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solar power

joe246

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to me solar power is the best technology for energy production. its clean, all you buy is the panel, and you dont have to pay for the energy itself. some critics complain it doesnt make enough energy but im sure our scientist can fix that
 

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I was just exploring an idea I had for a perpetual-power supply - solar was on my mind, too.

I think the best idea, I think, is to combine all 3 means in an efficient way: hydro, solar, wind. By utilizing all these methods in one unit you could easily barr out down-time and reduce arguments against the individual components. (Hydro is supposedly ineffective because you're limited to use water only where water is - river/stream. Solar is supposedly ineffective because it takes up a lot of room to produce efficient levels - and cloudiness is supposedly an interference. Wind is ineffective on a windless day)

But if one was to craft a system in which these 3 components offset for each other's weaknesses - in an enclosed system which relied on only these renewable sources then that nullifies are arguments against it.
 

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Solar is great if you live in an area with adequate continuous sunlight, which isn't really that common. It requires a relatively large system to supply power for normal housing needs, and the up front cost is pretty astronimical for most of us. I wouldn't mind using it as a supplement, but I couldn't afford enough to power my house, and I live in a small house.
 

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where you live is significant, but before you even go there, you need to look at housing design. that alone can massively reduce your energy bill, and of course, the latitude you live at can influence how you design the building to get maximum benefit from the sun.

if designers can come up with something that is so energy efficient it has zero energy status in Finland - there's not going to be too many places where solar can't make a significant contribution to energy savings.

Finland Unveils Ultra-Efficient Energy Positive Solar Decathlon House | Inhabitat - Green Design Will Save the World
 

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Solar power will never (as it stands now) replace other electrical power generation methods, simply because half the day it is dark. However that does not mean we should not use the sun's energy as much as possible where it is a good idea. Places like Arizona, Texas, Spain, North Africa, and so on and so on.. places with 250+ sun days a year. It would not only cut our reliance on other energy sources but it would also cut our CO2 output considerably. Sure it aint cheap but considering the sun will always be there then the energy made is pretty much free after the initial installs have been made (minus maintenance of course).
 

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its obviously about using a combination of energy sources ..... but you seem to be under the impression that it is only viable in areas with a lot of sunlight - yet solar is used in Finland (as the article I linked showed).

Finland has been looking seriously at solar for years: http://www.kolumbus.fi/solpros/reports/solar_roadmap_ENG.pdf

why would they do that if it was only of value in the sorts of places you mention?

Germany also has a considerable amount of investment in solar.
 

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its obviously about using a combination of energy sources ..... but you seem to be under the impression that it is only viable in areas with a lot of sunlight - yet solar is used in Finland (as the article I linked showed).

Finland has been looking seriously at solar for years: http://www.kolumbus.fi/solpros/reports/solar_roadmap_ENG.pdf

why would they do that if it was only of value in the sorts of places you mention?

Germany also has a considerable amount of investment in solar.
Really depends on what we are talking about.

If we are talking about massive power plants then it is only logical to put them where there is a lot of sun light.. 300+ days a year. This is power generation on a massive scale, that Germany, Spain and other countries have put in place. It does not replace other forms of power generation, because of clouds and of course the dark. But it does drive electricity prices down over time since the sun power replaces over time alternative limited sources of power that are expensive... but only up to a point. For example, if we could generate most of our power from sun light (or alternative renewable) during the day and power our production, then the more traditional power sources could be used at night when the demand is not as large. The idea for Spain and Germany is to use any and all means of alternative energy to save on the more traditional forms since their price will only go up and up, where as Solar and renewable will not. So when the day comes and the world really starts to run short on carbon based fuels, countries that invested in renewable will be sitting pretty nice in it, where as places like the US will hurt like hell (based on present investment and attitude to alternative energy).

Now if we talking about solar power/heating for housing, then we are in a whole other ball park, but have the same problems as above. Personally if I was in say the UK I would not invest in solar power/heating since the amount of sun days is too few and would make the payback time too long. However in places like Spain or California I would. Solar power for the home is sadly still to expensive, but solar water heating is not. It is in-fact quite cheap here and is mandatory for all new housing to have. All public buildings have power generation solar power on their roofs, and that not only meets their power needs often, but during the weekends and days off, the power is resold into the grid for profit. So if we talking about a 10+ time period then investing in such things is a good idea, but in short term not so much unless you have money to burn.
 

