This paper outlines a computational procedure for comparing the merits of alternative processes to convert solar radiation to heat, electrical power, or chemical energy. The procedure uses the ratio of equipment investment to useful work as an index. Comparisons with conversion counterparts based on conventional fuels are also facilitated by examining this index. The procedure is illustrated by comparisons of (1) photovoltaic converters of differing efficiencies; (2) photovoltaic converters with and without focusing concentrators; (3) photovoltaic conversion plus electrolysis vs photocatalysis for the production of hydrogen; (4) photovoltaic conversion plus plasma arcs vs photocatalysis for nitrogen fixation. Estimates for conventionally-fuelled processes are included for comparison. The reasons why solar-based concepts fare poorly in such comparisons are traced to the low energy density of solar radiation and its low stream time factor resulting from the limited number of daylight hours available and clouds obscuring the sun. 11 references.