Solar WILL take over all other energy sources
Some people in the Energy Department realize that solar electric has become so cheap that it has become THE energy replacement answer that many are looking for:
Energy return on investment for solar electric only gets better with time as advances occur (for example, replace monocrystalline silicon with polysilicon) (this is the OPPOSITE from the future of fossil-based energy). For those who are worried that silver is needed for solar panels and that silver will run out: a korean company and a European company have already replaced silver in solar panels with copper (and if copper runs out aluminum likely will be used)……… MOST solar energy use can avoid energy storage by simple scheduling. This is easy to do because solar is most available when people are awake. Even during rainstorms and cloudy days a significant amount of energy is available)
generating hydrogen (from water) directly or indirectly for transportation energy is the next major hurdle in this area of technology.
Solar is NOT base load energy. Therefore it will not take over (from) all other energy sources until some way can be found to store the energy for use when the sun is not shining. Wind energy faces a somewhat similar limitation in that the wind does not always blow.
Even if solar were perfected within the near future, a major breakthrough in battery technology will be required in order to store the energy until needed. So called flow batteries (with the electrolyte stored externally) seem to hold promise, but further development work is needed.
Until that happens, solar has some limited utility as a supplementary source of energy. In off-grid applications with limited power needs, solar is viable. As for wind, those giant turbines are a blight on the landscape. They also slice and dice a lot of innocent birds.Here in Texas we have a lot of wind turbines in the western part of the state, but insufficient electricity transmission lines to get the electricity to major cities in the eastern half of Texas.
I just saw yet another nauseating headline claiming that America is the new Saudi Arabia. Pul–eeze! Saudi Arabia is an energy exporter, while the USA must import oil in order to meet domestic needs. Tight oil has simply narrowed the gap a bit between consumption and production.
"Even if solar were perfected within the near future, a major breakthrough in battery technology will be required in order to store the energy until needed"
with all due respect, this parroting of MSM dismissal of an independent (not controlled by govt/big banks) energy lifestyle is wrong. Our new post collapse world will NOT be American Growth Standard anymore and daytime only solar works fine, just as it did for our grandparents.
Even the intended detraction of solar that "by 6 p.m., panels are producing only about half their maximum" in my opinion is misleadingly optimistic, and might possibly be true only on the longest day of the year, yet highlights how valuable solar electric is NOW without any further advance except in using out of the mainstream. If you have 10,000 watts of installed power (half the cost of an average new car if you avoid utility and government incentive based control) and get 20% of maximum power at 6PM, that means you have 2000 watts of power at dinnertime in WInter months (or maybe as little as 500 watts, enough to make coffee or toast if cloudy and you did not prepare food in advance based on forethought). It is very helpful to use appliances that can accommodate differential power inputs and to be patient with their operation time. Plants have evolved to do this, and humans are certainly capable of learning to do this too (and in fact have, before the oil age changed their behavior). Presently you have to make your own circuits because The Technologies that Be are all based on American Growth Standard instant gratification. Many things such as induction stoves and water heaters can be modified to run fairly directly from solar panels with varying output without buying lots of very inefficient but heavily hyped equipment from traditional American Growth Standard companies. Food certainly can be cooked during daylight hours, so can hot water heating, dish washing, clothes washing, clothes driers, car charging, and fertililizer manufacture (based on improvements already made to the electrical processes used last century before the natural gas process of nitrogen fixation took over). Furthermore, ALL of these things are easily done DURING CLOUDY days when you have enough solar panels (my example above 1/2 the price of a car is enough to get much energy during CLOUDY days. Electric boats were invented before fossil fuel boats took over, are about 5-10 x slower, but much quieter less pollution and require a little patience and require 10 x less energy which is readily available by solar. We have forgotten that our grandparents / great grandparents farms worked on a solar cycle and that they used to get up and work when the energy became available and adjust their activities throughout the year according to solar insolation.
we need to change our thinking and to think outside of the mainstream media box
I see this dynamic surface everyday. Struggling with what the future will look like (here, making new energy tech fit into the current system versus evolution towards a new system). Capitalism, which many parts of the world see as colonialism with a thin coat of whitewash, requires constant growth. The US targets 3% year over year. Solar, nor any other source, will give us this. In fact, the point of this site is PEAK. No more growth. It isn't much of a intellectual jump to see that the current system will not stand. To me, it seems to be in its dying convolutions. So trying to fit alternative energy into the context of the current system is pointless.
So true, solar will not replace fossil. Nothing will. Has anyone considered that ALL forms of alternative energy are heavily subsidized by fossil fuels? The materials needed to make a panel or a windmill all require serious inputs of energy. Then the energy needed to manufacture and assemble. I have yet to see any figures for a solar panel on net energy output. The excess energy, if any, created after the energy inputs have been subtracted. I suspect that there is a net energy output, but it will not be the 'free' boon that advocates proclaim. Whatever place they have in the future will depend on how great their net energy surplus. And just as our lifestyles changed to take advantage of the 24/7 bright lights afforded by fossil fuel, they will again change to fit into whatever our future energy sources will allow.
Hi, Mots. First of all, understand that my rebuttal was not personal. Here on the Peak Prosperity site there is an understanding that civilized discourse is the standard. You make some reasonable points. But I think you understand that we are bound by certain constraints at present. Perhaps those constraints will lessen over time with advances in technology and let us all hope that is so.