Goshin

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You have to buy more than panels. You'll need a battery bank, charge controller, and one or more inverters, for any but the tiniest setup.

Cost for an all-solar house setup will be over $25,000 if you energy needs are kept modest by use of high-efficiency appliances, and you'll probably have to use gas or something for cooking and fueloil or wood for heating. Startup costs are high.

There are advanced solar panels in R&D as we speak. Some of them show great promise, like the "solar film" panels you just stick on your roof or use in place of shingles. Some may bring the startup costs down.

Cloudy days cut your power production somewhat, but not as much as you might think.

Just so you know, I have a bud who runs his house on solar, and I have a small solar backup system.

It has great promise, but the tech is not fully mature yet.
 

Hoplite

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Solar is great if you live in an area with adequate continuous sunlight, which isn't really that common. It requires a relatively large system to supply power for normal housing needs, and the up front cost is pretty astronimical for most of us. I wouldn't mind using it as a supplement, but I couldn't afford enough to power my house, and I live in a small house.
A large solar array situated in several of the US' rather expansive desert regions would provide substantial amounts of electricity
 

Goshin

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A large solar array situated in several of the US' rather expansive desert regions would provide substantial amounts of electricity
Let's calculate that out...

Well, a 100 watt panel is about 1 square yard and costs around $600 last time I checked. Over the course of a year you will average about 10 hours of good sunlight per day in the "sun belt" states...that comes to 1 KW-hour per panel per day.

You can't jam them in edge-to-edge. They need to be angled, (or preferably on a sun-tracking pivot but that costs extra) and you need enough seperation that they don't shadow each other most of the day. Let's say 20 sq feet per panel for the sake of argument.

A square mile of these... 5280^2 = 27878400 sq feet, /20 sq' = 1,393,920 panels, producing 139.4 megawatts of power during daylight hours, or on average 1,394 Megawatt-hours of power per day. Sounds like a lot, don't it?

1,393,920 panels would cost 836.35 million dollars.

Now... unless you only want this to produce power during daylight hours, you'll need a battery bank. In my experience a battery bank is going to cost not less than $100 per 10 KW/hrs even if you go with the big batt's. (There are some out-of-the-box alternatives to batteries, but a buddy of mine might be patenting some of those ideas so I will refrain...) Let's say you need to store half the day's power generation in the battery bank... that's 1,394 MW/hrs, divided by 2 is 697 MW/h, which is also expressed as 697,000 KW/h. At a cost of $100 per 10 KW/h, your battery bank will cost about 7 million dollars.

Another thing you have to have is inverters to turn the DC power that solar panels produce to AC power. A good-quality 1000 watt inverter runs about $500.... let's say you get a "bulk discount" and hope that you can get sufficient inverter capacity for only $200 per KW.

139.4 MW continuous, equals 139,400 in KWs. At $200 per KW, your inverter capacity is going to cost almost 28 million dollars.

Now we're up to about 871 million dollars, for 1,394 MW/h output per day. That comes to a startup cost of $0.62 per watt-hour of daily production.

The good news is that maintenance should be relatively low, my best educated guess is probably about 5-10% of startup annually. That's around 43-86 million a year, not taking payroll cost into account at all.

Compared to nuclear plants: $13 billion for 2200 MW power supply per latest available data. I wasn't able to find info on annual maintenance costs. 2200 MW power for 24 hours a day is 52,800 MW/hrs per day.

The startup cost for a nuke plant is then 13 billion / 52,800,000,000,000 Watts-hrs, for a result of $0.25 per watt-hour of daily production.

Nuclear still comes off much cheaper on start-up costs, but that was more comparable than I expected. Of course, this was just a rough estimate and there may be things I've left out or underestimated. Whether all the factories in the world that produce solar power panels could actually produce 1,393,400 hundred-watt panels in a reasonable amount of time, could be one bottleneck. That much demand might run costs thru the roof.

