What I have in mind is a plant that, when exposed to sunlight, produces an electric current. Organisms that can produce large amounts of electricity are not unheard of – electric eels can do as much. The advantage this would have is that these “solar cells” could self-replicate: you could make as many solar cells as you wanted by buying a single plant and just growing the rest.
Solar panels could decentralize electricity generation, but “solar plants” would decentralize the production of both electricity generation and of the solar panels themselves. I think in the future, scientists will be able to identify the gene(s) in electric eels, create an engineered copy, and in insert it into plants.
Electrical conduction pathways could be provided by a kind of nervous system engineered into the plant, and linking several hundred together might provide enough energy to power a residence. You would of course still have to water and fertilize the plants.
@ Ted K those are very similar to what I had in mind. It seems that biological research may lower the cost of solar cells and increase their efficiencies.
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