This idea was so out there that I thought it appropriate to pass it along. Instead of a solar panel you have a panel which holds engineered, photosynthetic organisms in a non-freshwater solution. These organisms directly make checmicals and biodiesel from the sunlight and carbon dioxide. The system is expected to go online by 2011 and bring biodiesel fuel at the cost of around $50 per barrel.
"Through advanced genome engineering, we have developed proprietary, product-specific organisms that catalyze the direct conversion of sunlight and CO2 to useful fuels and chemicals".
The technique has been proven using algae, meaning this process is not too unreasonable to think to be true. The real questions is, will the fuel be cheap enough and can it produce enough. We would need tremendous land or available space to produce the fueld. One acre of land covered by these plates can produce 20,000 gallons of Joule ethanol or 13,000 gallons of Joule biodiesel per year.
This amount of fuel being generated makes this a small dent to our fuel crisis, but I would take some nearby to produce enough fuel for the city I live in. Who knows what the future hold, but it’s great to see this sort of technology making progress.