Solar power: why hasn't this improved

bill5

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I remember them talking about this and it even getting a little "trendy" in the 70s. 30-40+ yrs later and it's still a fringe source of power at most. What the hell? There's this ENORMOUS source of power for billions of years to come and we haven't figured out how to make this cost-effective yet? ??
 

uscitizen

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I remember them talking about this and it even getting a little "trendy" in the 70s. 30-40+ yrs later and it's still a fringe source of power at most. What the hell? There's this ENORMOUS source of power for billions of years to come and we haven't figured out how to make this cost-effective yet? ??
oil and coal is still too cheap to make us use more solar.
 

saveliberty

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Its called a plant Bill. The darn things are efficient as all get out in turning the sunlight into useable sugars.
 

martybegan

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I remember them talking about this and it even getting a little "trendy" in the 70s. 30-40+ yrs later and it's still a fringe source of power at most. What the hell? There's this ENORMOUS source of power for billions of years to come and we haven't figured out how to make this cost-effective yet? ??
It has less to do with efficency than to do with storage issues. power from fossil fuels is easy to store. you keep your coal/oil/gas ready to use, and burn it when you need it. Solar, like wind is more "here now, gone for a while, here again, WHOOPS! gone again!) and our power grid wasn't really designed for it.

The materials have become cheaper, and the efficienies better, but on a large scale the intermittent and storage issues are still a problem, and on small scale, the equipment needed to safely tie into the grid for when you need to draw extra power is still expsensive.

The needed improvements are in grid regulation, and two way power transmission.
 

whitehall

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I remember them talking about this and it even getting a little "trendy" in the 70s. 30-40+ yrs later and it's still a fringe source of power at most. What the hell? There's this ENORMOUS source of power for billions of years to come and we haven't figured out how to make this cost-effective yet? ??
oil and coal is still too cheap to make us use more solar.
That's a lie, kitty with groucho glasses, and you know it. Solar panels are subject to the laws of physics and you need the sunshine from an acre of (ugly) panels to make a couple of amps of current. I'd buy the junk and put it on my roof if it worked ....but it don't.
 
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bill5

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I remember them talking about this and it even getting a little "trendy" in the 70s. 30-40+ yrs later and it's still a fringe source of power at most. What the hell? There's this ENORMOUS source of power for billions of years to come and we haven't figured out how to make this cost-effective yet? ??
It has less to do with efficency than to do with storage issues. power from fossil fuels is easy to store. you keep your coal/oil/gas ready to use, and burn it when you need it. Solar, like wind is more "here now, gone for a while, here again, WHOOPS! gone again!) and our power grid wasn't really designed for it.

The materials have become cheaper, and the efficienies better, but on a large scale the intermittent and storage issues are still a problem, and on small scale, the equipment needed to safely tie into the grid for when you need to draw extra power is still expsensive.

The needed improvements are in grid regulation, and two way power transmission.
Nice recap, thanks!
 

jillian

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I remember them talking about this and it even getting a little "trendy" in the 70s. 30-40+ yrs later and it's still a fringe source of power at most. What the hell? There's this ENORMOUS source of power for billions of years to come and we haven't figured out how to make this cost-effective yet? ??
It has less to do with efficency than to do with storage issues. power from fossil fuels is easy to store. you keep your coal/oil/gas ready to use, and burn it when you need it. Solar, like wind is more "here now, gone for a while, here again, WHOOPS! gone again!) and our power grid wasn't really designed for it.

The materials have become cheaper, and the efficienies better, but on a large scale the intermittent and storage issues are still a problem, and on small scale, the equipment needed to safely tie into the grid for when you need to draw extra power is still expsensive.

