For the foreseeable future, however, solar is unlikely to be the sole or even primary source of power for most U.S. cities, according to Velosa. The obvious problem, he says, is storage -- energy generated during the day has to be stored at night, which is why it's important to watch the solar storage technology market, not just advances in solar generation. "Storage is critical for solar, since utilities are measured on consistent power," he says.
Still, Velosa is bullish on solar's future in the U.S. "Given the experience in Germany" -- a world leader in solar power generation -- "over the past decade, if the financials make sense, we can expect very high adoption rates for solar as prices continue to decrease," he says.
Into the future
In many ways, sustainable urban technology is in a state that's similar to where information technology found itself several decades ago: It's struggling to overcome a serious lack of standards, bureaucratic tangles that have arisen because technologists didn't understand what business units needed and vice versa, and staid attitudes among the powers that be, who assert that the technology in place works just fine for most of the population. But look at IT today: It's a problem-solver, a business-enabler and an innovation-driver in most companies.
Green IT can take a similar path in the United States, but real progress will happen only after we overcome a variety of challenges on issues ranging from funding to legislation and consumer acceptance. Masdar City shows that technologies like robotaxis, smart appliances and solar power are feasible on a citywide scale. Now cities in the U.S. need to take a long look at what it will take to replicate those successes here.
John Brandon is a former IT manager at a Fortune 100 company who now writes about technology. He has written more than 2,500 articles in the past 10 years. Follow his tweets at @jmbrandonbb.
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