Solar energy. Sunlight. Free deliveries every day. Free, that is, if you have the technology to use it. The technology is not free, of course, although the upfront investment costs for some solar energy technologies are less than for others.

When you hear or read the term “solar energy,” what technology comes first to your mind? Do you think of photovoltaics, the kinds of solar panels that convert sunlight into electricity? If you do think of photovoltaics, is your next thought something like, “I wonder when, if ever, solar electricity will be able to compete in the market without government support”? I think that depends, in part, on how long we continue to subsidize conventional electric power technologies while we fail to internalize their environmental costs. This article, though, is not about solar electricity.