Are photovoltaics a power supplement, full replacement or neither?

Are photovoltaics a power supplement, full replacement or neither?

The global demand for all kinds of energy is growing. That is a statement you hear within many business reports and some people are taking a proactive approach in rearranging their power sources. This is from Energy Photovoltaics, Inc.:

The $3.5 billion photovoltaic module market is projected to grow to a $27 billion to $30 billion business by 2020. Concerns about increasing world energy consumption, adverse environmental impact and global warming are creating an unprecedented demand for reliable renewable energy sources. Amorphous silicon offers the best approach currently known to meet the growing demand for clean, renewable and affordable energy on a global basis.

What is Photovoltaic (PV) Technology?
While PV technology has been around for years, it has been refined only over the last decade or so. There has been some application of this technology, but for many reasons, there has not been an overall embracing of it in the U.S.
Solar panels or PV technologies, which use semiconductor technology to convert sunlight directly into electricity, originated in the space program years ago as a way to power satellites, other vehicles and equipment used in space exploration.
To learn about the basics, there is a great government Web site here. Here is a one-minute video (warning: 15 MB) that can get you up to speed on the concept and its applications. This is a commercial site that is an independent global solar energy marketplace for PV trade and information.
Electric utilities are looking at a deregulation that will definitely impact the average consumer and some of the alternative energy sources are not being utilized enough. Alternative power sources are now being seriously considered not only for telecom facilities but also for everyday uses as well. Should your company be considering this type of backup on any of your IT systems?
Having a solar source of energy could really change the dynamics of business continuity in any organization (especially those susceptible to natural disasters or frequent power outages). Here are some pictures from Sandia National Lab:

In this microwave system, a propane generator backup
provides radio and telecom to remote districts.

This array and backup propane generator supplies power
for a fueling station, two barracks, an office and a residence.

Simple outdoor light.

A substantial power source for a building complex.

As the first picture demonstrates, photoelectric cells can augment power sources for telecom equipment and can make them more resistant to power outages that were prevalent in recent disasters (including Katrina). This is from the NREL Web site:

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is working with Sprint Nextel Corp. to investigate the use of PV to increase the reliability of telecom sites during brownouts and disasters.
The reliability of utility-charged battery systems after two hours and diesel generators after eight hours in supporting the nation’s telecom infrastructure drops to unacceptable levels of 71 percent and 85 percent (respectively). Sprint and other telecom companies require at least 72 hours of backup to protect telecom infrastructure from serious disruptions due to weather and grid disturbances.
For example, 31 percent of wireless telecom in the region went down during the northeast blackout of 2003. This resulted in significant business losses and greatly complicating restoration efforts. Overall, a domestic need exists for more than 2.6 GW of reliable, long-term backup capacity in the industry.

Watch Your Illinois Electric Bill
Even though Illinois has some incentives for using photovoltaics, this type of technology is not being used enough. With deregulation around the corner, the new pricing scheme for electricity may warrant the review of initiating the use alternative photovoltaic systems to replace or at least supplement the conventional power source (see the second picture above).
The photovoltaics available have their use and are good for providing people with a myriad of applications from simple power sources (see the third picture above) to complex primary systems (see the fourth picture above). Thinking out of the box in this area may prove to be very beneficial in the long run. Staying within the status quo will not.
Carlinism: It is time to look at photovoltaics as a supplement if not a full replacement for power needs.