The needed improvements are in grid regulation, and two way power transmission.
thanks for that. we agree.

it has always seemed to me that alternative energy is not only a fuel issue, but a security issue. as things stand, we funnel money into countries that funnel that money into groups that hate us and try to damage us and our interests. so aside from my huggy, feely, left-leaning environmental concerns, it seems to me that this is something we should, left/right and middle, be concerned about.

in the 1970's, jimmy carter said this. i can't stand him for other reasons, but on this issue he happened to be correct. he put solar panels on the white house and had hoped this country would start funding, investing in and finding alternative energy sources. then ronald reagan became president and one of the first things he did was remove the solar panels from the white house. then followed decades of right wing derision of anything that smacked of environmental responsibility.... culminating with sarah's "drill baby drill" crowd.

so yes, there are needed improvements. but they don't have a high profit margin... which is why private companies are lagging behind. that's where government comes in.

and you know how far that gets in this climate.

so we continue to do business with terrorists and their supporters.
 
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bill5

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Gee someone digressing this into political BS, what a surprise, never saw that before on this site. You go wingnut. :rolleyes:
 

signelect

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This is not about politics, it is about free enterprise. People don't want to use solar power because it is expensive and inefficient. Fox those two things and solar power will be the vogue. Government is not suposed to fix things, it is to provide for the common defense, every thing else it does is mess up. If the gov took over the beer industry a 6 pack would cost $50 in a month.
 

GHook93

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I remember them talking about this and it even getting a little "trendy" in the 70s. 30-40+ yrs later and it's still a fringe source of power at most. What the hell? There's this ENORMOUS source of power for billions of years to come and we haven't figured out how to make this cost-effective yet? ??
oil and coal is still too cheap to make us use more solar.
That is a half truth. Coal, natural gas, hydro and nuclear are relatively cheap, but solar and wind just don't produce enough energy for our needs!
 

flacaltenn

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We know how to approach the theoretical max efficiencies for solar PV design. We knew that YEARS ago. A panel built from Gallium Arsenide vs silicon crystal would get us to within 20% or so of the physics. But that would mean TONS of arsenic and a doubling of cost versus growing silicon crystal. Sometimes -- the theoretical limit doesn't yield a product.

The issue of inefficiency is more difficult to overcome. Even with panel efficiencies climbing (slowly now compared with 10 years ago), the installation math for a daytime peaking only system has to be rated almost twice as neccessary to guarantee a minimum power requirement. That gets you thru weather related difficulties such as clouds, preciptn, and sun angle thru-out the year and efficiencies related to converting DC power from the panels to AC for the home wiring and selling back to the grid.

So you BUY more panel than you end up using.. And "off-grid" installations are a whole 'nother animal, requiring tons of battery storage and the eco implications of that. A "off-grid" supermarket would require a tractor trailer full of battery storage to make it thru the night and an installation "overdesign" by a factor of almost three.

The grid load in California at 10PM in the summer is 80% of the load at 1PM. That means that PV solar could provide a MAX of 20% of daytime peaks. That's why you see the mandates for 20% renewables by 2020 and all that nonsense. You cannot turn off nat gas, coal, nuclear plants like a light switch. So there is duplication of spending for the MAIN sources of power. Would we reach 20%? Not likely because of geography, grid design, ect...

So you're right. It's time to put up or STFU.. Government should NEVER be subsidizing run of the mill stuff that's already designed. It actually stifles the perfection of tech, because the subsidy warps price to prefer larger markets at the bottom price. If they want to play market makers, they should only fund R&D for increased performance, or new technology. And the solar market NOW is anything but new technology.
 
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martybegan

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I remember them talking about this and it even getting a little "trendy" in the 70s. 30-40+ yrs later and it's still a fringe source of power at most. What the hell? There's this ENORMOUS source of power for billions of years to come and we haven't figured out how to make this cost-effective yet? ??
It has less to do with efficency than to do with storage issues. power from fossil fuels is easy to store. you keep your coal/oil/gas ready to use, and burn it when you need it. Solar, like wind is more "here now, gone for a while, here again, WHOOPS! gone again!) and our power grid wasn't really designed for it.

The materials have become cheaper, and the efficienies better, but on a large scale the intermittent and storage issues are still a problem, and on small scale, the equipment needed to safely tie into the grid for when you need to draw extra power is still expsensive.

