Originally Posted by Helena
I asked my brother, who is one of NASA's few remaining Apollo era scientists, about space solar, and he said: " Initially developing space solar would be quite expensive, but the $$$ spent on the war in Iraq would be a start."
I agree with this assertion about the invention and commercialization of breakthrough technologies.
If you look at the history of microelectronics, integrated circuits were invented in the 1950s. Their initial applications were in military and space equipment and mainframe computers because these types of products needed the smaller size and less electrical energy consumption that integrated circuits provided. But integrated circuits were not cost effective against vacuum tubes in general-purpose industrial and consumer electronics.
That all changed in the early 1970s when integrated circuits became inexpensive enough to be used in consumer electronics. Digital watches and handheld electronic calculators were the products made possible by this cost-of-production breakthrough. Microelectronics then took on a commercial life of its own, attracting capital to fund startups and further breakthroughs and new product categories (e.g., the personal computer).
Once alternative energy technologies become inexpensive enough to manufacture without needing government subsidies to be competitive against oil, you will see alternative energy take off commercially and become pervasive throughout society. It's just a matter of time, with global peak oil driving up the price of oil-based products and R&D driving down the cost of alternative energy.