Discussion in 'Energy' started by ScreamingEagle, Jun 6, 2008.
With ever-increasing improvements, solar energy could become the answer...
I'll happily go solar as would most homeowners...if they could afford it.
i need a solar powered air conditioner
fuck solar per household. We have entire fucking deserts that should be turned into energy farms.
Solar at homes make sense because they are already connected to the local grid, they are producing power when they demand the least thus making excess for those at work, and their cost can be rolled into the home mortgage.
Solar in homes doesn't work very well. They've been experimenting with it for years, and it just doesn't get the job done.
Yeah, but it's really just a matter of price.
Companies like Konarka and Nanosolar are going about it in a totally different way. The traditional manufacturing process is similar to microprocessor fabrication--clean rooms and a million different steps and so forth.
These newer companies have a process where they are literally printing the solar cells onto a flexible substrate, off a machine that's similar to an inkjet printer. It will take a while before they get the process sorted out and perfected enough to get them really dirt cheap, but it's just a matter of time.
And the best part is, you can give them patterns. They can be printed to look like shingles for roofs, or like camoflage for troops, or whatever. Solar shingles will be a popular option for houses in the future, rolled into the mortgage and backed with a warranty. They won't take you off the grid completely, but they will do a fine job of negating your a/c use in the summer. That's nothing to sneeze at; the biggest part of your electric bill if you live in a warm climate, is the electricity used by your a/c. (We can talk about fluorescent bulbs all we want, but lighting is only 10% of your bill, typically.) And putting them on residential houses will also reduce the need to upgrade the grid.
I'm not as optimistic about solar farms. You need a reliable "backbone" for industry, and I think nuclear is the way to go. The issue for wind/solar will always be how to store energy at night. For solar/thermal (focus sunlight, make heat, run a turbine...not photovoltaics), I've heard about molten salt storage, but I'll believe it when I see it.
Pump water into reservoirs on high ground when there is excess energy being produced, thus creating a potential energy reservoir.
As needed, allow gravity to take the water down to hydroelectic generating stations.
Of course there is a tremendous net loss of energy during the process, so your excess solar energy needs to be pretty damned excessive to make that system work.
While I agree with the "potential", solar powered homes would get the energy companies off your back. If you take electricity from a giant solar field in the desert, you'll be charged for the electricity, maintenance, personell, etc... If you have solar panels on your home, you pay to maintain your own solar panel and that's it.
I am not doubting the Energy potential of the Sun, however, today's solar panels are on average 20 to 30% efficient at converting the Sun's energy into electricity. That is comparable to the efficiency of most of today's automobiles which rely on the internal combustion engine. Before we rush into new technologies, we must evalute the pluses and minues of those new technologies.
The pluses of installing current technology photovoltaic panels is that they are a renewable, plentiful source of energy. As long as the sun shines there will be energy. The minues of solar energy is it is not relyable, sun doesn't always shine on rainy days, solar panels are currently inefficient, and storage of solar energy presents a problem, what happens at night time when you need light or electricity. The high cost of silicon is also a minus, as there is a limited supply and life expectancy of a solar panel is 20 years.
With all of these factors, it is clear the move to solar energy solely as our energy source today is not feasible. What is needed is the search for a new material that is more efficient and last longer at converting the sun's energy into electricity. Until we find that material, we are just shifting the problem of our energy needs from one area to another.
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