This is, basically, me trying to generalize "Why should I care for sheaves and schemes?" into a reasonable question. Whether successfully, time will tell, but let me hope that if not the question, then at least the answers might be of use not just for me.

To differentiate this from some questions already asked, let me clarify:

I am talking only about modern algebraic geometry, as in: everything that is better dealt with in terms of sheaves and schemes rather than varieties and curves. I know well enough that classical ("Italian") algebraic geometry has lots of applications; I am interested in knowing a reason to study (and a golden thread to follow in that) the kind of algebraic geometry that started with Serre, Leray, Grothendieck.

A "combinatorial/constructive algebraist" is a notion I cannot really formalize, but I mean an algebraist who is interested in actual computable things and their "fine structure" rather than topological abstracta and their "crude structure"; for example, actual polynomial identities rather than equality of zero-sets; actual isomorphisms instead of isomorphy; "for every point not on the zero-set of some particular ideal" rather than "for almost every point". The "combinatorial/constructive algebraist" (himself an abstraction) is fine with abstraction and formalism as long as he knows how to transform the abstract results into concrete equations and algorithms in case of need. He is not fine with nonconstructive existence results, although he is wary of declaring proofs unconstructive at first sight merely due to their formulation...

I believe I know of *one* example of this kind, a problem on matrix factorization solved using cohomology of sheaves somewhere on MathOverflow (any help with finding it is appreciated). There is also the interpretation of commutative Hopf algebras as coordinate Hopf algebras of affine schemes - but affine schemes are not really what I consider to be modern algebraic geometry; they correspond 1-to-1 to rings and are more frequently considered as functors than as locally ringed spaces in Hopf algebra theory. I would personally be more convinced by applications to invariant theory (viz., results from classical invariant theory proved with geometric methods) or the combinatorial kind of representation theory. I used to think that Swan's paper I linked in question 68071 is another application of scheme theory, but after understanding Seiler's proof it seems rather unnecessary to me.

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