The needed improvements are in grid regulation, and two way power transmission.
thanks for that. we agree.

it has always seemed to me that alternative energy is not only a fuel issue, but a security issue. as things stand, we funnel money into countries that funnel that money into groups that hate us and try to damage us and our interests. so aside from my huggy, feely, left-leaning environmental concerns, it seems to me that this is something we should, left/right and middle, be concerned about.

in the 1970's, jimmy carter said this. i can't stand him for other reasons, but on this issue he happened to be correct. he put solar panels on the white house and had hoped this country would start funding, investing in and finding alternative energy sources. then ronald reagan became president and one of the first things he did was remove the solar panels from the white house. then followed decades of right wing derision of anything that smacked of environmental responsibility.... culminating with sarah's "drill baby drill" crowd.

so yes, there are needed improvements. but they don't have a high profit margin... which is why private companies are lagging behind. that's where government comes in.

and you know how far that gets in this climate.

so we continue to do business with terrorists and their supporters.
The other issue is that for the first time technological advancement is trying to go from easy to harder, and not the other way around.

Lets look at horses being replaced by cars. Once the fuel, gasoline, became reasonably availible a car beat out a horse for point to point tranport over good terrain in almost every circumstance. It may have been a more expensive capital investment, but a car was cheaper to maintain and operate. It didnt have a biological shelf life, it didnt need veterinary care, the earlier cars could be maintained by someone with basic mechanical skills. The car didnt have "bad days", didnt require fuel if you were not using it, and didnt require cleanup, or a stall. it was also faster, and could carry more cargo per unit power.

Now lets look at solar power compared to fossil fuels. On the large scale you are going from an on demand form of power generation, to something far more intermittent. While you lose fuel costs, you usually have a larger capital costs per MW. the maintenance is less, but it is different, especially in dusty areas where mirror efficency decreases. On a small scale you are going from basically a simple 220V hookup to a split power system, plus added cell maintenance.

Now there are good reasons, in some people's opinions, as to why we should be doing this, but they are intangible reasons. Things like AGW, and energy independence. All the person at the end of the line knows is that his power is now intermittent, or he has to climb on the roof to clean his solar cells, where before the power was always on, and all he had to do was flip a switch.
 

mawlarky

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I use 2 banks of solar heating tubes and a homemade solar heating panel to heat all my warm water and to preheat my central heating system in the winter months before boosting with a wood burner. Oil, coal and gas is just far too expensive to use for heating nowadays with oil running at around 950 -1000 gbp per 1200 litres (317 U.S gallons), coal is currently around 20 gbp per 50kg bag with smokeless fuel being 30 % higher again.
 

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I use 2 banks of solar heating tubes and a homemade solar heating panel to heat all my warm water and to preheat my central heating system in the winter months before boosting with a wood burner. Oil, coal and gas is just far too expensive to use for heating nowadays with oil running at around 950 -1000 gbp per 1200 litres (317 U.S gallons), coal is currently around 20 gbp per 50kg bag with smokeless fuel being 30 % higher again.
Solar THERMAL is a great idea. Especially for folks who have pools and hot tubs.
Although my total nat gas bill in summer when just the water heater and dryer are involved is less than $10/month.
 

TruthSeeker56

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I use 2 banks of solar heating tubes and a homemade solar heating panel to heat all my warm water and to preheat my central heating system in the winter months before boosting with a wood burner. Oil, coal and gas is just far too expensive to use for heating nowadays with oil running at around 950 -1000 gbp per 1200 litres (317 U.S gallons), coal is currently around 20 gbp per 50kg bag with smokeless fuel being 30 % higher again.
Ever heard of soapstone wood stoves, or whole-house wood-burning boiler systems?

As with most problems, SIMPLICITY is the answer.
 

mawlarky

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I use 2 banks of solar heating tubes and a homemade solar heating panel to heat all my warm water and to preheat my central heating system in the winter months before boosting with a wood burner. Oil, coal and gas is just far too expensive to use for heating nowadays with oil running at around 950 -1000 gbp per 1200 litres (317 U.S gallons), coal is currently around 20 gbp per 50kg bag with smokeless fuel being 30 % higher again.
Ever heard of soapstone wood stoves, or whole-house wood-burning boiler systems?

