1 Solar Power Soars. Tapping energy directly from the sun and converting it into electricity has long been a dream of ecovisionaries. Falling costs for equipment and steadily rising efficiency have finally brought solar power into the realm of the practical. The most solid indication that the technology is here to stay: 68 utilities, serving 40% of the nation's electricity consumers, formed a consortium to buy $500 million worth of solar-energy panels during the next six years. That promises to be just the jump-start solar manufacturers need to hold their own with the big boys in the oil and gas industries.


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