1e Electric Car on New York

NEW: First Algae Biodiesel Plant Goes Online April 1, 2008

Read Sustainablog’s take on this article here.

Source: Scientific American (Jan. 2008): A Solar Grand Plan

Photo Credit: GreenOptions




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About the Author

In a past life, Clayton was a professional blogger and editor of Gas 2.0, Important Media’s blog covering the future of sustainable transportation. He was also the Managing Editor for GO Media, the predecessor to Important Media.



  • Dan

    Dumbest idea I’ve ever heard. You do realize that to build that you will essentially have to wipe out all natural life in that huge section of the southwest? It would be more environmentally friendly to drill in Alaska.

  • Dan

    Dumbest idea I’ve ever heard. You do realize that to build that you will essentially have to wipe out all natural life in that huge section of the southwest? It would be more environmentally friendly to drill in Alaska.

  • http://www.greensmithconsulting.com Paul Smith

    Wow, awesome! It’s inspiring to see such a possibility, and at the same time discouraging, knowing all the vested interests in coal remaining a large player, and the unwillingness of the public to dedicate such large sums to something they (at least now) may not get the impact that it can have, and the validity of such an option.

    Here’s to people seeing the light (literally)

  • http://www.greensmithconsulting.com Paul Smith

    Wow, awesome! It’s inspiring to see such a possibility, and at the same time discouraging, knowing all the vested interests in coal remaining a large player, and the unwillingness of the public to dedicate such large sums to something they (at least now) may not get the impact that it can have, and the validity of such an option.

    Here’s to people seeing the light (literally)

  • http://gas2.org Clayton B. Cornell

    Dan,

    What’s the alternative? Continue mining coal or start building nuclear power plants? Both require extensive mining of limited resources, and the impacts of global warming on species loss far outweigh the impacts of this plan. Finally, let me quote the article one more time (page 2):

    “Although this area may sound enormous, installations already in place indicate that the land required for each gigawatt-hour of solar energy produced in the Southwest is less than that needed for a coal-powered plant when factoring in land for coal mining.”

  • http://gas2.org Clayton B. Cornell

    Dan,

    What’s the alternative? Continue mining coal or start building nuclear power plants? Both require extensive mining of limited resources, and the impacts of global warming on species loss far outweigh the impacts of this plan. Finally, let me quote the article one more time (page 2):

    “Although this area may sound enormous, installations already in place indicate that the land required for each gigawatt-hour of solar energy produced in the Southwest is less than that needed for a coal-powered plant when factoring in land for coal mining.”

  • Malcolm Kass

    How much more pollution is generated with the manufacture of these panels? That is the problem with scientist that is they don’t have the knowledge that Engineers have. Engineers are going to make this happen , not writer for SA. Ask a Chemical Engineer if this is possible, and you would be far more enlightened than these limited individuals.

  • Malcolm Kass

    How much more pollution is generated with the manufacture of these panels? That is the problem with scientist that is they don’t have the knowledge that Engineers have. Engineers are going to make this happen , not writer for SA. Ask a Chemical Engineer if this is possible, and you would be far more enlightened than these limited individuals.

  • http://gas2.org Clayton B. Cornell

    Malcolm,

    I still think you have to weigh it against the alternatives and the status quo. Look out how much pollution is generated from oil and gas, or the things we use every day anyway, like this laptop I’m writing on. Plus, once the panels are in place, the energy is virtually free from waste. Granted, some serious material would have to go into the infrastructure, but I can’t see that being any more than any other type of infrastructure. Here’s another quote from the conclusion of the article:

    “Critics have raised other concerns, such as whether material constraints could stifle large-scale installation. With rapid deployment, temporary shortages are possible. But several types of cells exist that use different material combinations. Better processing and recycling are also reducing the amount of materials that cells require. And in the long term, old solar cells can largely be recycled into new solar cells, changing our energy supply picture from depletable fuels to recyclable materials.”

  • http://gas2.org Clayton B. Cornell

    Malcolm,

    I still think you have to weigh it against the alternatives and the status quo. Look out how much pollution is generated from oil and gas, or the things we use every day anyway, like this laptop I’m writing on. Plus, once the panels are in place, the energy is virtually free from waste. Granted, some serious material would have to go into the infrastructure, but I can’t see that being any more than any other type of infrastructure. Here’s another quote from the conclusion of the article:

    “Critics have raised other concerns, such as whether material constraints could stifle large-scale installation. With rapid deployment, temporary shortages are possible. But several types of cells exist that use different material combinations. Better processing and recycling are also reducing the amount of materials that cells require. And in the long term, old solar cells can largely be recycled into new solar cells, changing our energy supply picture from depletable fuels to recyclable materials.”

  • Kyle

    I like the optimisim here and am a huge solar advocate; however, one more issue that we should look into is to whether it makes sense to install endless fields of solar panels in one location or implement this initiative in a decentralized fashion. I have read a study from Britain stating that 80% electricity produced by centralized utility-scale suppliers is lost in the transmission by the time it reaches the individual in their home. Though an improvement, there is still a better way to deploy this technology.

  • Kyle

    I like the optimisim here and am a huge solar advocate; however, one more issue that we should look into is to whether it makes sense to install endless fields of solar panels in one location or implement this initiative in a decentralized fashion. I have read a study from Britain stating that 80% electricity produced by centralized utility-scale suppliers is lost in the transmission by the time it reaches the individual in their home. Though an improvement, there is still a better way to deploy this technology.

  • Patrick

    Clayton,

    You are amazing!!! THANK YOU SO SOOOO MUCH for writing about this!! I am SO thankful to you for publishing this, I think it is one of THE MOST IMPORTANT ARTICLES OF THE CENTURY! I seriously do, and I can give so many reasons why, read on! …I believe this THE MOST VIABLE SOLUTION to THE most insidious problems in the world today, on so many levels. Oil and Coal (Fossil Fuels) and what we do in the name of getting it is so awful; wars, ripping people off (look at gas prices and the fact that we GAVE big oil 13.5 BILLION in TAX subsidies- YOUR MONEY and MINE and then we pay for it in wars, and then at the pump and on top of this BigOil had the largest profit of any company in American in history), not to mention smog and possibly global warming and then the cost of our electric bills.

    With Solar, we literally collect energy as it falls from the sky and this article calls for it on a grand scale in the blazing hot desert. This project is not to be underestimated at all- I’ve been following its developments since it came out and everyday I am more and more convinced that this is the #1 solution and that people need to really start thinking about it, everyone in the US that is. The 30,000 SQ feet doesn’t even have to be one place, it just needs to be plugged into the electric grid. Where I find flaws in so many other approaches such as Ethanol and Biofuels, Solar is the gift that keeps on giving. Hybrid electric plug-ins powered off a solar grid with solar fuels cells as reserve (cell + hydrogen creation/extraction powered by solar energy of course) is perhaps the most logical solution to our energy, environmental, and economic crisis’s.

    The cost of this solution may come to around $3,000 per American, at a maximum. Think about how much you pay in gas per year plus the total cost of your heating+electric bill. The total for gas + electric is probably at least $250 around per month on average. This is $3,000 per year. So, for that cost we could have a Solar park built that would power 90% of the county at a much cheaper rate and with much much much much (etc.. etc…) less consequences to our country, our health, our finances and our atmosphere (to name a few). Spread that $3,000 out over five years in taxes and it’s $600/YR. Repeal the $13.5 BILLION that we gave to BigOil and NOT GIVE THEM MORE TAX BREAKS AS PLANNED and the number goes down even more.

    Clayton, there is now a real plan in the works to actually make this happen and it’s being spearheaded by one of the authors of the article ( http://SolarPlan.org ). I plan to help this effort as much as I can- this plan should reach the candidates ears BEFORE election time so that they can bring it to the table make some promises around it. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve studied this and the alternatives for so long now and I am more drawn to this one everyday- to the point that I think it should happen much faster, we need to start it now. I believe that doing so would quickly make America a shining example to the world again and would inspire others around the world to do the same. It would show that we are a true leader and that we are indeed willing and capable to lead the world to a better place again.

    We have a lot of catching up to do to make up for what Mr. Bush stalled us on for 8 years. We all know of his deep ties with oil, what we may not realize is just how far behind he has put us since, whether we liked it or not, we have been in his den with him for 8 years. It’s now time that we stepped out and lived like the true “intelligent” country that we can be again. This is real and this is very do-able—- but, we would have to fight very hard to make it happen, to the extent of marching on Washington to raise awareness about it and to try to break some of BigOil and Coal strongholds in Washington. We would literally have to directly take on the most profitable and powerful companies in the United States, which is the most powerful not only because they have so much money, but also because they are completely infused into senate.

