I've been reading a bit on solar energy investments and efficiency (35% for some of the technology)...eventually it seems we will be using solar arrays or panels, or something, on our houses to power lights and electronics.
How long till this happens? Me, I give it about 30 years till the majority of houses and buildings have a solar generation system of some kind. What do you think?
If every home on the planet had a solar array, our global-warming problems would reach explosive levels. Any environmentalist worth their salt would start a suicide-bombing campaign to prevent this from happening.
Consider: even operating at their most efficient, a consumer-grade solar array is only converting about 20-30% of the sun's energy into electricity, but the remaining 70% doesn't simply vanish. It's being converted into heat and being absorbed by the giant black panels you've installed on your roof, and all this re-radiated heat would warm the planet far more than our current carbon levels. This is why many environmentalists are calling for everyone to start painting their roofs white, to reflect heat, not black to absorb.
Not to mention, converting every home and business to solar would require such enormous energy output, we'd rack up a carbon debt that could (according to some researches at the I've thinktank quoted in ''Freakonomics'') take 50 years to pay off even if we lived in a completely carbon-neutral society. Since carbon stays in the atmosphere 100 years, that means 150 years of problems before we even began to see results (assuming it worked), which isn't exactly a solution. And then you would still have all that excess heat to deal with.
The ideal of a world purring quietly along on solar is a nice one to imagine, but the realities of enacting it are not realistic nor even all that attractive. The real solutions are going to come from geoengineering, which is cheap, easy, and effective, not radically overhauling our energy consumption.
As soon as the government subsidies make it worth it, but I hope that's a long way away. It's inefficient and expensive, with low return on the initial investment. Not to mention the environmental impact of that high investment. The pipe dreams about dramatic improvements have been around for years if not decades. If you want to go green you can do 10 times more with energy efficient appliances, fuel efficient yet cheap and usable cars (the slow unsafe smart cars need not apply), buying locally grown food (low transportation), etc. Keep going green simple, rather than buying into XYZ expensive fad that gets its high cost from massive environmental damage.
With regards to businesses and corporations, yes, maybe I can see solar array being implemented within 25 years or so. But domestic wise, I think we have a long way to go.
The reason being, solar array holds enormous amount of electricity which can have the potential to produce lethal voltage and cannot be switched off like you do with your household electricity power surges using a safety switch. Not sure what your regulations are in your country of residence, but in Australia, the fire and electricity issues would hinder this concept being implemented in our domestic households.