Solar power is the wave (and particle) of the future.


hat light is both a particle and wave is cool, but what’s really cool is this new report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, a government program which studies renewable energies for use in the US.

This kind of solar power plant could be deployed in a rural area. Small heliostats reflect light to a tower in the middle, which uses concentrated sunlight to generate electricity

In the report, NREL stated that the US potential for solar power generation is almost 400,000 terawatt hours (page iv). And according to the 2010 EIA review of US energy consumption, America uses about 98 quadrillion BTUs of power per year (page 9), which is 28,723 terawatt hours. Maybe we’re doing our math wrong, but it sounds to us like the US could be totally powered by solar energy, assuming we set things up right.

(Really, though—check it yourself from these sources, because you should never just trust something on the internet.)

Read this article about the same NREL release, which has some cool videos of the different types of solar power mentioned in the report. And check out this article as well, which talks about which states are best-suited to adopt solar power.

Solar-powered trash compactors like this are just one way solar power can be utilized by creative engineers.

So what does this mean for you? Obviously, western Oregon can get pretty rainy, so solar power is (while still feasible) not as big a deal to people in the valley, and on the coast. But eastern Oregon is hot and sunny for much of the year, making it a great place to install solar power.

We encourage everyone, as individuals, to do what they can to buy or install solar panels on their homes, which at the very least can reduce your electricity bills.

But the reason we’re telling this to you is because we know you’re a future engineer. And we’ve talked about it before; solar power is a fast-growing field for engineers to work in, and will be a great place to find stable, solid work. Consider it next time you’re in science class, contemplating how you could use that knowledge in the real world.


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