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To me it doesnt make sense. Why would we not use a free, polution free, worry free form of energy? In the long run it would save sooo much money and the environment. But is there something else I'm missing?
While sunlight is free and clean solar energy isn't. Large scale production of solar panels uses large amounts of toxic chemicals and the solar panels themselves are expensive and don't last forever; they loose efficiency over time and have to be replaced. Solar energy can not compete with cheap fossil fuel.
mrgramophone, nuclear isn't cheap either. When the first nuclear power plants were built we were promised energy too cheap to meter but what we got was the most expensive way to generate electricity. Many reactors operate at a loss and are subsidized. A lot of people think it was Chernobyl and Three Mile Island that halted production of new nuclear plants in the US when the main reason was cost. There is a lot of promise in next generation nuclear reactor designs. Pebble bed reactors are self-limiting so are passively safe and produce high enough temperatures for thermochemical hydrogen production as well as producing electricity. The promised "hydrogen economy" will never be a possibility as long as it takes fossil fuel to inexpensively produce hydrogen.
As the price of fossil fuels rise solar and nuclear (and other sources of energy) will become more competitive. For the time being fossil fuel is a cheap way of harvesting large amounts of solar energy that hit the earth millions of years ago.
A carbon tax is one strategy to encourage the migration to non-fossil fuels before it would happen otherwise. Nobody will move from fossil fuels until it economically makes sense to them.
Historically, it has cost more to build and maintain solar panels than they save in power costs. That said, this equation is changing in the very near future. There is a company called Nanosolar that has figured out how to print solar panels using a technology very similar to ink jet printing. This technology reduces the cost of a solar based system by about 90%, and so I think we will indeed see a big shift toward solar in the near term.
However, there still are no good ways of storing all that power, so solar will only offset fossil fuels when the sun is shining brightly. This means we still have to have conventional power plants capable of full power production, but we don't have to run them when the sun is shining.
The only real options for 24/7 power at this moment in time are fossil fuels and nuclear. Hydroelectric could possibly provide 24/7 power if we built a lot more damns.
We need to have a many pronged energy policy. No one form of energy should be considered the standard. We definately have to reduce the use of fossil fuels in order to combat global warming and polution. Solar, wind, tidal, geothermal and biofuels are all viable enery sources and should all be included in any realistic energy plan. I don't think nuclear is the answer. Not until they can figure out what to do with the waste.
Nuclear energy is the best. We should have it here in Australia, and we will be getting it eventually. The trouble with solar is that it is expensive, and what happens if the sun doesn't shine. Back in the mid 1970's, I lived in a hostel that relied upon solar energy to heat water. Where I was living at the time, sometimes the sun didn't shine for weeks and we had to endure almost cold showers!
...not to mention, it'd be darn tough to stay warm in Montana...we haven't seen the sun up here, for 33 days...and that's not uncommon in the winter. I don't know if a person could get enough stored up to stay warm (it's also been below zero for almost 2 weeks)...
because it actually costs more to convert solar power into something useful than it does to simply burn fossil fuels.