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Noah Smith

Needed: Better Batteries (Seriously)

Unless we develop better ways of storing power, renewable energy sources will always be of marginal use. 
And what happens when the sun isn't shining?
And what happens when the sun isn't shining?

One of the truisms of the 1970s was that solar power was a pipe dream. The price was too high -- not just a little too high, but absurdly high. When Ronald Reagan came into office and ripped out the solar panels that Jimmy Carter had put on the White House, conservatives saw it as a triumph of economic rationality over wooly-headed fantasies.

But like so many other things we learned in the '70s, this fact is rapidly becoming a non-fact. The cost of solar power has fallen off a cliff -- it is now less than 1 percent as expensive as it was in 1977. This "Moore's Law for solar" - echoing the amazing progress in computer processing power - is a human technological triumph for the ages. We're right at the point where solar starts to replace coal and gas in some markets.