U.S. Military to Insure success of Solar

The military getting behind Solar is actually a huge deal. The military was the major early funding source for computers, the internet, and the interstate highway system. The reason Silicon Valley exists was the U.S. military wasted a few trillion on computers over the course of several decades.

“The complex histories of computer science and computer engineering were shaped, in the first decades of digital computing, almost entirely by military funding. Most of the basic component technologies for digital computing were developed through the course of the long-running WhirlwindSAGE program to develop an automated radar shield. Virtually unlimited funds enabled two decades of research that only began producing useful technologies by the end of the 50s; even the final version of the SAGE command and control system had only marginal military utility. More so than with previously-established disciplines receiving military funding, the culture of computer science was permeated with a Cold War military perspective. “

Wasting money on good ideas can sometimes end up with remarkable and world changing consequences. Hats off to the government waste of the 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s, which allowed the computer and internet revolutions to happen.

From the article: 

“The US Defence Department is racing ahead. This could be like the semiconductor industry in 1980s where the military changed the game,” said Jeremy Leggett, chairman of Solarcentury.

Nor is the Pentagon alone. Grant lists from the “SunShot Initiative” of the US Energy Department show that America’s top research institutes are grappling with each of the key issues that have bedevilled solar energy for so long.

Los Alamos – home of the Manhattan Project – is working on smart grids and better ways to capture excess electricity produced in peak sunlight hours. The Argonne labs are working on thermal energy storage to overcome “intermittency”, the curse of solar and wind.

One thing 99.9% of people do not understand about Solar is that it does not need to be the cheapest form of energy to be widely adopted. It just needs to be cheaper than the most expensive forms of energy.

The military says it can cost up to $400 per gallon for gasoline in a forward deployment. $400 per gallon! That’s 112 times more expensive than getting at the corner gas station. Solar can easily compete with $400 per gallon gasoline.




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14 Comments on "U.S. Military to Insure success of Solar"

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4 years 2 days ago

Military Keynesianism shows its bright side. 🙂

Virtually all the big innovation recently comes through government either directly or funding in that business is unwilling or unable to take on the risk.

Probably several reasons that government will spearhead alternative energy in the US. First, the military has identified global warming as the chief threat to national security at present. Secondly, other governments, notably China, are heavily subsidizing solar and other alternative energy projects, and actually have plans in place for switching off carbon.

4 years 2 days ago

“This article made me think of a way to potentially get a meaningful increase in govt R&D spending. Get a non-Tea Party GOP president who will authorize a big increase in R&D spending under the guise that “it’s for the military”.”

Of course, when President Eisenhower wanted to boost spending on higher education and infrastructure, he signed into law bills that sounded vaguely warmongerish (the National Defense Education Act and the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act, respectively).

Someone (sorry I can’t remember the writer offhand) had the bright idea of expanding DARPA so it could fund govt R&D in areas outside of defense sector, basically as an agent for every other cabinet department. It was surely a mistake for Obama to put ARPA-E in the Dept of Energy and the “Education Research Initiative” in the Dept of Education. Congress has no problem cutting funds to civilian departments like Energy and Education just for kicks, but only a maniac tries to cut defense spending.

Erik V
4 years 2 days ago

This article made me think of a way to potentially get a meaningful increase in govt R&D spending. Get a non-Tea Party GOP president who will authorize a big increase in R&D spending under the guise that “it’s for the military”. That way you could pull one over on the nuttier elements of the GOP while it still being something enough Dems would support to get it passed.

Philip Diehl
4 years 2 days ago

Good point. Solar could compete today if the massive subsidies coal, oil and nuclear receive from the Feds were eliminated or were matched with subsidies to solar of a similar magnitude.