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U.S. and World Wide Research Aims to Reduce Cost of Solar Energy

franken and doe official arjun majumdarSenator Al Franken recently held a Minnesota Renewable Energy Summit at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul.   Arun Majumdar, head of the Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, stated that the United States is approaching a “Sputnik moment” in renewable energy, and Minnesota is one place that could help it meet that challenge.  "We have to work toward . . . getting the cost of producing solar energy down to 5 cents per kilowatt hour, so that it can be sold without subsidies.”

kylie catchpole

Researchers around the world are working on just this effort to reduce the cost of solar energy.  Giles Parkinson writes in The Climate Spectator that "significant new technology developments promise to take solar much closer to the cost of coal than anyone would have expected, even just a few years ago, and at a quicker rate."   At the Australian National University, Research Fellow Dr. Kylie Catchpole leads a team using nano-particles – devices so small that 50 of them could fit on the width of a human hair - to create a plasmonic light trap.  See a 2 1/2 minute video on her work.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced a $60 million investment over 3 years for applied scientific research to advance cutting-edge concentrating solar power (CSP) technologies. The goal of the research is to reduce the cost of solar energy 75 percent to make it cost-competitive with other forms of energy by the end of the decade.  At this point, CSP has not had a dramatic drop like that in the cost of solar photovoltaic panels, but a new version of CSP that combines concentrating solar power with photovoltaic cells looks like it's on the way to achieving that goal.

concentrating photo voltaic solar power plant

The Concentrated Photovoltaic (CPV) Solar Power Generator, developed by Amonix and the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory costs much less than concentrating solar power generators because it uses efficient small solar cells. It delivers more "energy per acre" than anything yet available in the solar energy world.

The public-private partnership won a 2010 R&D 100 award at the annual event honoring the greatest breakthroughs in technology, often called "The Oscars of Invention."  NREL's partnerships with industry, such as this one with Amonix, are key to reaching aggressive White House goals including lowering solar energy's installed cost to $1 a watt, which would make America a leader in renewable energy.

The Amonix Concentrated Photovoltaic (CPV) Solar Power Generator uses acrylic Fresnel lenses to concentrate sunlight up to 500 times its usual intensity and direct it onto 7,560 tiny, highly efficient  PV cells.  For more details on how the CPV Solar Power Generator works, see:  Super-Efficient Cells Key to Low-Cost Solar Power

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In June 2012, Think Again MN launched a history series that examines politics and policy-making in Minnesota during the last century from the immediate post World War II years up through the 1990s. That era witnessed fierce legislative battles at the State Capitol but it was also a time of shared values that cut across partisan lines. 

Read about it here

MN's Leading Election System

MN's Leading Election System

With Secretary of State Steve Simon


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Listen to Secretary of State Steve Simon's excellent presentation on MN's outstanding election system emulated by many other states at the Think Again Brooklyns forum January 19, 2016.  Secretary Simon includes ways in which it can be improved, and he explains why it is important to vote.  He concludes with a quote from a tee shirt:  "Failure to vote is not an act of rebellion.  It is an act of surrender."

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Oregon's Automatic Voter Registration

How Oregon Became the Easiest Place to Vote in the US

By Lornet Turnbull
YES! Magazine
October 8, 2016

In January, Oregon became the first state in the country to begin automatically registering eligible citizens to vote when they obtain or renew their driver's licenses or state IDs, completely shifting the burden of voter registration from the individual to the government. 

Read the Article

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