Well that was an intresting exercise anyway. We might actually be closer to viable large-scale solar than I thought.
 
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Hoplite

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Let's calculate that out...
Impressive calculations. It must also be accounted for that there are now more advanced ways of creating solar cells

Startup Makes Cheap Solar Film Cells ... With an Inkjet Printer - Popular Mechanics

Nuclear still comes off much cheaper on start-up costs, but that was more comparable than I expected. Of course, this was just a rough estimate and there may be things I've left out or underestimated. Whether all the factories in the world that produce solar power panels could actually produce 1,393,400 hundred-watt panels in a reasonable amount of time, could be one bottleneck. That much demand might run costs thru the roof.
Something that has to be considered is a nuclear plant can cost almost twice it's construction costs and take upwards of two decades to decommission. Nuclear fuel is also ultimately a finite resource subject to the same geopolitical instability that shoots oil prices up. You also have the proliferation of nuclear material requiring resources to secure and protect.

Nuclear plants also consolidate our power generation facilities and make them vulnerable to attack or damage.

With solar, our maintenance is low, fuel cost is zero, facilities are spread out, and fuel supply is infinite.
 

Goshin

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Impressive calculations. It must also be accounted for that there are now more advanced ways of creating solar cells

Startup Makes Cheap Solar Film Cells ... With an Inkjet Printer - Popular Mechanics

Something that has to be considered is a nuclear plant can cost almost twice it's construction costs and take upwards of two decades to decommission. Nuclear fuel is also ultimately a finite resource subject to the same geopolitical instability that shoots oil prices up. You also have the proliferation of nuclear material requiring resources to secure and protect.

Nuclear plants also consolidate our power generation facilities and make them vulnerable to attack or damage.

With solar, our maintenance is low, fuel cost is zero, facilities are spread out, and fuel supply is infinite.
I agree that ultimately solar may be better than nuke. We might even get there in my lifetime. For now, though, we still need more nuke plants... and nuke plants costs would be lower (and construction far quicker) if there weren't so many unreasonable bureaucratic and NIMBY delays.

We are desperately in need of LOTS more power generation, and we needed it ten years ago.
 

Hoplite

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I agree that ultimately solar may be better than nuke. We might even get there in my lifetime. For now, though, we still need more nuke plants... and nuke plants costs would be lower (and construction far quicker) if there weren't so many unreasonable bureaucratic and NIMBY delays.

We are desperately in need of LOTS more power generation, and we needed it ten years ago.
I disagree. Nuclear is NOT the way to go. It's not solving a problem, only delaying the same problem we have now. We need to put everything we can move into solar power networks, it's the best long-term and cost-effective system.
 

marywollstonecraft

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Let's calculate that out...

Well, a 100 watt panel is about 1 square yard and costs around $600 last time I checked. Over the course of a year you will average about 10 hours of good sunlight per day in the "sun belt" states...that comes to 1 KW-hour per panel per day.

You can't jam them in edge-to-edge. They need to be angled, (or preferably on a sun-tracking pivot but that costs extra) and you need enough seperation that they don't shadow each other most of the day. Let's say 20 sq feet per panel for the sake of argument.

A square mile of these... 5280^2 = 27878400 sq feet, /20 sq' = 1,393,920 panels, producing 139.4 megawatts of power during daylight hours, or on average 1,394 Megawatt-hours of power per day. Sounds like a lot, don't it?

1,393,920 panels would cost 836.35 million dollars.

Now... unless you only want this to produce power during daylight hours, you'll need a battery bank. In my experience a battery bank is going to cost not less than $100 per 10 KW/hrs even if you go with the big batt's. (There are some out-of-the-box alternatives to batteries, but a buddy of mine might be patenting some of those ideas so I will refrain...) Let's say you need to store half the day's power generation in the battery bank... that's 1,394 MW/hrs, divided by 2 is 697 MW/h, which is also expressed as 697,000 KW/h. At a cost of $100 per 10 KW/h, your battery bank will cost about 7 million dollars.

Another thing you have to have is inverters to turn the DC power that solar panels produce to AC power. A good-quality 1000 watt inverter runs about $500.... let's say you get a "bulk discount" and hope that you can get sufficient inverter capacity for only $200 per KW.

