Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Social Skills Require Practice

EnergyVanguard's post about Nerd Verses Geek verses Dweeb got me thinking.

There is the stereotype of the brainiac with appalling social skills, often who suffers in lonely sadness because he just can't get the girls.

The sad truth is that for someone with poor social skills, it's not just lack of potential mates one has to worry about, it may also be lack of meaningful friendships and community, the absence of which can be very damaging to self-esteem. If only very or mundanely brainy but not MIT brilliant, in reality poor social skills often translates to a lack of meaningful job opportunities as well, because despite all our claims at being meritocracy, if you can't get yourself liked and noticed by the people who recognize merit, well, your merit probably won't get recognized.

Comments on US Solar Company Collapses

The bankruptcy of not one but several U.S. companies producing solar electric modules has generated speculation about whether the entire solar industry itself is on the brink of collapse.

Some details, then, are in order:

1. Both Solyndra, that company that went bankrupt despite all of that stimulus funding, and Evergreen Solar, our most recent bankruptcy addition, have a product that, depending on your point of view, could be seen as "highly innovative" or as "unproven technology."  The workhorse of the solar industry is monocrystaline silicon cells, arranged into rectangular panels. The process uses the highest quality silicon, and the efficiency of these panels can't be beat by anthing currently in large-scale production.  Both companies were producing something off of this beaten track.

Solar Panel Prices

This article echoes my own experience recently with photovoltaic cell prices:
In April 2010, a PV system cost $8 a watt.
Now for 2011: the latest prices we've been getting for PV are $4,500 per kW before tax credits. It's dropped 45% since last year.
I had an eerily similar experience. I made a preliminary budget for our zero energy home solar array and assumed $7 a watt. But then I spoke to a local solar contractor we work with about this pie-in-the-sky pet project of mine and he had to laugh when I told him how much I'd estimated. He explained to me that huge increases in production capacity solely in the last few months have dropped the price dramatically, down to $4.50 a watt.

If it stays this way, the implications of this are fairly important. The link author says it better than I could:

It means we're not far off from PV being the cheapest source of electricity you can buy everywhere in the whole country, even in the parts of the country with access to cheap and toxic coal electricity. Is that time five years away? Ten years away? It doesn't really matter; either one is a very short length of time, and we should get ready for that and pay attention.