    This would be a war against Fossil Fuels and I don’t think the grass roots people have enough stomach for it or desire for it. I for one, sure as hell do. I believe that by fighting for this solution, whether or not we can break the stronghold, we begin to really focus on a solid solution that we can all get behind and the more we talk about it the more people begin to want it and the more we begin to see that grass roots ‘power of the people’ can really happen with Internet here, we can organize around this and show BigOil and Coal how powerful we can be and how badly we want to see them go away so that we can have very inexpensive and very clean fuel- we can do this, I KNOW we can. If anyone reading this is at all inspired, then please email the link to as many of your friends as you can and let them comment. This stuff is perfect for conversation and for moving forward!

    Thank you again Clayton, I believe you’ve done a great service by publishing this. This is a HOT topic and a great forum for it! Looking forward to the comments!

    Patrick

  • Patrick

    Clayton,

    You are amazing!!! THANK YOU SO SOOOO MUCH for writing about this!! I am SO thankful to you for publishing this, I think it is one of THE MOST IMPORTANT ARTICLES OF THE CENTURY! I seriously do, and I can give so many reasons why, read on! …I believe this THE MOST VIABLE SOLUTION to THE most insidious problems in the world today, on so many levels. Oil and Coal (Fossil Fuels) and what we do in the name of getting it is so awful; wars, ripping people off (look at gas prices and the fact that we GAVE big oil 13.5 BILLION in TAX subsidies- YOUR MONEY and MINE and then we pay for it in wars, and then at the pump and on top of this BigOil had the largest profit of any company in American in history), not to mention smog and possibly global warming and then the cost of our electric bills.

    With Solar, we literally collect energy as it falls from the sky and this article calls for it on a grand scale in the blazing hot desert. This project is not to be underestimated at all- I’ve been following its developments since it came out and everyday I am more and more convinced that this is the #1 solution and that people need to really start thinking about it, everyone in the US that is. The 30,000 SQ feet doesn’t even have to be one place, it just needs to be plugged into the electric grid. Where I find flaws in so many other approaches such as Ethanol and Biofuels, Solar is the gift that keeps on giving. Hybrid electric plug-ins powered off a solar grid with solar fuels cells as reserve (cell + hydrogen creation/extraction powered by solar energy of course) is perhaps the most logical solution to our energy, environmental, and economic crisis’s.

    The cost of this solution may come to around $3,000 per American, at a maximum. Think about how much you pay in gas per year plus the total cost of your heating+electric bill. The total for gas + electric is probably at least $250 around per month on average. This is $3,000 per year. So, for that cost we could have a Solar park built that would power 90% of the county at a much cheaper rate and with much much much much (etc.. etc…) less consequences to our country, our health, our finances and our atmosphere (to name a few). Spread that $3,000 out over five years in taxes and it’s $600/YR. Repeal the $13.5 BILLION that we gave to BigOil and NOT GIVE THEM MORE TAX BREAKS AS PLANNED and the number goes down even more.

    Clayton, there is now a real plan in the works to actually make this happen and it’s being spearheaded by one of the authors of the article ( http://SolarPlan.org ). I plan to help this effort as much as I can- this plan should reach the candidates ears BEFORE election time so that they can bring it to the table make some promises around it. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve studied this and the alternatives for so long now and I am more drawn to this one everyday- to the point that I think it should happen much faster, we need to start it now. I believe that doing so would quickly make America a shining example to the world again and would inspire others around the world to do the same. It would show that we are a true leader and that we are indeed willing and capable to lead the world to a better place again.

    We have a lot of catching up to do to make up for what Mr. Bush stalled us on for 8 years. We all know of his deep ties with oil, what we may not realize is just how far behind he has put us since, whether we liked it or not, we have been in his den with him for 8 years. It’s now time that we stepped out and lived like the true “intelligent” country that we can be again. This is real and this is very do-able—- but, we would have to fight very hard to make it happen, to the extent of marching on Washington to raise awareness about it and to try to break some of BigOil and Coal strongholds in Washington. We would literally have to directly take on the most profitable and powerful companies in the United States, which is the most powerful not only because they have so much money, but also because they are completely infused into senate.

    This would be a war against Fossil Fuels and I don’t think the grass roots people have enough stomach for it or desire for it. I for one, sure as hell do. I believe that by fighting for this solution, whether or not we can break the stronghold, we begin to really focus on a solid solution that we can all get behind and the more we talk about it the more people begin to want it and the more we begin to see that grass roots ‘power of the people’ can really happen with Internet here, we can organize around this and show BigOil and Coal how powerful we can be and how badly we want to see them go away so that we can have very inexpensive and very clean fuel- we can do this, I KNOW we can. If anyone reading this is at all inspired, then please email the link to as many of your friends as you can and let them comment. This stuff is perfect for conversation and for moving forward!

    Thank you again Clayton, I believe you’ve done a great service by publishing this. This is a HOT topic and a great forum for it! Looking forward to the comments!

    Patrick

  • Noah

    Well, how do we get the electricity from the southwest to the Northeast or Pacific Northwest? I’m not knowledgeable on electricity, but does using a DC current allow long-range transmission with minimal resistance?

    I’d like to hear more on this idea, and see how they will try to minimize environmental impact (especially on feeding birds).

  • Noah

    Well, how do we get the electricity from the southwest to the Northeast or Pacific Northwest? I’m not knowledgeable on electricity, but does using a DC current allow long-range transmission with minimal resistance?

    I’d like to hear more on this idea, and see how they will try to minimize environmental impact (especially on feeding birds).

  • James Lord

    The problem with the huge solar collector is simple it is called Green Peace and the Sierra club, and many other such groups. remember our needs are over shadowed by the needs of the other higher thinking animals such as snail darters or spotted owls which do nest out side the old growth timber.I had a girl I like once told me this dream on Alice you may one day find wonder land but only in a book. my apologies but we will never see such things for others won’t allow it…

  • James Lord

    The problem with the huge solar collector is simple it is called Green Peace and the Sierra club, and many other such groups. remember our needs are over shadowed by the needs of the other higher thinking animals such as snail darters or spotted owls which do nest out side the old growth timber.I had a girl I like once told me this dream on Alice you may one day find wonder land but only in a book. my apologies but we will never see such things for others won’t allow it…

  • http://gas2.org Clayton B. Cornell

    I would wager that, given the choice between the continued use of coal as our primary power source and a massive investment in solar power, both the Sierra Club and Greenpeace would support the latter.

    But like any proposal, it would be important to appropriately evaluate the impacts of a 30,000 sq. mile solar farm. You can’t build something of this scale without incurring environmental cost, but given the alternatives, I’m inclined to say it wouldn’t be that bad.

  • http://gas2.org Clayton B. Cornell

    I would wager that, given the choice between the continued use of coal as our primary power source and a massive investment in solar power, both the Sierra Club and Greenpeace would support the latter.

    But like any proposal, it would be important to appropriately evaluate the impacts of a 30,000 sq. mile solar farm. You can’t build something of this scale without incurring environmental cost, but given the alternatives, I’m inclined to say it wouldn’t be that bad.

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  • http://www.h2andyou.org Hydrogen Education Foundation

    Incorporating solar energy is an important part of the world’s future energy mix. The Hydrogen Education Foundation believes there is a need to adopt not only solar, but all renewable energy sources to move away from using fossil fuels. One of the benefits for adopting solar power, and other renewables, is that they can all produce hydrogen, moving us toward a self-sustaining, clean fueling infrastructure for hydrogen.

    Solar energy uses the process of electrolysis, which splits water, to produce hydrogen. Hydrogen can be produced during off-peak periods and stored providing constant power using fuel cells or engines when the renewable sources are not available. In addition, solar energy and other renewables, such as wind and geothermal, often produce power intermittently (e.g., only when the sun is out or the wind is blowing), so hydrogen can also increase stationary power for electricity.

    To learn more about the benefits of hydrogen, please visit http://www.h2andyou.org.

  • http://www.h2andyou.org Hydrogen Education Foundation

    Incorporating solar energy is an important part of the world’s future energy mix. The Hydrogen Education Foundation believes there is a need to adopt not only solar, but all renewable energy sources to move away from using fossil fuels. One of the benefits for adopting solar power, and other renewables, is that they can all produce hydrogen, moving us toward a self-sustaining, clean fueling infrastructure for hydrogen.

    Solar energy uses the process of electrolysis, which splits water, to produce hydrogen. Hydrogen can be produced during off-peak periods and stored providing constant power using fuel cells or engines when the renewable sources are not available. In addition, solar energy and other renewables, such as wind and geothermal, often produce power intermittently (e.g., only when the sun is out or the wind is blowing), so hydrogen can also increase stationary power for electricity.

    To learn more about the benefits of hydrogen, please visit http://www.h2andyou.org.

  • http://www.diyelectriccar.com mattW

    Why would you want to centralise the solar panels and have a big transmission losses and setup costs when you would localise power production using the same panels on the tops of buildings everywhere using space that is already wasted so that people get the power where they need it. It would be good to have a few big compressed air storage facilities spread out across the US with their own big arrays but then have the rest of the panels where the power is used. Obviously northern parts of the US get less sun but I doubt its more efficient to transmit it up from 1 spot in the south that to use panels with a little less light. You’d also need half as many panels for transport if you used Electric cars rather than hydrogen. Other than that I think it is a really good plan.

