We travel to Arizona to see how alternative energy, solar power investment, and utilities are taking what was on the fringes of science 30 years ago and turning it into the norm.
On this edition of the Morgan Stanley Ideas Podcast, we explore the question: Is alternative energy even alternative anymore? Our producer visits Biosphere 2, the site of some controversial space exploration experiments in the Arizona desert. Later, she finds herself listening to a field of solar panels, as our host, Ashley Milne-Tyte, probes the future of energy with Morgan Stanley Research analyst Stephen Byrd.
As recently as 30 years ago, renewable energy still seemed like an idea fit for a sci-fi novel, not a practical way to power our cities. In this episode, we explore renewable energy’s past and how it could impact the industry’s future—whether that means solar power investment, alternative energy research, grid energy storage, or through renewable energy investments. Biosphere 2, a massive science facility tucked away in the desert foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains, was built originally for controversial space exploration experiments (such as whether astronauts could survive in a closed environment for two years). But now, Biosphere 2 functions as a reputable research facility run by the University of Arizona. Its researchers are studying the potential for farming beneath solar panels—a process known as agrovoltaics. Agrovoltaic technology and solar farming isn’t a dream for future colonies on Mars; rather, it’s a technique that’s already applicable.
Ashley then zooms out from Biosphere 2 and looks at the broad alternative-energy market with Stephen Byrd, a Morgan Stanley Research analyst who has been covering the energy sector and its transformations for the past couple of decades. Stephen and Ashley discuss the economics driving the renewable energy industry, the obstacles that solar power investment faces, and what it all means for investors in renewable energy technology, as well as everyday consumers. Plus, our producer visits an industrial scale solar power plant near Tucson where we can actually hear how renewable energy works...
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