Beyond sun roofs

Readers' Views No 263, October 2007
OECD Observer

Prof Vaclav Smil's lucid and measured thinking is correct in that we must be realistic about renewable energy's future (No 258/259, December 2006). But I wonder if he is not being too dismissive of solar energy.

Sure enough, the technology offers a lower energy intensity than fossil or nuclear energy sources, but Mr Smil admits that the power density of solar is 20 times that of biomass and twice as high as hydro or wind power. So, why not put more emphasis on solar?

For Mr Smil, the main drawback is in the area of land that would have to be covered in solar panels to meet our current energy needs. For instance, the area of panels needed to supply a supermarket would be 10 times the size of the roof area.

It is likely this fact that prompts R. Cleirigh's letter that renewable energy sources on a micro-scale to supply communities and villages is a solution (No 262, July 2007). But is the public aware that major solar power stations now on the horizon barely take up more space than conventional electricity stations?             

In fact, one coming onstream in 2008 near Grenada in Spain will be the world's largest, generating some 50 MW to supply electricity to some 45,000 homes. Soon after another even bigger 62 MW station will come onstream in Moura, Portugal.           

Beyond panels there are other sources of solar-generated power, such as thermodynamic steam turbines with a high energy intensity not far off that of coal or oil. A major project using this procedure is under way in Sanlùcar la Mayor, near Seville, with a target supply of over 150,000 households. There is also one based in Germany. Finally, might I add that NASA has been working on a project to put solar panels in space with a view to supplying millions of consumers on the ground. Space might not be a problem after all.         

Louis Dervier
Paris, France


Comments and letters may be edited for publishing. Send your letters to observer@oecd.org or post your comments at these portals: www.oecdobserver.orgwww.oecdinsights.org, or at the other OECD portals on this page. 

©OECD Observer No 263, October 2007




Economic data

GDP growth: +0.6% Q3 2017 year-on-year
Consumer price inflation: 2.3% Sept 2017 annual
Trade: +4.3% exp, +4.3% imp, Q3 2017
Unemployment: 5.7% Sept 2017
Last update: 14 Nov 2017

E-Newsletter

Stay up-to-date with the latest news from the OECD by signing up for our e-newsletter :

Twitter feed

Suscribe now

<b>Subscribe now!</b>

To receive your exclusive paper editions delivered to you directly


Online edition
Previous editions

Don't miss

  • Rousseau
  • Do you trust your government? The OECD’s How's life 2017 report finds that only 38% of people in OECD countries trust their government. How can we improve our old "Social contract?" Read more.
  • Papers show “past coming back to haunt us”: OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria tells Sky News that the so-called "Paradise Papers" show a past coming back to haunt us, but one which is now being dismantled. Please watch the video.
  • The annual OECD Eurasia Week takes place in Almaty, Kazakhstan 23-25 October. Writing in The Astana Times, OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría urges Eurasia countries to stay the course on openness and international integration, which has brought prosperity but also disillusionment, notably regarding inequality. The OECD is working with this key region, and Mr Gurría urges Eurasia to focus on human capital and innovation to enhance productivity and people’s well-being. Read more.
  • When someone asks me to describe an ideal girl, in my head, she is a person who is physically and mentally independent, brave to speak her mind, treated with respect just like she treats others, and inspiring to herself and others. But I know that the reality is still so much different. By Alda, 18, on International Day of the Girl. Read more.
  • Globalisation’s many benefits have been unequally shared, and public policy has struggled to keep up with a rapidly-shifting world. The OECD is working alongside governments and international organisations to help improve and harness the gains while tackling the root causes of inequality, and ensuring a level playing field globally. Please watch.
  • Read some of the insightful remarks made at OECD Forum 2017, held on 6-7 June. OECD Forum kick-started events with a focus on inclusive growth, digitalisation, and trust, under the overall theme of Bridging Divides.
  • Checking out the job situation with the OECD scoreboard of labour market performances: do you want to know how your country compares with neighbours and competitors on income levels or employment?
  • Trade is an important point of focus in today’s international economy. This video presents facts and statistics from OECD’s most recent publications on this topic.
  • How do the largest community of British expats living in Spain feel about Brexit? Britons living in Orihuela Costa, Alicante give their views.
  • Brexit is taking up Europe's energy and focus, according to OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. Watch video.
  • OECD Chief Economist Catherine Mann and former Bank of England Governor Mervyn King discuss the economic merits of a US border adjustment tax and the outlook for US economic growth.
  • The OECD Gender Initiative examines existing barriers to gender equality in education, employment, and entrepreneurship. The gender portal monitors the progress made by governments to promote gender equality in both OECD and non-OECD countries and provides good practices based on analytical tools and reliable data.
  • Interested in a career in Paris at the OECD? The OECD is a major international organisation, with a mission to build better policies for better lives. With our hub based in one of the world's global cities and offices across continents, find out more at www.oecd.org/careers .

Most Popular Articles

OECD Insights Blog

NOTE: All signed articles in the OECD Observer express the opinions of the authors
and do not necessarily represent the official views of OECD member countries.

All rights reserved. OECD 2017