  • http://www.diyelectriccar.com mattW

    Why would you want to centralise the solar panels and have a big transmission losses and setup costs when you would localise power production using the same panels on the tops of buildings everywhere using space that is already wasted so that people get the power where they need it. It would be good to have a few big compressed air storage facilities spread out across the US with their own big arrays but then have the rest of the panels where the power is used. Obviously northern parts of the US get less sun but I doubt its more efficient to transmit it up from 1 spot in the south that to use panels with a little less light. You’d also need half as many panels for transport if you used Electric cars rather than hydrogen. Other than that I think it is a really good plan.

  • Uncle B

    The keyword is renewable. ‘Perpetual Power’ sounds nice too! Can these installations be put in sterile desert locations and perhaps yield shade for bio-diesel crops? Extensions to current grids and perhaps high DC voltage transmission as the Europeans are doing with Sahara power to get it to Europe for big stretches will work for the US too. Greenpeace and Sierra will come out onside with this win-win won’t they? They can’t be just ‘against’ everything that comes along or they will lose credibility. They should be out front directing this, the biggest development for mankind over the ages, not dragging their feet at everyone’s expense.

    The big problem will be to encourage the current oil barons over to investing in desert solar/electric in place of hi-jacking any gains Americans earn by raising the price of their product! As these guys run out of product, it should be easier to get then onside. When the ‘break-over’ for them occurs, and it will, here’s hoping they have the courage to see the light, It would be sad to see the leading edge go to Chinese venture capitalist wouldn’t it!

  • Uncle B

    The keyword is renewable. ‘Perpetual Power’ sounds nice too! Can these installations be put in sterile desert locations and perhaps yield shade for bio-diesel crops? Extensions to current grids and perhaps high DC voltage transmission as the Europeans are doing with Sahara power to get it to Europe for big stretches will work for the US too. Greenpeace and Sierra will come out onside with this win-win won’t they? They can’t be just ‘against’ everything that comes along or they will lose credibility. They should be out front directing this, the biggest development for mankind over the ages, not dragging their feet at everyone’s expense.

    The big problem will be to encourage the current oil barons over to investing in desert solar/electric in place of hi-jacking any gains Americans earn by raising the price of their product! As these guys run out of product, it should be easier to get then onside. When the ‘break-over’ for them occurs, and it will, here’s hoping they have the courage to see the light, It would be sad to see the leading edge go to Chinese venture capitalist wouldn’t it!

  • V LaRoche

    Yup–and if pigs could fly with smokehouses around them, we could have ham falling from the sky! Solve the world hunger problem prestamento!

  • V LaRoche

    Yup–and if pigs could fly with smokehouses around them, we could have ham falling from the sky! Solve the world hunger problem prestamento!

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  • Garett

    How did you obtain those figures as to the 10billion it will cost?

  • Garett

    How did you obtain those figures as to the 10billion it will cost?

  • Tom

    A very ambitious and exciting plan, not impossible either.

    I think the biggest problem with the US is not the lack of public awareness… it’s the lack of a true US Goverment Energy Policy. With a robust Energy Policy… we will have a clear energy direction for the future of our country. Only then can a massive project like this one actually survive.

    If all else fails… Ted Turner owns half of the open land in the US… ask him to build one.

  • Tom

    A very ambitious and exciting plan, not impossible either.

    I think the biggest problem with the US is not the lack of public awareness… it’s the lack of a true US Goverment Energy Policy. With a robust Energy Policy… we will have a clear energy direction for the future of our country. Only then can a massive project like this one actually survive.

    If all else fails… Ted Turner owns half of the open land in the US… ask him to build one.

  • alanna

    solar power is a good way to produce energy but alot of countries cannot afford solar power and alot of countries do not have enough sunshine for solar power to work well

  • alanna

    solar power is a good way to produce energy but alot of countries cannot afford solar power and alot of countries do not have enough sunshine for solar power to work well

  • Harv

    In spite of the various problems overlooked in the CB Cornell article, it is quite interesting to read about this potential for a renewable energy source.

    It really disturbs me to read “posts” from the “Big Oil” and “Bush Cheney” conspiracy extremists. Do those who always bring up the profits of the oil companies realize these companies earn about a 9% profit on sales resulting from huge investments while Coca Cola makes 19% profit for squirting a little sugar water in a bottle and then filling the balance of the empty bottle with carbonated water?

    These conspiracy theorists pay too much attention to the left wing, glory seeking, self promoting, (known as getting votes)congress people who care little for the facts, or the future for the USA while seeking “Head Lines.”

    Harv

  • Harv

    In spite of the various problems overlooked in the CB Cornell article, it is quite interesting to read about this potential for a renewable energy source.

    It really disturbs me to read “posts” from the “Big Oil” and “Bush Cheney” conspiracy extremists. Do those who always bring up the profits of the oil companies realize these companies earn about a 9% profit on sales resulting from huge investments while Coca Cola makes 19% profit for squirting a little sugar water in a bottle and then filling the balance of the empty bottle with carbonated water?

    These conspiracy theorists pay too much attention to the left wing, glory seeking, self promoting, (known as getting votes)congress people who care little for the facts, or the future for the USA while seeking “Head Lines.”

    Harv

  • Wendy Wolff

    Before I beamed your page onto my laptop and read your article & comments, I read other articles on environmental awareness.

    I discussed my views from these articles with my husband, and suggested some of my own ideas -even if they weren’t practical or possible…

    One idea was:

    If only we could convert all of our roads, especially in the south or where the sun shines most, to some kind of solar-energy absorbing highway that automatically would release its energy into your car’s tires as you drove on that road, and the energy released from the road would then be absorbed into your tires, and then would turn them round as you drove on that road! The road also would contain the energy absorbed until needed and used by motorists.

    Wouldn’t that be fantastic?!!!

    Then, I read your article and realized that that idea wasn’t too far-fetched! -though not yet as possible and hopeful as yours!

    I agree. Given the fact that there doesn’t seem to be that many practical good options, the solar energy one is realistic and best-suited to take on the gigantic task of solving not only America’s enormous energy problems, (that actually indeed involve much more than just “energy”), but the world’s as well…

    Thanks for all you do.

    From one Amer-“I CAN” to another who live in a country called the US (or “us”),

    Wendy

    Thanks. Don’t knock Greenpeace, because they try at least to do the “right” and “just” things…

  • Wendy Wolff

    Before I beamed your page onto my laptop and read your article & comments, I read other articles on environmental awareness.

    I discussed my views from these articles with my husband, and suggested some of my own ideas -even if they weren’t practical or possible…

    One idea was:

    If only we could convert all of our roads, especially in the south or where the sun shines most, to some kind of solar-energy absorbing highway that automatically would release its energy into your car’s tires as you drove on that road, and the energy released from the road would then be absorbed into your tires, and then would turn them round as you drove on that road! The road also would contain the energy absorbed until needed and used by motorists.

    Wouldn’t that be fantastic?!!!

    Then, I read your article and realized that that idea wasn’t too far-fetched! -though not yet as possible and hopeful as yours!

    I agree. Given the fact that there doesn’t seem to be that many practical good options, the solar energy one is realistic and best-suited to take on the gigantic task of solving not only America’s enormous energy problems, (that actually indeed involve much more than just “energy”), but the world’s as well…

    Thanks for all you do.

    From one Amer-“I CAN” to another who live in a country called the US (or “us”),

    Wendy

    Thanks. Don’t knock Greenpeace, because they try at least to do the “right” and “just” things…

  • http://www.onepv.com Onepv

    Solar panels are the way of the future. In India as well there is a huge potential. Indian government has special plans for providing subsidies. Check out this article: http://www.onepv.com/government_incentives.htm.

    Like Clayton said ‘Solar power would be the ultimate source of clean energy for either type of electric vehicle.’

  • http://www.onepv.com Onepv

    Solar panels are the way of the future. In India as well there is a huge potential. Indian government has special plans for providing subsidies. Check out this article: http://www.onepv.com/government_incentives.htm.

    Like Clayton said ‘Solar power would be the ultimate source of clean energy for either type of electric vehicle.’

  • Ed

    photovoltaic cells make absolutely zero sense for large scale electrical power production. they simply cost far too much (for now…) to be practical. however, large scale power production using solar concentrators (parabolic troughs) is much more viable economically. check out

    http://www.industrialsolartech.com/abttrghs.htm

  • Ed

    photovoltaic cells make absolutely zero sense for large scale electrical power production. they simply cost far too much (for now…) to be practical. however, large scale power production using solar concentrators (parabolic troughs) is much more viable economically. check out

    http://www.industrialsolartech.com/abttrghs.htm

  • Pingback: U.S. Could Get Ten Million Solar Roofs in Ten Years : Red, Green, and Blue()

  • Henry Gibson

    The cost of any solar cells will prevent any array of them being cheaper than Nuclear power plants. The cost of the power would starve the common people of the US. The money is better invested in CANDU reactors that can burn the used fuel currently sitting at US power plant. Not one pound of uranium would have to be mined for ten years to fuel fifty new reactors. ..HG…

  • Henry Gibson

    The cost of any solar cells will prevent any array of them being cheaper than Nuclear power plants. The cost of the power would starve the common people of the US. The money is better invested in CANDU reactors that can burn the used fuel currently sitting at US power plant. Not one pound of uranium would have to be mined for ten years to fuel fifty new reactors. ..HG…

  • John C.