139.4 MW continuous, equals 139,400 in KWs. At $200 per KW, your inverter capacity is going to cost almost 28 million dollars.

Now we're up to about 871 million dollars, for 1,394 MW/h output per day. That comes to a startup cost of $0.62 per watt-hour of daily production.

The good news is that maintenance should be relatively low, my best educated guess is probably about 5-10% of startup annually. That's around 43-86 million a year, not taking payroll cost into account at all.

Compared to nuclear plants: $13 billion for 2200 MW power supply per latest available data. I wasn't able to find info on annual maintenance costs. 2200 MW power for 24 hours a day is 52,800 MW/hrs per day.

The startup cost for a nuke plant is then 13 billion / 52,800,000,000,000 Watts-hrs, for a result of $0.25 per watt-hour of daily production.

Nuclear still comes off much cheaper on start-up costs, but that was more comparable than I expected. Of course, this was just a rough estimate and there may be things I've left out or underestimated. Whether all the factories in the world that produce solar power panels could actually produce 1,393,400 hundred-watt panels in a reasonable amount of time, could be one bottleneck. That much demand might run costs thru the roof.

Well that was an intresting exercise anyway. We might actually be closer to viable large-scale solar than I thought.
I can't comment on the costs - because they vary. from what I gather they are very expensive in the US. or at least it seems that way. I have 12 photovoltaic panels which aren't that big, and produce a surplusin summer, and use considerably less power in winter than most people do ... I think this year I will have a net surplus. but yes, I live in a warmer climate. those in cooler climats may well reduce their overall energy consumption by a considerable amount - but I have emphasized before - you have to look at efficient design principles as well ... these are often as significant in reduing energy consumption as introducing alternative sources. you might consider large south facing windows in living areas, with eaves calculated to allow maximum sunlight in in winter, but reduce direct sunlight in summer. and tahts only one possibility.

I had solar hot water at approx latitude 35 (S), and found that without a booster, I would still, even on overcast days in winter, get water that was warm. not hot - the warmth would have been enough to reduce the need for additional energy from a booster by a significant amount.

these things are becoming more affordable, and there are huge possibilities when you look at improved design and combining renewables.
 

joe246

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I agree that ultimately solar may be better than nuke. We might even get there in my lifetime. For now, though, we still need more nuke plants... and nuke plants costs would be lower (and construction far quicker) if there weren't so many unreasonable bureaucratic and NIMBY delays.

We are desperately in need of LOTS more power generation, and we needed it ten years ago.
tell that to the former residents of chernoybel. and if you need proof that accidents happen all the time look towards the gulf
 

spud_meister

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tell that to the former residents of chernoybel. and if you need proof that accidents happen all the time look towards the gulf
thats not all the time, both would have been prevented by proper precautions
 

joe246

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thats not all the time, both would have been prevented by proper precautions
exactly they were caused by human error. humans will always make errors. the difference between a error with solar power and a error with nuclear. solar kills nobody nuclear kills a bunch of people leaves an area uninhabitable and causes genetic mutations.
 

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The most viable "source" of energy is too often overlooked. NOT USING energy means not having to produce more energy.
We waste a considerable amount of it. Look up "architecture 2030". They propose new building codes that would make all new buildings energy efficient, thus reducing the need for more new power plants.
We did it for cars, why not do it for buildings?
Congress forced car makers to design them to burn cleaner, and the car makers were very successful. Not only are our new cars 90% cleaner, they get better fuel mileage. One of the technologies that helped accomplish this was OLD, existing, technology. The overdrive transmission is the major component that allows light trucks and the heavier cars to almost double their MPG. Overdrive had been around for decades, but it took an act of congress to get car makers to use them on all vehicles.
There are lots of old technologies that can help our buildings use less energy. Gots to wonder why we aren't using them.
 
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lizzie

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A large solar array situated in several of the US' rather expansive desert regions would provide substantial amounts of electricity
This is not one of my areas of expertise, but my understanding is that delivery is the problem.
 

Goshin

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This is not one of my areas of expertise, but my understanding is that delivery is the problem.

