The 17th century English philosopher, Francis Bacon, once observed that, "knowledge is power." So, here’s some power knowledge that the West has overlooked, but may well contain critical information for jumpstarting Western interest in solar power.
It’s based upon more than five decade’s worth of solar research by the sole 20th century competitor to the U.S. for global influence, the USSR.
In 1965 the Uzbek Academy of Sciences began publishing the “Geliotekhnika” ("Applied Solar Energy") quarterly journal the former Soviet Union's sole scientific publication devoted to solar power. Topics covered ranged from solar radiation, photovoltaics and solar materials to direct conversion of solar energy into electrical power.
Accordingly, 46 years of a highly advanced nation’s research on solar energy is available to some company smart enough to cut a deal with Tashkent.
A few caveats here, as well as dreary history.
The USSR in pursuing its intended goal of progressing from a socialist state to a period of developed “Communion” placed a high emphasis on scientific education and research.
Scientific progress would prove the superiority of the socialist system in the ongoing struggle with Western capitalism for “Third World” hearts and minds. Secondly, advances in science progress would advance the development of the socialist state itself, which, when reaching a level of superiority over the capitalist system, would not only better the lives of its citizens but win that old “’hearts and minds” struggle with the West.
While it may seem quaint now to refer to the Soviet Union’s focus on science, in the week that America is preparing to cheer the return of the space shuttle “Atlantis” crew, one might recall that the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin, was a Soviet citizen and that, for the immediate future, any Americans dispatched to the international Space station will do so aboard a Russian rocket.
But I digress.
The Soviet Union’s fund of scientific research was second only to, and in some cases superior, to that of its dreaded enemy, the U.S.
Given the priorities of the Soviet economy versus the “free market” principles of the West, scientific discoveries were directed to benefit the state, without commercial pressures. Given that the USSR was awash in cheap Siberian oil from the early 1970s, solar energy was not even an also ran.
Which is not now.
Anyone willing to deal with the Uzbek government for untrammeled access to 46 years of “Geliotekhnika” will acquire access the former Soviet Union's top research on solar energy.
Who know what those materials contain? What is certain is that the world’s second-best (and I use the term advisedly) best scientific establishment spent decades researching solar issues and contained a research establishment that on occasion bested the best of the West. Given the peculiarities of the Soviet system, only research that was quickly applicable and advanced the socialist cause was developed.
Which, with cheap Siberian oil, left out solar.
The journals are certainly worth more than a passing glance, and someone with a modestly open checkbook towards Tashkent, as opposed to the costs of replicating the research, could acquire bargain basement unique insights into nearly fifty years of solar energy research from the first nation to launch a man into space. After all, how do you put a price on five decades of research by some of the world’s most brilliant scientists?
Just remember, you read it here first.
By. John C.K. Daly of OilPrice.com