    This website is a breath of fresh air. People criticizing initiatives like this might consider they could make similar money in alternative fuels as they have been making in coal and oil. Or if you’re given to criticize, please make it constructive and not bitter or caustic. Give the planet a chance and our economy a break instead of protecting vested interests. Yes, there will be challenges and hurdles and of course solar and wind and natural gas will not answer all of our energy needs, but we need enthusiasm and initiative to mobilize ourselves for some change. Watch how the price of oil comes down as we talk up these alternative possibilities — the pain abates when people get stirred up to make progress.

  • John C.

    This website is a breath of fresh air. People criticizing initiatives like this might consider they could make similar money in alternative fuels as they have been making in coal and oil. Or if you’re given to criticize, please make it constructive and not bitter or caustic. Give the planet a chance and our economy a break instead of protecting vested interests. Yes, there will be challenges and hurdles and of course solar and wind and natural gas will not answer all of our energy needs, but we need enthusiasm and initiative to mobilize ourselves for some change. Watch how the price of oil comes down as we talk up these alternative possibilities — the pain abates when people get stirred up to make progress.

  • Guy

    Forward thinker? Its a cool idea, but if the person who wrote this article was a forward thinker, he’d question what impact putting 20 million people out of work would have. Thats exactly what would happen. Your city gas stations, a few truck drivers, and the local power company, gone. Im sure there are a ton of residual impacts as well.

  • Guy

    Forward thinker? Its a cool idea, but if the person who wrote this article was a forward thinker, he’d question what impact putting 20 million people out of work would have. Thats exactly what would happen. Your city gas stations, a few truck drivers, and the local power company, gone. Im sure there are a ton of residual impacts as well.

  • http://none Nancy Holmes

    Hello.

    In addition to the 30,000 sq. mile farms, why can’t every exterior air conditioner be sold with it’s own small solar energy factory, at least powerful enough to run that one air conditioner unit?

    Thanks, Nancy Holmes

  • Calvin Douglass

    How much TIME and MONEY would it take to clean 30,000 square miles of SPV’s? (and remember kids, these baby’s get HOT, and thus must be cleaned when weather permits or at night)… Without regular cleaning, Solar Cells can see greatly depreciating efficiencies over time.

    …Creating jobs perhaps? Clean PV arrays for 8 hours a day for a year or two and it’d seem that suicide is the only remaining option.

    It’s fun to dream, but lets be a bit more reasonable and consider all the INDIRECT costs.

  • Calvin Douglass

    How much TIME and MONEY would it take to clean 30,000 square miles of SPV’s? (and remember kids, these baby’s get HOT, and thus must be cleaned when weather permits or at night)… Without regular cleaning, Solar Cells can see greatly depreciating efficiencies over time.

    …Creating jobs perhaps? Clean PV arrays for 8 hours a day for a year or two and it’d seem that suicide is the only remaining option.

    It’s fun to dream, but lets be a bit more reasonable and consider all the INDIRECT costs.

  • George

    The mass suicides could help, too, tough. Overpopulation and all. What if (like one of the posts sort of suggested above) the PV units were placed along the highway? Maybe, since we already messed up nature there, we could just reuse the space? And on tops of buildings and maybe the solar “forest” idea over parking lots….

  • George

    The mass suicides could help, too, tough. Overpopulation and all. What if (like one of the posts sort of suggested above) the PV units were placed along the highway? Maybe, since we already messed up nature there, we could just reuse the space? And on tops of buildings and maybe the solar “forest” idea over parking lots….

  • mark

    id imagine if a project like this were to be undertaken say in a large southwestern desert the environmental impacts as far as the desert is concerned would not be terrible. The desert is in a sense a barren wasteland after all . From the north east, no deserts around here so tell me if im mistaken.

  • mark

    id imagine if a project like this were to be undertaken say in a large southwestern desert the environmental impacts as far as the desert is concerned would not be terrible. The desert is in a sense a barren wasteland after all . From the north east, no deserts around here so tell me if im mistaken.

  • brandon

    Green power is not a war on fossil fuels; it is about not negatively impacting our planet.

    Seems like we’re getting our panties in a wad because solar power is sexy. One question. 30,000 square miles of solar arrays? Green power is supposed to protect the environment. It does not seem like dropping 30,000 miles of impermeable silicon paneling does this. How would you feel if it were asphalt because it would have a similar impact on wherever we put it.

    It seems like a bunch of scientists who have not spent much time in our nations open spaces want to pat themselves on the back just for not burning coal.

  • brandon

    Green power is not a war on fossil fuels; it is about not negatively impacting our planet.

    Seems like we’re getting our panties in a wad because solar power is sexy. One question. 30,000 square miles of solar arrays? Green power is supposed to protect the environment. It does not seem like dropping 30,000 miles of impermeable silicon paneling does this. How would you feel if it were asphalt because it would have a similar impact on wherever we put it.

    It seems like a bunch of scientists who have not spent much time in our nations open spaces want to pat themselves on the back just for not burning coal.

  • Robert Eckard

    Hello! 32,000 square miles of solar arrays!!! Where do we think all that land is going to come from!! Sure, put solar arrays across the desert — but you’ll be destroying 32,000 square miles of habitat, endangered species, ruining the scenery. What if someone proposed paving 32,000 square miles with blacktop, what would you think then?

    Most solar enthusiasts have the right idea — promote solar energy. But 32,000 square miles paved over with solar cells would *NOT* be renewable energy. It would be energy generation at the expense of our precious and beautiful wildlands!! Please support solar in parking lots, on rooftops, on top of your car — but not covering all of the southwestern US!!

    rseckard@ucdavis.edu

  • Robert Eckard

    Hello! 32,000 square miles of solar arrays!!! Where do we think all that land is going to come from!! Sure, put solar arrays across the desert — but you’ll be destroying 32,000 square miles of habitat, endangered species, ruining the scenery. What if someone proposed paving 32,000 square miles with blacktop, what would you think then?

    Most solar enthusiasts have the right idea — promote solar energy. But 32,000 square miles paved over with solar cells would *NOT* be renewable energy. It would be energy generation at the expense of our precious and beautiful wildlands!! Please support solar in parking lots, on rooftops, on top of your car — but not covering all of the southwestern US!!

    rseckard@ucdavis.edu

  • Robert Eckard

    EFFICIENCY OVER NEW GENERATION!!!

  • Robert Eckard

    EFFICIENCY OVER NEW GENERATION!!!

  • Mark H.

    Hmm, I like the idea of solar but everything I have read says it isn’t there yet. I find some things funny in this article. For example:

    “a massive direct-current power transmission backbone to distribute electricity throughout the country”

    Anyone who knows electricity would realize that we don’t use DC backbones for Electrical distribution as you can not step it up to a higher voltage and so distribution is difficult. You lose a lot over short distances. Just look up Ohms law.

    I think the solar industry will advance in the coming years as more demand and better desings start showing up on the market. The current PhotoVoltaic panels have a problem, they are more efficient when cold. So when you put them in Desert heat they work but they lose efficiency. We had a completely solar communications site on a mountain top and when the sun came up in the morning but it was 50 degree’s on the mountain the solar put out some amazing amperage.

    I think the solution is not one big array but incentives for homeowners to put mini arrays on thier own home. Each person would have 2-3 kilowatt generation and the inverters to convert to A/C for backfeeding the grid. This is more efficent as the homeowners meter just counts what is being fed back into the grid. When we are all at work and our homes are just sitting there, it would be nice to know that your power meter is running backwards selling the solar created energy at the wholsale price to the Power Company.

    I want to do this to my house as it would pay for itself in about 10-12 years. After that it is just lower cost power.

  • Mark H.

    Hmm, I like the idea of solar but everything I have read says it isn’t there yet. I find some things funny in this article. For example:

    “a massive direct-current power transmission backbone to distribute electricity throughout the country”

    Anyone who knows electricity would realize that we don’t use DC backbones for Electrical distribution as you can not step it up to a higher voltage and so distribution is difficult. You lose a lot over short distances. Just look up Ohms law.

    I think the solar industry will advance in the coming years as more demand and better desings start showing up on the market. The current PhotoVoltaic panels have a problem, they are more efficient when cold. So when you put them in Desert heat they work but they lose efficiency. We had a completely solar communications site on a mountain top and when the sun came up in the morning but it was 50 degree’s on the mountain the solar put out some amazing amperage.

