Inn at Penn Hotel
36th & Walnut Street
Chemistry, University of Pennsylvania
“The Problem with Solar Energy, and How to Fix It”
For decades, solar energy has been too expensive to compete with fossil fuels, but costs have dropped dramatically in the past few years. The latest estimates put the average cost of solar energy as low as 9 ¢/kWh. Combine this with the abundant supply (more solar energy hits the earth in one hour than humans use in a year!), and we are left wondering why energy providers cap their reliance on renewable sources at ~20% of what they produce. How can this be? What’s the bottleneck, and what can we do about it? This talk will explain the current state of the art in grid-scale energy storage. Supercapacitors, redox-flow batteries, and other technology can store solar energy generated during the day to provide consistent power through the night. The grid-scale implementation of these technologies would decouple renewable energy harvesting from demand, providing a feasible path forward for increasing our civilization’s reliance on sustainable energy sources.