In a speech yesterday, 2007 Nobel Laureate and former Vice President Al Gore called for a national effort to convert our electricity production from oil-based sources to renewable sources like wind, solar, and biofuels.
"Today I challenge our nation to commit to producing 100 percent of our electricity from renewable energy and truly clean carbon-free sources within 10 years. This goal is achievable, affordable and transformative. It represents a challenge to all Americans – in every walk of life: to our political leaders, entrepreneurs, innovators, engineers, and to every citizen."
Can it be done? Monetarily, he claims that it will cost between $1.5 and $3 trillion - an amount that he says the United States will need to invest in new power plants anyway, just to meet the burgeoning demand for electricity. Scientifically, he points out that enough sunlight falls on the earth every hour which, if harnessed, could meet our energy needs for a year. The trick, of course, is harnessing the energy in an economically viable way.
A PDF transcript of his speech can be found here.
Developing new approaches for solar energy is a major focus of researchers at Northwestern and Argonne National Labs, through the ANSER project. Read a summary of the project.