    I think the solution is not one big array but incentives for homeowners to put mini arrays on thier own home. Each person would have 2-3 kilowatt generation and the inverters to convert to A/C for backfeeding the grid. This is more efficent as the homeowners meter just counts what is being fed back into the grid. When we are all at work and our homes are just sitting there, it would be nice to know that your power meter is running backwards selling the solar created energy at the wholsale price to the Power Company.

    I want to do this to my house as it would pay for itself in about 10-12 years. After that it is just lower cost power.

  • Judi Batchelor

    Great information! How do we get congress to support a massive solar energy project across the USA? I want to buy a solar powered car using rechargeable batteries that are charged by the sun as it is being operated or parked which also can be recharged at my home. I want to install solar panels on my house to meet all of my electric requirements including my plug-in solar electric vehicle. I want to heat my house and water with solar energy. The problem getting a company to install all of this at an affordable price. Additionally I can’t find a solar powered vehicle.

  • Judi Batchelor

    Great information! How do we get congress to support a massive solar energy project across the USA? I want to buy a solar powered car using rechargeable batteries that are charged by the sun as it is being operated or parked which also can be recharged at my home. I want to install solar panels on my house to meet all of my electric requirements including my plug-in solar electric vehicle. I want to heat my house and water with solar energy. The problem getting a company to install all of this at an affordable price. Additionally I can’t find a solar powered vehicle.

  • Greg

    “How much more pollution is generated with the manufacture of these panels?” This question, or its declarative counterpart, frequently finds its way into criticism of photovoltaic solar electrical generation. At times it seems to be a standard defense of traditional, fossil carbon based electric generation. Considering the immense quantities of those same substances, and CO2, involved in producing the concrete, structural steel, high tensile and high temperature steel of the building and plumbing of the housing, and the copper and heavy metals in the generators, the relatively small mass involved in photovoltaic construction is virtually lost in the equation. And, considering that electricity produced by solar farms can be the energy source for producing more construction materials, the polution and CO2 complement of the whole photovoltaic infrastructure becomes miniscule. And it ignores the ongoing polution of coal (mercury, polycyclic hydrocarbons, particulates, SO2, etc.). Once installed and running the polutants and CO2 from solar are approximately zero per kWh. CO2 emmited per kWh is roughly 1 lb for natural gas, 1.7 lb for oil and 2 lb for coal (http://www.seen.org/pages/db/method.shtml) Say whatever you will about the cost in polution of a photovoltaic panel, how could it ever be but a tiny fraction of a percent of the collected production of a similar natural gas plant that runs 4000 hours a year for 30 years at 120,000 lbs CO2 per kWh, or 480,000 lbs of CO2 and many tons of mercury, other heavy metals and SO2 for a coal plant running 8000 hours a year?

  • Greg

    “How much more pollution is generated with the manufacture of these panels?” This question, or its declarative counterpart, frequently finds its way into criticism of photovoltaic solar electrical generation. At times it seems to be a standard defense of traditional, fossil carbon based electric generation. Considering the immense quantities of those same substances, and CO2, involved in producing the concrete, structural steel, high tensile and high temperature steel of the building and plumbing of the housing, and the copper and heavy metals in the generators, the relatively small mass involved in photovoltaic construction is virtually lost in the equation. And, considering that electricity produced by solar farms can be the energy source for producing more construction materials, the polution and CO2 complement of the whole photovoltaic infrastructure becomes miniscule. And it ignores the ongoing polution of coal (mercury, polycyclic hydrocarbons, particulates, SO2, etc.). Once installed and running the polutants and CO2 from solar are approximately zero per kWh. CO2 emmited per kWh is roughly 1 lb for natural gas, 1.7 lb for oil and 2 lb for coal (http://www.seen.org/pages/db/method.shtml) Say whatever you will about the cost in polution of a photovoltaic panel, how could it ever be but a tiny fraction of a percent of the collected production of a similar natural gas plant that runs 4000 hours a year for 30 years at 120,000 lbs CO2 per kWh, or 480,000 lbs of CO2 and many tons of mercury, other heavy metals and SO2 for a coal plant running 8000 hours a year?

  • rob

    I don’t see anyone considering tidal energy. I don’t think that damming estuaries and rivers is necessarily viable, but what about self-filling tanks, that generate electricity as the tide drops? Alaska has impressive tidal changes in certain areas. Possibly, the generated electricity could be used to convert water to hydrogen, rather than trying to send the energy a million miles. It seems that if something like this could be implemented, the environmental impact could be minimal.

  • rob

    I don’t see anyone considering tidal energy. I don’t think that damming estuaries and rivers is necessarily viable, but what about self-filling tanks, that generate electricity as the tide drops? Alaska has impressive tidal changes in certain areas. Possibly, the generated electricity could be used to convert water to hydrogen, rather than trying to send the energy a million miles. It seems that if something like this could be implemented, the environmental impact could be minimal.

  • http://none Brock

    Patrick, did you write that Mr. Bush stalled for 8 years? I don’t think you have your facts correct. And your reference to Big Oil and Big Coal, sounds like you may be voting for Obama.

    But you better check with the Sierra Club because you are not going to get their cooperation. After all, the collection panels are going to wipe out a huge wild life population. You better hope big oil and big coal come to your rescue unless your transportation is a tricycle or a bicycle with training wheels.

    Brock

  • http://none Brock

    PS to Patrick: And if the Sierra Club does not want to cover thousands of acres of desert, then you can bet, any legislation to fund such a dumb project will be stuck where ever Nancy Pelosi sticks legislation that her constituents don’t want. (After all her electorate is in San Francisco.)

    Brock

  • David Grignon

    I am all for alternative power sources, it is a MUST if we are ever going to break the strangle hold that the middle east currently has us in, as well as preserving the planet. However, 30,000 square miles…that is more area than the entire state of West Virginia (24,244 square miles). I do not see any state giving up that much area.

    We MUST learn from history! Up until now we have placed all of our energy needs on ONE source (excluding a few nuclear power plants)…fossil fuels, we can not do the same thing when converting to alternative power. I believe it will need to be a combination of power sources, solar, wind and biofuels, with an emphasis on the first two named sources.

    I often wonder where we would be if Nikola Tesla would have been viewed as a genius rather than a lunatic. His vision of a Tesla Coil was ahead of his time. Lets get some of our scientists, and engineers as one reader so elequantly eluded to, so that we can revisit some truly ingenious ideas.

  • David Grignon

    I am all for alternative power sources, it is a MUST if we are ever going to break the strangle hold that the middle east currently has us in, as well as preserving the planet. However, 30,000 square miles…that is more area than the entire state of West Virginia (24,244 square miles). I do not see any state giving up that much area.

    We MUST learn from history! Up until now we have placed all of our energy needs on ONE source (excluding a few nuclear power plants)…fossil fuels, we can not do the same thing when converting to alternative power. I believe it will need to be a combination of power sources, solar, wind and biofuels, with an emphasis on the first two named sources.

    I often wonder where we would be if Nikola Tesla would have been viewed as a genius rather than a lunatic. His vision of a Tesla Coil was ahead of his time. Lets get some of our scientists, and engineers as one reader so elequantly eluded to, so that we can revisit some truly ingenious ideas.

  • San

    I have not read all the comments so I don’t know if someone else has pointed this out, but 30,000 sq miles is not all that much.. it is less than a square plot with 200 mile side.

    There is a whole lot of such unpopulated arid sites in the desert areas of usa.

  • San

    I have not read all the comments so I don’t know if someone else has pointed this out, but 30,000 sq miles is not all that much.. it is less than a square plot with 200 mile side.

    There is a whole lot of such unpopulated arid sites in the desert areas of usa.

  • http://USA Ray Bright

    2050 is far in the future.

    Meanwhile we (the Western countries)are giving trillion dollars each year to the Mohammedans, who invest most of this money into support for terrorism.

    The only way to defeat Islamofascist barbarians, is to become independent of their fuel within 5, not 40 years.

  • Patrick

    Guys, it is NOT 30,000 square miles- read the title, it is 92×92 miles, which is 8400 square miles. Also, read the 5th post on page 1 of the comments… I think that’s where the message came from, where 30,000 square FEET is mentioned, not miles.

  • Patrick

    Guys, it is NOT 30,000 square miles- read the title, it is 92×92 miles, which is 8400 square miles. Also, read the 5th post on page 1 of the comments… I think that’s where the message came from, where 30,000 square FEET is mentioned, not miles.

  • Shane

    It seems like it may be easier and more eco-friendly to just mandate that all buildings have roofs converted to solar panels by 2015 and all new construction have at least 20% of the roof covered in solar panels at time of completion and 100% coverage by 2015. I am sure that all the roofs in the country would more than equal 30,000 SQ miles plus there would be no chance for the entire project to be ruined by one natural disaster.

  • Shane

    It seems like it may be easier and more eco-friendly to just mandate that all buildings have roofs converted to solar panels by 2015 and all new construction have at least 20% of the roof covered in solar panels at time of completion and 100% coverage by 2015. I am sure that all the roofs in the country would more than equal 30,000 SQ miles plus there would be no chance for the entire project to be ruined by one natural disaster.