As with most problems, SIMPLICITY is the answer.
I use a simple (22kw max) wood burning stove which is of traditional cast iron construction, I obtain my fuel by recovering building site waste and old pallets since wood is not allowed to go into landfill. I take all the wood to a local rock quarry @around 10 tonnes at a time to have it crushed and broken up with a rock crusher so my only outlay is the transport costs and crushing costs which works out at 40 gbp per 10 tonnes.
My solar tubes deal with preheating the central heating system which is run on a 50/50 mixture of water and machine oil which is better for heat retention and of course no seized valves or rust in the system.
Most of my electricity comes from a couple of homemade d.c wind turbines which charge 48 recycled car batteries to give me 12/24 volt led lighting throghout my home and 2x 1kw invertors which take care of my mains (240volt ac) appliances, my only mains powered items that run from the grid are a kettle and electric hob which I hope to change in the future by istalling a small wood burning range cooker.
Simple ideas are indeed the best and due to the massive cost of fuel in Ireland my options for a convenient pushbutton heating /electric system are very limited.
 
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rdean

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There are many new advances in solar energy. Republicans should do a little research. Current panels only use a small percentage of the suns rays and only a small portion of the spectrum. It takes time for these panels to be fully realized, then you have to figure out where to get the materials, what materials to use, how to manufacture it cheaply and so on. That's why it takes years. Today's panels are much better than those from a couple of years ago and a couple of years from now, solar panels we buy from other countries will be much better. Republicans will make sure we won't make any here. They will block research and as a manufacturer, we will be out of the running all together.
 

mawlarky

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There are many new advances in solar energy. Republicans should do a little research. Current panels only use a small percentage of the suns rays and only a small portion of the spectrum. It takes time for these panels to be fully realized, then you have to figure out where to get the materials, what materials to use, how to manufacture it cheaply and so on. That's why it takes years. Today's panels are much better than those from a couple of years ago and a couple of years from now, solar panels we buy from other countries will be much better. Republicans will make sure we won't make any here. They will block research and as a manufacturer, we will be out of the running all together.
Solar power is certainly on the increase in the U.K which in theory is not an ideal part of the world for its use but it does work, there are several companies that will install a roof full of panels either free of charge or at a very low cost and who wil negotiate a reduced electrictiy cost from the home owner from the electricity provider. All the excese electricirt is feed into the grid and the panel company receive payment from the electricity supplier, the panel company are in effect hiring the use of your south facing roof to make themselves money but to also save the homeowner around 30-40% on their annual bill.
Due to the current high cost of the panels wind turbines are much more affordable but do work better as independant stand alone units not connected to the grid imo.
 

editec

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I remember them talking about this and it even getting a little "trendy" in the 70s. 30-40+ yrs later and it's still a fringe source of power at most. What the hell? There's this ENORMOUS source of power for billions of years to come and we haven't figured out how to make this cost-effective yet? ??
Good question.

Perhaps it is not really as cost effective as we'd like to hope?

The most cost effective solar panels known to man are plants.

Sadly turning plant output from solar into energy to run our complex world isn't very efficient either. Not at least in comparison to the plant created solar energy we get from hydrocarbons.

Perhaps we are going at this problem from the wrong direction?

Perhaps what we ought to be doing is trying to find more efficient ways to use the existing residual solar energy (read hydrocarbons) we have?


Every erg of energy we don't waste is an erg of energy we don't need to create or mine out of the ground.

And every energy saving system we invent continues to save energy for as long as that system is in place, too.

Instead what we're counting on, or at least what the DEMS seem to think makes sense is to create a system of indulgences.

Now I understand the theory behind getting the market to force energy savings, I truly do.

But I have my serious doubts about how effective that will really be since it actually rewards the most inefficient systems we use, now, while punishing those who are ALREADY as energy efficient as today's technology can make them.

CAP AND TRADE is a system just waiting to be gamed, folks.

We need to rethink how we can make market forces work to our advantage.
 

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