So What Have I Been Up To?
I’m starting this issue a bit late because I just finished
pulling together my zine for FAPA. (the fantasy amateur press
association) I spaced out on the FAPA deadline until 3:30 in
morning on February 2nd. It was due in California on February
Putting together, printing and mailing a 20 page zine in my spare time
in about five days was exhausting, and I neglected a lot of things on
the ‘honey do’ list to get it done. Then
of course I had to go back
and make amends for that, which meant skipping Capricon, a local
science fiction convention.
Bottom line: I’m finally
down to do a POD on February 14. Getting a decent POD done
will be a
trick this time. With FAPA I can recycle some POD stuff and
Dale Speirs gets the stuff twice. With POD, you’ve
seen most of what
I’ve written. Of course I can recycle some of the
new stuff I wrote
for FAPA, with again only Dale Speirs getting it twice, so I guess it
sort of evens out.
So, on with the zine. First
I'll tie up a
few loose ends from the last two issues. I've gotten on a
kick lately as you can see here and here.
I’m almost done writing about solar cells for now, but I do
have a few
thoughts. Sharp, the world’s largest solar cell
from 300 megawatt to 700 megawatt annual capacity in a year and a half,
and that will be going up again this year. Other companies
huge amounts of capacity too. In the next three or four years
see an ironic situation: several multi-billion dollar solar cell
companies, but with a laughably small impact on our energy picture.
The unknowns pile up for solar cells
after 2010. The biggest wild
card is the DARPA project. Their goal was small scale production of 50%
efficient cells 50 months from the start of the program in late
2005/early 2006. That means 50% efficient cells by 2010. They
working with a company that already produces 36% efficient cells for
satellites, so 50% may be reachable.
The current record
efficiency in a lab is a little over 40%, so they
‘just’ have to add
another 10% of efficiency and reproduce that in a production
environment. Piece of cake, right?
Getting costs (literally) down to
earth may be even tougher than that. Of course
‘down to earth’ costs
depend on what part of the earth you are going to. The army
interested because soldiers use a lot of electronic gizmos and a few
solar panels and rechargeable batteries can replace a lot of
non-rechargeable batteries and a lot of diesel fuel for
That means fewer trucks on dangerous Iraqi roads. Special
could really use something like this too, with power-to-weight ratio
more important than cost.
China is another wild card in
solar cell industry. Chinese production capacity rose from 50
megawatts in 2005 to 1 gigawatt in 2007. The Chinese tend to
prices down in any industry they get into, though their costs of
production are now rising rapidly as wages rise in the industrialized
Cost is the crucial variable for solar
believe that I mentioned earlier that currently solar cells are around
five times too expensive to displace conventional sources of
electricity. Of course most other sources of electricity
produce a lot
of ‘externalities’—costs to society that
are not reflected in
electricity prices. The solar panels themselves account for
half of the cost of solar electricity, with most of the rest of the
cost coming from inverters to change direct current to alternate
current, and installation.
For this issue of FAPA I
ongoing column called Cocktail Party Science, where I share facts and
speculation that I think might be of interest to science fiction fans
and writers. You can check that out here and here. The cocktail party
science articles aren’t AH related, but you may find them
interesting I’ll also continue with my novel Bear
do some scenario seeds, and hopefully get a respectable amount of
commenting done. All of this in three days. Sounds
a tad ambitious.
We’ll see. In any case, enjoy the zine.
Note: I actually got quite a bit of writing done in
those three days. I did the usual crop of scenario seeds,got a
good start on an alternate history involving one of the least know 20th
century wars: The Rif War,
started a scenario where Spain joins the Axis in 1940, did a nice
little scenario where the US tries to defend Guam at the beginning of
World War II and one where the Poles develop a fast maneuverable
comparable to the Zero in the leadup to World War II.
No alternate history newsletter would be complete
without a little shameless self-promotion. My book on demand American
Indian Victories is still available on
Amazon.com. If you would like further infromation, go here. If
you go there, do come back and enjoy the newsletter. I do
like to sell books, but I also enjoy sharing my scenarios.