  • mel

    If you look out the window of your plane as you land at Miami International airport you will see thousands of solar panels on the roofs of S Fla homes. My parents used solar for hot water for a family of 6 for forty years and only had to replace the water tank once. It seems we have an huge capacity of sun potential in the deserts, a plethora of wind power possibilities from Texas to N Dakota, and considerable tidal power possibilities on both coasts that could reduce the transmission of power losses. I believe ALL are necessary for our energy independence. In addition, is there nothing that would stop a wind turbine from having solar panels on it? Maybe the sun isnt shining today but the wind IS blowing, or vice versa. Clean coal would be the longterm answer (10-20 years) to our energy problems until better and cleaner technologies are developed. A solar paint or film for our cars, trucks, and buildings might be helpful too, while we are brainstorming. Longhaul 18-wheelers with solar panels on their roofs and/or regenerative braking could increase their mileage significantly-but at what cost? Natural gas would help as a stopgap but its only 20% better than gasoline in environmental terms and has limited range, as noted.

  • mel

    If you look out the window of your plane as you land at Miami International airport you will see thousands of solar panels on the roofs of S Fla homes. My parents used solar for hot water for a family of 6 for forty years and only had to replace the water tank once. It seems we have an huge capacity of sun potential in the deserts, a plethora of wind power possibilities from Texas to N Dakota, and considerable tidal power possibilities on both coasts that could reduce the transmission of power losses. I believe ALL are necessary for our energy independence. In addition, is there nothing that would stop a wind turbine from having solar panels on it? Maybe the sun isnt shining today but the wind IS blowing, or vice versa. Clean coal would be the longterm answer (10-20 years) to our energy problems until better and cleaner technologies are developed. A solar paint or film for our cars, trucks, and buildings might be helpful too, while we are brainstorming. Longhaul 18-wheelers with solar panels on their roofs and/or regenerative braking could increase their mileage significantly-but at what cost? Natural gas would help as a stopgap but its only 20% better than gasoline in environmental terms and has limited range, as noted.

  • Harold P Boushell

    Mr. Pickens 04SEP2008

    I would do things a little different. I live in

    Mojave Ca. “WE” have a few “wind turbines”

    about 20,000+. There main draw-back they function

    from 15mph to 55 mph wind-speed. They are:

    “Today’s wind turbines stand up to 410 feet

    tall, with blades that stretch 148 feet in

    length. The blades collect the wind’s kinetic

    energy”.

    My experience in manufacturing tell me these

    “kinetic energy turbines” are to BIG. To much

    cost, in BRAKING, HYDRELICS, ASSEMBLY and MAINTANES.

    You might put your people to work to “OPTOMIZE”

    the manufacturing and installation process.

    The use of BIG-CRAINS, and Towers COST. If you

    can make 20,000,000 of something the cost is

    reduced by 3/4. My suggestion is to SIZE and

    OPTOMIZE the PROCESS for TOTAL COST OF

    OWNERSHIP.

    My thinking goes to 20KVA, and Light-Towers,

    3-wires and small concrete-pad, and TWO WORKERS,

    with 1.08 installations per day. With C-130 like

    propellers good for 300+ mph wind-speed. The

    missing ingredient is a “PRINTED CIRCUT BOARD”

    REGULATING THE FIELD CURRENT, for “BEST-POWER-

    PEODUCTION”. You must include the repair-cycle

    on these BIG MACHINES, the smaller machines

    are down to auto-mechanic tools. Every one

    likes to spend other-peoples-money, but let’s

    get our money’s worth for our TAX-DOLLER the

    need is there. As for SOLAR not yet, there

    is progress being made, day by day. You might

    want to hold-out for nano-scale developments.

    Harold P Boushell

    haroldpboushell@hotmail.com

  • Harold P Boushell

    Mr. Pickens 04SEP2008

    I would do things a little different. I live in

    Mojave Ca. “WE” have a few “wind turbines”

    about 20,000+. There main draw-back they function

    from 15mph to 55 mph wind-speed. They are:

    “Today’s wind turbines stand up to 410 feet

    tall, with blades that stretch 148 feet in

    length. The blades collect the wind’s kinetic

    energy”.

    My experience in manufacturing tell me these

    “kinetic energy turbines” are to BIG. To much

    cost, in BRAKING, HYDRELICS, ASSEMBLY and MAINTANES.

    You might put your people to work to “OPTOMIZE”

    the manufacturing and installation process.

    The use of BIG-CRAINS, and Towers COST. If you

    can make 20,000,000 of something the cost is

    reduced by 3/4. My suggestion is to SIZE and

    OPTOMIZE the PROCESS for TOTAL COST OF

    OWNERSHIP.

    My thinking goes to 20KVA, and Light-Towers,

    3-wires and small concrete-pad, and TWO WORKERS,

    with 1.08 installations per day. With C-130 like

    propellers good for 300+ mph wind-speed. The

    missing ingredient is a “PRINTED CIRCUT BOARD”

    REGULATING THE FIELD CURRENT, for “BEST-POWER-

    PEODUCTION”. You must include the repair-cycle

    on these BIG MACHINES, the smaller machines

    are down to auto-mechanic tools. Every one

    likes to spend other-peoples-money, but let’s

    get our money’s worth for our TAX-DOLLER the

    need is there. As for SOLAR not yet, there

    is progress being made, day by day. You might

    want to hold-out for nano-scale developments.

    Harold P Boushell

    haroldpboushell@hotmail.com

  • Dave

    The dumbest idea I’ve never heard? Hardly. If the person below me as environmental concerns… Maybe he should consider these: whacking off tops of mountains for coal, the results of this are obvious extreme greenhouse gas emissions, completely destroying habitat for millions of animals, and disrupting the ways of nature in the process, resulting in disease, sickness, and in some cases not having the ability to reproduce.

    Burning oil is one of the dumbest things to do from the environmental standpoint. Releasing in a tremendous amount of CO2 emissions resulting in global warming, rising sea levels, rising ocean temperatures, destruction of habitat for millions sea creatures coral reefs and other oceanic phenomenon. Not to mention the more intense hurricanes and tropical storms resulting in extreme distraction of whole cities.

    I could go on but I don’t really want to write a novel.

    The person below me does have a point though. I think solar is an amazingly great idea but why can’t we put it on top of shopping centers, houses, hotels, restaurants, and even on the tops of semi trailers. I think there’s lots of places we can put solar installations before we have to go disrupt our environment. Just think if we can get something from “nothing” why wouldn’t we.

  • Dave

    The dumbest idea I’ve never heard? Hardly. If the person below me as environmental concerns… Maybe he should consider these: whacking off tops of mountains for coal, the results of this are obvious extreme greenhouse gas emissions, completely destroying habitat for millions of animals, and disrupting the ways of nature in the process, resulting in disease, sickness, and in some cases not having the ability to reproduce.

    Burning oil is one of the dumbest things to do from the environmental standpoint. Releasing in a tremendous amount of CO2 emissions resulting in global warming, rising sea levels, rising ocean temperatures, destruction of habitat for millions sea creatures coral reefs and other oceanic phenomenon. Not to mention the more intense hurricanes and tropical storms resulting in extreme distraction of whole cities.

    I could go on but I don’t really want to write a novel.

    The person below me does have a point though. I think solar is an amazingly great idea but why can’t we put it on top of shopping centers, houses, hotels, restaurants, and even on the tops of semi trailers. I think there’s lots of places we can put solar installations before we have to go disrupt our environment. Just think if we can get something from “nothing” why wouldn’t we.

  • A Cason

    Solor power MUST BE in our energy plan..for electric cars and home/business use. Roof mounted panels atop homes and buildings seem a viable collector location, feeding power into home meters and beyond, sharing electricity throughout community. Electric cars can refuel over night when rates are cheapest. While T. Boon Pickens has wind power/natural gas ideas, I think this is just as feasible.

  • A Cason

    Solor power MUST BE in our energy plan..for electric cars and home/business use. Roof mounted panels atop homes and buildings seem a viable collector location, feeding power into home meters and beyond, sharing electricity throughout community. Electric cars can refuel over night when rates are cheapest. While T. Boon Pickens has wind power/natural gas ideas, I think this is just as feasible.

  • Phil Timmons

    Three Questions?

    1. Why the plug-in (implies batteries of some sort) model on the vehicles? Grid enabled highway/roadway allows the vehicle to pick up its power as it is used without the extra battery weight and cost. The grid already goes most everywhere most people drive, such as highways and daily commutes.

    2. Why the storage of power? (e.g., compressed air caverns). I follow that is part of most any stated plan (apparently most by dogma?), but if you look at actual electricity use, it is mostly used in the day — when solar, such as advocated here produces. There is no point in storing that which can be both produced and used during the day. At night, there is already vast surplus on the grid and projected to remain so.

    3. Where did the math for 30,000 square miles come from? At about 180 Mwatt per square mile, for Solar Thermal that seems WAY over even the largest future projected demands. See http://www.AUSRA.com.

    Thanks.

