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Context of '1931: Edison Advocates for Solar Energy over Fossil Fuels'

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1883: Inventor Describes Selenium Solar Cells

American inventor Charles Fritts describes the first solar cells made from selenium wafers. Fritts hopes that his cells might compete with the coal-fired power plants of Thomas Edison, but Fritts’s cells operate at less than one percent efficiency, far below the threshold for practical applicability. [US Department of Energy, 2002 pdf file; American Physical Society, 2013]

Entity Tags: Charles Fritts

Timeline Tags: US Solar Industry

In a conversation with fellow inventors and entrepreneurs Harvey Firestone and Henry Ford, Thomas Edison says of renewable energy sources: “We are like tenant farmers chopping down the fence around our house for fuel when we should be using nature’s inexhaustible sources of energy—sun, wind, and tide.… I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.” [US History, 2013; About Thomas Edison, 8/19/2013]

Entity Tags: Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone

Timeline Tags: US Solar Industry

Patrick Mazza, the research director for advocacy and research organization Climate Solutions, writes a guest column for the online environmental magazine Grist. Mazza says that the US needs to launch a huge, systematic push for clean energy in order to mitigate the effects of global warming. The clean energy industry, he writes, is at “the takeoff point,” with wind and solar the world’s fastest-growing energy sources, and clean energy costs “rapidly curving down toward competitiveness with fossil fuels.” Fuel cells that provide clean energy for buildings and new-generation electric and hybrid vehicles are ready to appear on the market. Shell Oil planners have predicted that renewable energy sources will be cost-competitive with fossil fuels by 2020, and will produce half the world’s energy by 2050, if public and private initiatives make this happen. President Clinton recently told an audience: “I believe there will be a complete revolution in energy technology, which will enable us to turn around global warming. I just hope it happens in time to avoid melting the polar ice cap, or some other disastrous thing.” As global temperatures continue to spike, time, Mazza writes, “is of the essence.” Clinton’s science adviser John Holdren says, “We are running out of time for a smooth transition to a sustainable energy future.” Global warming and the subsequent climate change are established scientific facts, Mazza writes, with the potential for catastrophic effects on the planet and on human civilization. Using renewable, clean energy sources can mitigate the impending catastrophe by reducing the amount of carbon dioxide trapped in the atmosphere. “Though the task is imposing, the clean energy revolution is coming along just in time, promising genuine climate solutions as well as phenomenal economic opportunities,” Mazza concludes. “Energy generated with clean sources such as sun, wind, and hydrogen at millions of points, all linked by information technology that manages both power production and consumption for peak efficiency—this is the picture of an emerging energy web that will parallel the Internet and in many ways be tied to it. It represents the most significant energy transformation since Edison set up the first power plant over a century ago. We are at the portal of the clean energy revolution. Whether it takes off fast enough to re-stabilize the climate is an issue of global urgency, with long-term, irreversible implications. Required are gutsy entrepreneurs, visionary business leaders, and public leadership, not only at the federal level, but also from enlightened states and cities moving to protect the planet and seize a significant economic opportunity at the same time.” [Grist Magazine, 3/23/2000]

Entity Tags: William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Patrick Mazza

Timeline Tags: US Solar Industry


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