Yes it is.

Solar panels produce DC power.

In order to efficiently move electricity accross many miles of wire, you need to kick the voltage up into the tens of thousands of volts or higher. This is done with a transformer.

Transformers only work with AC power. You have to convert the DC output to AC before you can do anything with it.

Inverters work OK on a small to medium scale, but frankly I've never heard of them being used on the scale we're talking about. Some technologies "scale up" well, and some dont. Dunno about inverters.

Then of course there's the matter of all that wire...

The solar plant doesnt HAVE to be in the desert, but ....
 

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This is not one of my areas of expertise, but my understanding is that delivery is the problem.
very true, consider what it would look like if we put up a square mile of combined wind and solar, It would be visual pollution on a grand scale. If you think the grid is ugly now, just wait.....and NIMBY comes to mind.....
and there is still the issue of "when the sun don't shine". suppose we use solar panels mounted 20 feet above the ground, and put up wind generators above that. Solar is direct current, has to be converted to alternating current and THEN synchronized with the grid. Wind generators are alternating current already, but still have to be synchronized with the grid. Just one getting out of sync can cause a mess, tripping the grid for miles around. Trust me, NONE of the "sollutions" related to our energy problems are as easy as the politicians, the Al Gores, and the media would have us think.

Consider summer, air conditioning would not be allowed after dark. Yes, we used to live like that, I remember it well, having only a whole house fan in the hallway that sucks air thru open windows.
And winters? the days are shorter, so get home earlier, stoke up the wood stove, bundle up in the sleeping bags, and shiver til dawn....
 

Goshin

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Consider summer, air conditioning would not be allowed after dark. Yes, we used to live like that, I remember it well, having only a whole house fan in the hallway that sucks air thru open windows.
And winters? the days are shorter, so get home earlier, stoke up the wood stove, bundle up in the sleeping bags, and shiver til dawn....

Can't say that sounds like any fun at all.

In deep summer in the Deep South, it may not get much below 90 even at night. Hard to sleep when it is that hot.

My mother was a Depression-era farmkid. They used small electric fans to try to keep cool at night with the window open. The way she tells it it was pretty miserable...they'd even put a tray of ice cubes from the icebox in front of the fan to try to create a hint of coolness.

Heat pump, baby. :mrgreen:
 

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exactly they were caused by human error. humans will always make errors. the difference between a error with solar power and a error with nuclear. solar kills nobody nuclear kills a bunch of people leaves an area uninhabitable and causes genetic mutations.
chernobyl was overdue for decommissioning from what I understand. It was also a type of reactor that is no longer in use, and theere are very different systems in place today.

WRT BP - from what I have heard, the OSH standards and general regulations in the US were a contributing factor. According to some exprts (I heard this on the readio in the car and would have to check back to find who said what) this accident would not have happened in the North Sea, or on an Australian offshore platform because of the differences in standards.

the UK and Australia were both very much influenced by the Piper Alpha disaster, and a lot of our safety and risk management regulation of the oil and gas industry came from that. From what I can understand, this was not so in the US.

I recently saw a documentary which interviewed some of the BP survivors. what they were saying reminded me so much of what was said by Piper Alpha survivors that I almost had a sense of deja vu.

BTW - I don't see nukes as necessarily being a long term option - and think its better to put research into exploring alternative sources of energy.
 
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marywollstonecraft

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The most viable "source" of energy is too often overlooked. NOT USING energy means not having to produce more energy.
We waste a considerable amount of it. Look up "architecture 2030". They propose new building codes that would make all new buildings energy efficient, thus reducing the need for more new power plants.
We did it for cars, why not do it for buildings?
Congress forced car makers to design them to burn cleaner, and the car makers were very successful. Not only are our new cars 90% cleaner, they get better fuel mileage. One of the technologies that helped accomplish this was OLD, existing, technology. The overdrive transmission is the major component that allows light trucks and the heavier cars to almost double their MPG. Overdrive had been around for decades, but it took an act of congress to get car makers to use them on all vehicles.
There are lots of old technologies that can help our buildings use less energy. Gots to wonder why we aren't using them.
exactly.... design smarter and you reduce demand for energy
 
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