  • Phil Timmons

    Three Questions?

    1. Why the plug-in (implies batteries of some sort) model on the vehicles? Grid enabled highway/roadway allows the vehicle to pick up its power as it is used without the extra battery weight and cost. The grid already goes most everywhere most people drive, such as highways and daily commutes.

    2. Why the storage of power? (e.g., compressed air caverns). I follow that is part of most any stated plan (apparently most by dogma?), but if you look at actual electricity use, it is mostly used in the day — when solar, such as advocated here produces. There is no point in storing that which can be both produced and used during the day. At night, there is already vast surplus on the grid and projected to remain so.

    3. Where did the math for 30,000 square miles come from? At about 180 Mwatt per square mile, for Solar Thermal that seems WAY over even the largest future projected demands. See http://www.AUSRA.com.

    Thanks.

  • Doug Mason

    I would love to see the market self correct no matter what the circumstances and I would feel more secure if 700 billion went for this instead.

  • Doug Mason

    I would love to see the market self correct no matter what the circumstances and I would feel more secure if 700 billion went for this instead.

  • http://trillions.topcities.com jack marchand

    oct. 11th, 2008

    Gentlemen (Ladies)

    In my web page above, –index no.7–see 1980’s idea

    http://trillions.topcities.com/00glblslrnrgsys.html

    A global solar system that won’t require storage and would be available

    to all countries for free. An inert system with very little attention.

    The energy then is free and forever. The installation cost is paid

    proportionally by all countries’ needs. Let’s all work together and

    soon all our “hang ups” will be over. A new world. Jack Marchand

    P.S. see index no.2 for EV infrastructure , also Index no.3 for high speed maglev.

  • http://trillions.topcities.com jack marchand

    oct. 11th, 2008

    Gentlemen (Ladies)

    In my web page above, –index no.7–see 1980’s idea

    http://trillions.topcities.com/00glblslrnrgsys.html

    A global solar system that won’t require storage and would be available

    to all countries for free. An inert system with very little attention.

    The energy then is free and forever. The installation cost is paid

    proportionally by all countries’ needs. Let’s all work together and

    soon all our “hang ups” will be over. A new world. Jack Marchand

    P.S. see index no.2 for EV infrastructure , also Index no.3 for high speed maglev.

  • Darrel Hoffmaster

    I lived in the African bush for six years on solar power and can never remember a day when the sun did not rise.

    This is an idea whose time has come (it actually came a long time ago). Solar cost’s a bit to set up, but it costs nothing to collect the energy once the installation has been completed.

    Our current transportation infrastructure could be altered over time to include electric rail roads in the west (exclusively diesel today), and the use of biomass generated methane to replace oil based fuel.

  • Darrel Hoffmaster

    I lived in the African bush for six years on solar power and can never remember a day when the sun did not rise.

    This is an idea whose time has come (it actually came a long time ago). Solar cost’s a bit to set up, but it costs nothing to collect the energy once the installation has been completed.

    Our current transportation infrastructure could be altered over time to include electric rail roads in the west (exclusively diesel today), and the use of biomass generated methane to replace oil based fuel.

  • Roman

    Solar and wind should go on all the rooftops first.

    1. Reduces the need for distribution networks.

    2. Cuts a middle man(a corporation and saves people money)

    3. ease of maintanence. It is easier to clean your rooftop then 18000 – 30000 acres of this stuff.

    4. Does not require additional land development.

    If after most of the rooftops have been outfitted there is still power shortage, I would say, first hydro, second geothermal, third biogas, tidal, algea, then commercial wind and solar.

  • Roman

    Solar and wind should go on all the rooftops first.

    1. Reduces the need for distribution networks.

    2. Cuts a middle man(a corporation and saves people money)

    3. ease of maintanence. It is easier to clean your rooftop then 18000 – 30000 acres of this stuff.

    4. Does not require additional land development.

    If after most of the rooftops have been outfitted there is still power shortage, I would say, first hydro, second geothermal, third biogas, tidal, algea, then commercial wind and solar.

  • Brian McCandliss

    I’ve got a better idea: just let everyone put solar-power on their roof and it would be more than enough; likewise they could finance it at 6% a home-equity improvement, shrinking their energy-bills to a fraction of their current rate.

  • Brian McCandliss

    I’ve got a better idea: just let everyone put solar-power on their roof and it would be more than enough; likewise they could finance it at 6% a home-equity improvement, shrinking their energy-bills to a fraction of their current rate.

  • http://none Poe

    You guys missed the obvious solution, surplus power is stored as compressed air.

    Well guess what you can pipe from place to place, with very little loss, COMPRESS AIR.

    Not only can you power a LOCAL generator, you can fill your compressed AIR CAR.

    Also, you can not transmit DC over long distance, using compressed air is the only way we will be able to move ENERGY from solar from one place to another.

    GO COMPRESSED AIR.

    Side note, France use to run off compressed air.

  • http://n/a Tarik Surmon

    I’m sure you’re aware that the area your article mentions (solar array area) would easily cover the rooves of America with silicon wafers. I wonder if they would smell like Coppenhagen waffle when the cells were hot?! Government subsidisation under your new president might easily make this dream a reality, would it however right our global ecconomy? Surely the limiting parameter becomes infra red energy emissions as the solar energy is reradiated, what will be the impact on global warming if we all go solar and develop energy appetites…

  • Are you stupid

    Talk about eco-disaster!!!

    What do you think would happen if we “paved” over 250,000 square miles of the USA SouthWest?

    (1) It may be desert but deserts already have flash flood issues without the world’s largest solar parking lot. Expect the Grand Canyon to become a minor gutter.

    (2) Say good bye to all ecology in the total shade of this array.

    (3) Weather.

    (a) I guarantee you alter it & not in a good way. Sunlight drives the weather. 250,000 square miles is not trivial to weather systems.

    (i) First you are successfully absorbing 2.5% sun energy.

    (ii) And wait what happens to the sunlight not successfully coverted to electricity? Is reflection back to space greater or less than natural albedo of the desert?

    (b) Prediction: Solar arrays have fun with weather.

    What is a solar array most vulnerable to? Dust storms (abrasion and coverage), wind, and lightning (wet or dry). Hello outrageous maintenance costs…costs in energy as well…so we need a bigger array which means more effects and maintenance…round and round we go.

    Proves that even brilliant minds can be shortsighted.

  • Are you stupid

    Talk about eco-disaster!!!

    What do you think would happen if we “paved” over 250,000 square miles of the USA SouthWest?

    (1) It may be desert but deserts already have flash flood issues without the world’s largest solar parking lot. Expect the Grand Canyon to become a minor gutter.

    (2) Say good bye to all ecology in the total shade of this array.

    (3) Weather.

    (a) I guarantee you alter it & not in a good way. Sunlight drives the weather. 250,000 square miles is not trivial to weather systems.

    (i) First you are successfully absorbing 2.5% sun energy.

    (ii) And wait what happens to the sunlight not successfully coverted to electricity? Is reflection back to space greater or less than natural albedo of the desert?

    (b) Prediction: Solar arrays have fun with weather.

    What is a solar array most vulnerable to? Dust storms (abrasion and coverage), wind, and lightning (wet or dry). Hello outrageous maintenance costs…costs in energy as well…so we need a bigger array which means more effects and maintenance…round and round we go.

    Proves that even brilliant minds can be shortsighted.

  • dave

    Wrongheaded approach, Scientific American.

    The beauty of solar is that it lends itself to being elegantly DE-CENTRALIZED. You don’t need BIG POWERPLANT X pumping away in some remote locale, and 1,000 miles of cables stringing it all together.

    Put the panels on the roof, or down the street, and create the power where you need it.

    Legislation (read: tax breaks) is geared toward old technology coal/nuclear plants. Give equal-footing incentives to small “plants” and let states/regions/municipalities decide what works for them: solar, wind, geothermal, or nuclear. Forcing residents of windy-as-heck Wyoming to subsist on Solar just because some govt. wonk says to, is simply a waste.

  • dave

    Wrongheaded approach, Scientific American.

    The beauty of solar is that it lends itself to being elegantly DE-CENTRALIZED. You don’t need BIG POWERPLANT X pumping away in some remote locale, and 1,000 miles of cables stringing it all together.

    Put the panels on the roof, or down the street, and create the power where you need it.

    Legislation (read: tax breaks) is geared toward old technology coal/nuclear plants. Give equal-footing incentives to small “plants” and let states/regions/municipalities decide what works for them: solar, wind, geothermal, or nuclear. Forcing residents of windy-as-heck Wyoming to subsist on Solar just because some govt. wonk says to, is simply a waste.

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  • http://gas2.org pinky girl

    I love SOlar pannels and I think that if we all pitch in we can make them work!!

  • http://gas2.org pinky girl

    I love SOlar pannels and I think that if we all pitch in we can make them work!!

  • Peter Taurino

    I think every household in our great country should have solar panels on their roof or a wind turbine, or both.

  • Peter Taurino

    I think every household in our great country should have solar panels on their roof or a wind turbine, or both.

