Now frankly, if it were up to me, I’d push humans to design and build PV with a 200-year life span instead of 20. There are no moving parts: if there were a demand for it, you humans would quickly figure out how to do it. Yet the way you currently figure “net present value,” the extra 180 years of function would be considered of negligible worth to the market, so nobody would buy them, even if they were only 50% more expensive. I mention this just as a reminder how human bias suffuses all such decisions. Everyone expects things to get SO MUCH better, SO quickly, that the idea of making solar panels which your great-grandchildren could still get usable energy from is, well, alien. The notion of a 200-year investment would make no sense at all in your current culture. Be that as it may, I’d like to see you building out more PV, and I’ll introduce an alien concept that may still make sense to you: UREOW. In addition to being a word with humorous undertones in my language, in English it’s an acronym for “Utility Return on Energy Otherwise Wasted.” To wit: you’re currently burning fossil energy -carriers as fast as you can extract them; each new generation of humans burning as much as you previously burned in all human history. From the point of view of humans in the future (if you decide to leave some), pretty much ALL that energy now going into the generation of small quantities of dopamine and other brain- reward chemicals will have been wasted. Thus, anything “humane” you might choose to do for other humans who live farther downstream in time would be nice: trans-generational energy investment. Maybe in the human futur e, parents will “hand down” the family PV to future generations - as the magic device it is. PV can work without being a part of baseload. It changes sunlight to electricity in real time, and it can be used in real time, when the sun shines. That’s good e nough for the biosphere; maybe it could be good enough for humans. The Bottom Line: One way or another, the human future will be solar-powered. Solar-power devices are a great answer to many questions; just not necessarily the ones we’re asking.
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