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Pursue alternatives

September 22, 2007

Re "Power couple," editorial, Sept. 17

The editorial states, "Solar panels are usually made out of silicon, and the world is running out of it." Silicon is the second-most abundant element in the Earth's crust; the world is not about to run out of it. What has in fact recently occurred in the solar photovoltaic power industry is a temporary shortage of the solar-grade polysilicon feedstock that is used to make silicon wafer-based solar cells. The industry is addressing this shortage by bringing additional polysilicon feedstock production capacity on line in the next year or two, whereupon silicon prices can be expected to drop.

Although there are compelling reasons to explore alternatives to silicon-based cells for solar energy, a fundamental shortage of silicon is not one of them.

Harry Atwater

South Pasadena

The writer is a professor of applied physics and materials science at Caltech.

The Times mischaracterizes the conclusion of the National Academy of Sciences' report on wind energy. It explains the lack of evidence of bird mortality on inadequate information from wind-farm sites, not on exaggerated risks by "narrow interest groups." The Audubon Society and other environmental organizations joined wind-farm developers in a yearlong process to create guidelines on siting and monitoring of projects to minimize the effect on birds and bats because there is a problem. These guidelines are due to be adopted Sept. 26 in Sacramento by the California Energy and Fish and Game commissions.

Your call to "streamline the approval process" and protect wildlife at the same time is for county planners, permitting agencies and wind developers to consult and follow these guidelines, which are voluntary. Let's see if they take that step.

Garry George

Executive director

L.A. Audubon Society

West Hollywood

California's growing population and our state's efforts to be a global leader in greenhouse-gas reductions require a robust wind and solar energy industry. Increasing the generation of these technologies will be wasted if California's governmental agencies stand in the way of new transmission lines that will bring the electricity to the growing population. For example, the California Public Utilities Commission recently delayed by nearly half a year the approval process for the Sunrise Powerlink, a project that would bring 1,000 megawatts of renewable energy from the Imperial Valley to the state's power grid, helping meet state mandates to use more renewable energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

California's government needs to be a partner -- not an adversary -- in the construction of new transmission lines.

Allan Zaremberg

Co-chair

Californians for Clean

and Reliable Energy

Sacramento

The writer is also president of the California Chamber of Commerce.

In this editorial, I was disappointed to read the assertion, "Neither coal nor nuclear power is a practical solution to global warming." Nuclear plants do not produce any greenhouse gases. There is no silver bullet to solving climate change. However, nuclear power already produces more than 70% of the nation's carbon-free electricity -- more electricity than solar, wind, geothermal and hydropower combined.

California and the nation should take full advantage of energy efficiency and conservation, and develop renewable energy.

But renewables cannot yet produce the abundant baseload power an advanced economy needs to survive and thrive.

Seventeen companies are preparing federal license applications for advanced reactor designs, in part because of nuclear energy's clean air benefits.

Scott Peterson

Vice president

Nuclear Energy Institute

Washington

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