  • Stinky LaRue

    Some questions to ponder…

    What materials are required for these solar panels? Are they readily available? Many of these panels require rare earth metals that require extensive mining and carry with them a host of environmental remediation issues.

    With such massive construction of solar panels, wouldn’t the demand, and hence the price drastically increase, making any current price estimates completely unreliable?

    How efficient are these solar panels? The maximum efficiency(amount of captured sunlight actually able to be converted to usable energy) I have heard reported is 30%. What happens to the rest of the heat? Will it cause rapidly increasing surface temperatures since the radiation is being kept at the surface and not being reflected away from the surface?

    Are there habitat changes expected from this massive construction?

    I do think that it is good to explore other energy options, but I think it is naive to think that there will be a quick and singular solution to the world’s energy problems. I believe the solution will take many different alternative energy sources implemented in a gradual and responsible manner. Keep up the good efforts.

  • Stinky LaRue

    Some questions to ponder…

    What materials are required for these solar panels? Are they readily available? Many of these panels require rare earth metals that require extensive mining and carry with them a host of environmental remediation issues.

    With such massive construction of solar panels, wouldn’t the demand, and hence the price drastically increase, making any current price estimates completely unreliable?

    How efficient are these solar panels? The maximum efficiency(amount of captured sunlight actually able to be converted to usable energy) I have heard reported is 30%. What happens to the rest of the heat? Will it cause rapidly increasing surface temperatures since the radiation is being kept at the surface and not being reflected away from the surface?

    Are there habitat changes expected from this massive construction?

    I do think that it is good to explore other energy options, but I think it is naive to think that there will be a quick and singular solution to the world’s energy problems. I believe the solution will take many different alternative energy sources implemented in a gradual and responsible manner. Keep up the good efforts.

  • Mike James

    Lets just all get a 7k grid tie system on our roofs, and the government can charge us $200 a month until we pay it off. Or however much we normally pay for our bills.

  • Mike James

    Lets just all get a 7k grid tie system on our roofs, and the government can charge us $200 a month until we pay it off. Or however much we normally pay for our bills.

  • Kenneth Nelan

    I would honestly like to know what would happen to power consumption if we put just 1 (one) solar panel on every home in the United States.

    I’ve heard (here in Tucson anyway) that if we were to put just one solar panel on each home in Tucson, we would reduce our need for coal by more than half and the power plant would run mainly in the evening/night-time.

    I love the idea of 30,000 sq mile array, but you’ve already got that and more in the various cities just in roof tops. If one is going to go to all that expense anyway, then put the panels where they are needed most; in the towns that will use the power.

    The only think keeping my wife and I from investing in solar power is our City. They do not offer buy-back of solar power (in Tucson… Go figure. They offer other programs, but essentially we still pay them for us to generate the power they receive from us once taxes, line fees, and everything else is considered into the equations. They simply do not pay the consumer for overage.) and it is upfront cost prohibitive to buy outright.

    Put a panel (or 10) on the perfectly south facing slope of my roof and I’ll be happy as a clam! Cut my electric bill in half just for using my roof, and I’ll even do a jig. Do that for every house in the city and you’ve got a community that is now self supportive with power generation.

    Since less power is used at night than during the day, the power plant can reduce it’s load and we’ve just help to alleviate (I didn’t say solve) a major problem with power generation.

  • Kenneth Nelan

    I would honestly like to know what would happen to power consumption if we put just 1 (one) solar panel on every home in the United States.

    I’ve heard (here in Tucson anyway) that if we were to put just one solar panel on each home in Tucson, we would reduce our need for coal by more than half and the power plant would run mainly in the evening/night-time.

    I love the idea of 30,000 sq mile array, but you’ve already got that and more in the various cities just in roof tops. If one is going to go to all that expense anyway, then put the panels where they are needed most; in the towns that will use the power.

    The only think keeping my wife and I from investing in solar power is our City. They do not offer buy-back of solar power (in Tucson… Go figure. They offer other programs, but essentially we still pay them for us to generate the power they receive from us once taxes, line fees, and everything else is considered into the equations. They simply do not pay the consumer for overage.) and it is upfront cost prohibitive to buy outright.

    Put a panel (or 10) on the perfectly south facing slope of my roof and I’ll be happy as a clam! Cut my electric bill in half just for using my roof, and I’ll even do a jig. Do that for every house in the city and you’ve got a community that is now self supportive with power generation.

    Since less power is used at night than during the day, the power plant can reduce it’s load and we’ve just help to alleviate (I didn’t say solve) a major problem with power generation.

  • Chris Ken

    Important to know that the picture of the article is misleading. The picture is of course a solar panel and for large power plants not suitable yet, because of manufacturing costs. For large solar power plants check Greenpeace website: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/news/concentrating-solar-power250509. I am not a fan of Greenpeace, but it seems that they do support this.

    Hi voltage power transmission is no problem. Please open this site and see the European energy future: http://www.desertec.org/

    Back to the picture on top of the article. Solar panels are the future in decentralised electricity production. Together with smart power grids and fast recharging batteries for transportation both are in development already, the only thing slow is the politics, mainly in the US and China.

    I hope people start to understand that all of this is not a technical problem at all! The problem is political and in there largely the unwillingness to come up with a real plan for the long term development, put this plan into solid laws so that the plans are carried out even beyond future elections. Oh, for all the guys how still dream of more nuclear power plants: uranium has to be mined and it runs out in similar fashion as oil does. Also the waste of nuclear power plants has to be placed somewhere, not to mention the security problems which comes along with this technology. The best thing is to run what exists and stop building new ones. Again the US Government should work closer together with other nations to push on with the next version of power plants: http://www.ipp.mpg.de/ippcms/eng/presse/pi/02_06_pi.html

    Personal note: I live in a mega city (more then 13 mil people) with about 40 mil in neighbouring cities in an 80 mile radius. Last year I bought a new car 2.0 TFSI engine with DSP and 200 bhp. Really cool car. But: This was definitely the last gasoline engine car I bought. Why? Because I am sick of the air pollution!!!

  • Chris Ken

    Important to know that the picture of the article is misleading. The picture is of course a solar panel and for large power plants not suitable yet, because of manufacturing costs. For large solar power plants check Greenpeace website: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/news/concentrating-solar-power250509. I am not a fan of Greenpeace, but it seems that they do support this.

    Hi voltage power transmission is no problem. Please open this site and see the European energy future: http://www.desertec.org/

    Back to the picture on top of the article. Solar panels are the future in decentralised electricity production. Together with smart power grids and fast recharging batteries for transportation both are in development already, the only thing slow is the politics, mainly in the US and China.

    I hope people start to understand that all of this is not a technical problem at all! The problem is political and in there largely the unwillingness to come up with a real plan for the long term development, put this plan into solid laws so that the plans are carried out even beyond future elections. Oh, for all the guys how still dream of more nuclear power plants: uranium has to be mined and it runs out in similar fashion as oil does. Also the waste of nuclear power plants has to be placed somewhere, not to mention the security problems which comes along with this technology. The best thing is to run what exists and stop building new ones. Again the US Government should work closer together with other nations to push on with the next version of power plants: http://www.ipp.mpg.de/ippcms/eng/presse/pi/02_06_pi.html

    Personal note: I live in a mega city (more then 13 mil people) with about 40 mil in neighbouring cities in an 80 mile radius. Last year I bought a new car 2.0 TFSI engine with DSP and 200 bhp. Really cool car. But: This was definitely the last gasoline engine car I bought. Why? Because I am sick of the air pollution!!!

  • Laura

    Great idea. There isn’t much wildlife in the desert, and it would completely prevent ever having to drill in more valuable ecosystems, such as Alaska. Let’s end this stupid, expensive war for oil, and do something smart for a change. Or do we let the loudmouth Stupids in this, the “Age of Stupid” win? They have absolutely nothing to contribute to making a better world. Tune them out — turn your back on them and start moving forward.

  • Laura

    Great idea. There isn’t much wildlife in the desert, and it would completely prevent ever having to drill in more valuable ecosystems, such as Alaska. Let’s end this stupid, expensive war for oil, and do something smart for a change. Or do we let the loudmouth Stupids in this, the “Age of Stupid” win? They have absolutely nothing to contribute to making a better world. Tune them out — turn your back on them and start moving forward.

  • http://Yourcostestimatesareoff Arya Bagherpour

    You project a cost of $10 billion a year for 40 years. It would be closer to $1.6 Trillion a year for 40 years.

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  • http://mytheoriesarehere.blogspot.com/ Prabakaran

    Going green by using Solar is not a bad idea but that shouldn’t affect the eco-system. There are lot of other renewable’s like TIDAL(U.K planned to harvest 2GW by 2020) and WIND(Denmark and Germany planned to get 50% and 20% respectively of their requirements from WIND) and many other….why don’t install them all in a quantity without affecting the nature and building a smart grid(may be super smart)….

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  • stan

    impressive article
    hope utilize “solar panel for 90% transportation” will happen in my country

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