July 07, 2014 5:44 PM
After decades as an expensive and sometimes impractical source of energy, experts say solar power is finally coming into its own. Not only has the technology improved the efficiency and cost of solar panels, in some states, rising prices for conventional electricity make solar panels an economical alternative. But can solar power actually compete with conventional electric utilities?
過去的十幾年來，太陽能一直被視為昂貴、不切實際(impractical)的能源。但專家預測，太陽能即將開始嶄露頭角(come into its own)。科技改善了太陽能板(solar panel)的效能，也降低了成本。傳統用電在美國的一些州持續漲價(rising price)，太陽能板會是省錢的(economical)替代方案。但問題是，太陽能真的可以與傳統電力公司(electric utility)競爭嗎？
John Desmarteau waited 10 years before switching to solar, but the retired Washington physician is glad he did.
He says he's cut his reliance on the electric company by 85 percent, and saved the equivalent of more than 200 trees.
“In fact, for the last two months, which would be April and May 2014, we’ve used from our electric utility, no electricity," said Desmarteau.
The 39 photo-voltaic panels installed on Desmarteau's roof generate three times more than he consumes even with the air conditioning at full blast.
一位退休的醫師等了十年才轉用太陽能，他對於結果很滿意。根據他的說法，他減少對電力公司的依賴達85% (cut reliance on . . . by . . . )，等同於(the equivalent of . . .) 救了200棵樹。
他屋頂上安裝了39片的光電能板(photo-voltaic panel)，能製造出即使在空調全力運轉 (at full blast)的狀況下，三倍以上他平常所消耗(consume)的電量。
It's not just a greener alternative - for some it can mean real savings. The industry is still evolving but AstrumSolar's Mark Manthy says companies like his are making it easier for consumers to switch.
"In most markets right now, especially up and down the East Coast and the West Coast - you could put solar panels on your house for no money down. Somebody else owns them, you pay them a monthly payment that is cheaper than you would pay your utility," said Manthy.
In many states, brown energy - electricity generated from polluting, non-renewable resources like coal - is still cheaper than solar. But green advocacy groups such as the Rocky Mountain Institute say that's changing.
一位太陽能業界人士表示，「現在大多的市場，尤其像是美國的東岸與西岸，你可以不用先付費(for no money down)就在家裡裝上太陽能板。這些太陽能板是別人的，你每個月付給他們費用，但比付給電力公司少。」
在美國很多州，焦色能(brown energy)還是比太陽能便宜，其發電過程使用像煤炭這種具汙染性且無法再生的(non-renewable)能源。但綠能擁護團體(advocacy group)則認為，這樣的現象在改變中。(編按：brown energy是要跟green energy (綠能) 作對比而鑄的詞。棕色容易跟煤或是燒煤所產生的汙染作聯想，中文似乎還沒有特別固定的譯法，此先暫譯為「焦色能」。)
“In our most optimistic case that we analyzed, all customers in the Southwest, in the states of California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah would see favorable economics within 10 years and 90 percent of the customers in the Mid-Atlantic," said RMI's Jon Creyts.
Some will not wait that long. American University in Washington just signed a 20-year deal with solar pioneer Duke Energy. AU’s Chief Financial Officer Doug Kudravetz says the long-term savings are substantial.
“We’ve done quite a bit of financial modeling and if brown power goes up five percent a year, we’ll save about million, present value," he said.
Barclays Bank believes solar is a big enough threat to the status quo that it downgraded bond ratings for electric utilities. The group's trade association, Edison Electric Institute, declined to comment. But energy blogger Andrew Ricci believes the threat is overblown.
"Again, I think that the industry sees it as a drop in the bucket in terms of our overall power needs," he said. And, he says he only sees that changing a long time down the road.
While solar power makes up just a fraction of the world's total energy production, some believe the adoption rate will grow exponentially as climate change concerns drive the technology and consumers towards non-polluting and renewable resources like the sun.
巴克萊銀行(Barclays Bank)視太陽能為產業現狀(the status quo)的重大威脅，已降低(downgrade)電力公司的債券評等(bond rating)。電力公司類產業協會(trade association)的愛迪生電力協會(Edison Electric Institute)對此拒絕評論。但一位能源觀察的部落客卻認為，太陽能的產業威脅是被誇大了(overblown)：「以我們現在整體對電力的需求來看，太陽能在產業裡還只是杯水車薪(a drop in the bucket)。」他認為真正的改變還要一段很長的時間。
雖然太陽能現只佔世界上全部能源生產的一小部分(fraction)，但對於氣候變遷的關切會驅使科技與消費者轉向(drive. . .towards. . .)像是太陽這種無汙染、可再生的能源，因此許多人認為太陽能採用率(adoption rate)將會有次方性地(exponentially)成長。
impractical (a) 不切實際的；無用的 xxxxxcome into one’s own (v phr) 非常成功；嶄露頭角
economical (a) 節約的；省能源、省電的X economic是「經濟的」、「商業的」，兩者用法跟語意不同，但economically卻又同時是兩者的副詞，因此可表示「節省地、合乎經濟效益地」與「經濟上地」兩種意思
utility (n) 公用事業XXXXX指提供大眾天然氣、水、電等資源的公司，如新聞中用法。但utility一字本身就能指水電瓦斯等現代生活仰賴的資源，常見詞條「utility bill」就是指水電瓦斯的帳單，又如例句：Does the rent include utilities? (房租有包水電嗎？)
equivalent (n) 相等物；等同物XXXXXxxxx本字的形容詞與名詞同型，當形容詞時，後可接to，當名詞時，可接to或of
at full blast (prep phr) (音量、速度、功率等)以最大量進行
down (adv) 買賣時支付XXXXX down在本用法時，前面常會加一個錢的「金額」，表示買賣時當場先結清的金額，例：I gave him 1000 dollars down and paid the rest in instalments. (我先付給他一千元，剩下的用分期支付。) 另一個down跟錢有關的常見詞條是down payment，當名詞片語用，指買賣時第一筆支付的錢，常譯作「頭期款」。
substantial (a) 大量的；豐盛的xxxxxxxxx status quo (n) 現況
downgrade (v) 降低對…的評價；降級XXX除了金融跟商業上用的這個字表示「降低評等」的意思之外，這個字也可以用人當受詞，表示「降職」或「貶低」之意 xxxxx
overblown (a) 誇大的；過分渲染的
a drop in the bucket (n phr) 滄海一粟，杯水車薪；這個片語還有另一個說法：a drop in the ocean
exponentially (adv) 幾次方地XXXXX通常用來指增加的速度極快地
Check your vocabulary!
Fill in the blanks with a word or phrase from the list above. Make necessary changes. After you finish, select the text below to reveal the hidden answers.
1. He had drunk the equivalent of 15 whiskies.
2. A small car is more economical to run
3. Hurricane Bob has been downgraded to a tropical storm.
4. Certain people always want to maintain the status quo.
5. The first draft of his novel needed a substantial amount of rewriting.
6. Opportunities for women in athletics have increased exponentially.