The last couple of days have been especially busy for me, and I regret that, for I spotted a post in the Daily Digest a couple of days ago that intrigued me – but I was too busy to post a follow up right then. The gist of it was that an Arizona public utility figured out a way to store the sun’s energy for short periods by focusing it (through an array of mirrors) on sand, which absorbs the energy by heating up. Then, that heat energy is tapped early the next morning to provide energy to the grid.
I’m all for innovations like this, but I’m also an old guy who is intensely practical and I’ve seen so many announcements over the years of problem-solving “solutions” that once announced, are never heard from again. So please forgive me for being rather skeptical; it tends to come with advancing age (I’m a geezer).
The fact is that the sun provides far more energy than we need at present and this is likely to be the case for eons to come. The problem, of course, is capturing that energy in a way that can meet our electricity needs. This is the challenge. After all, the earth is dark half of each day (let’s keep it simple, please, and not introduce latitude right now for in the off season that tends to compensate.)
So back to what I posted in response to your original (thoughtful and interesting) post): The sun provides plenty of energy – far more than we need. But we need an effective means of capturing that energy and providing it to end users when they need it.
My thesis was and is that we need some kind of storage medium. It does not have to be long term storage, keeping in mind that a “day” consists of 24 hours, of which sunlight is present for varying amounts of time depending on the latitude. I’ve looked into this for the past five years and flow batteries still stick in my mind as posing considerable promise. More research is needed.
Present energy storage solutions are pretty inefficient. I’m thinking, for example, of pumping water uphill to storage reservoirs overnight, and then releasing the water to power turbines the next day to meet energy needs. This is – ahem – not an elegant solution.
I am not happy with your assertion that my previous post parrots MSM views on energy. You could not be more mistaken. My contempt for the mainstream media is complete. So please erase that from your mind, and in turn I will agree not to be offended. This is fair.
You make some good points. I accept them in good faith. But I’m a skeptic and will reserve judgment due to my years of careful consideration of these issues. What is needed at this inflection point in history is thoughtful discussion by reasonable people, in the hope and expectation that we can together influence the outcome. On that particular point, however, I’m a pessimist. We will likely have to accept what is imposed on us by those who feel they have superior wisdom and the power to command.
BSV, thanks for your kind and thoughtful reply.
I am an electronics guy who does things with his hands and then enjoys the benefits of the technology. I am also a patent attorney in this area and spend many hours enjoying new technology made by companies that actually build and sell the stuff (not American, by the way). I can see what is happening by riding on new developments, that is my job. And you are absolutely right, virtually all "advances" crowed about in the media are real bullshit. I discount unless (in rare cases) something will or is taken to market with a price tag. Fortunately my clients are in the latter category.
Economically, solar has won hands down.
The Technologies that Be are not designed for using solar efficiently because everything is designed for batteries and American Growth Standard ways of using energy.
I designed my next paradigm dwelling-system based on how many watts I get on overcast rainy days (600 watts for my house presently-I hope to improve soon, 200 for my garden) and then I get tons on normal days. There is a lot of stuff recently that is very cheap and very effective but are not on the mainstream possibly because they eliminate a big source of income for power companies and collective organizations such as big banks. What I am doing is NOT mainstream and I have no more time for mainstream media old fashioned ways of thinking. Your recent post is very thoughtful but aside from that it seems that most posts on this site are not really free of mainstream thinking driven by CNN and big corporate designed lifestyle. Saying slogans like peak prosperity and internet chit chat crap are not the same as studying technology-which is THE demoninator for everything! and not the same as doing, particularly when the chit chat crappers dont have a deep understanding of the technology and dont have your insight that most media pronouncements of technology are bullshit. The change human advancement such as the present paradigm shift is always based on TECHNOLOGY – new ways to deal with the physicall universe and very little internet chit chat crap addresses this.
Anyone who understands electricity (or is learning) and wants to pursue this topic please message me. I am done chit chatting on this thread.
Please do not give up on us, Mots. We need this kind of discussion. I hope that I did not drive you away from this website, for I would regret that greatly. Your comments were thoughtful and rational.
Ok, thanks. In that case I will delve into this a bit more:
A few specific comments on baby steps to better energy resilience from solar electric
1. for 200$ (a 200 watt panel) where else can you get a machine that will give you tens of watts (if not up to 200 watts) of electricity during the day, without further fuel for years to come? To get reliable gasoline generated energy for your computer for example, what does the equipment (motor/generator) cost over a 10 year, or 20 year period and how reiiable is it? (a 55lb battery at Costco for storing 100 watts 5 hr or more (nominally 1 kilowatt hour) costs about 85$ to run bright LEDs or computer at night) This is why so many people are getting into some kind of low wattage solar energy easily. Because LEDs are very very efficient you can buy an 85$ battery for some very bright lights at nighttime that will not seriously wear down the battery. Electricity originally was developed for lighting, and use for LED lighting is extremely low cost even with batteries.
2. By the way, you should use all low voltage DC circuits and only maybe one or two MOSFET junctions/diodes between the solar panels and the lights/equipment. Technologies that Be dont allow this. You cannot easily do this (buy off the shelf DC bright lights at low cost) and have to cut and solder yourself, although alternative LEDs are starting to be sold.to save energy, I had to buy 18 watt (equivalent to 75-90 watt incandescent) LED lights from Costco/Home Depot and rip out the inefficient transformer/inverter circuitry to run these bright lights directly off DC without losing much efficiency via running through many transistor junctions to boost and convert DC to AC and then back down to DC. (the Technologies that Be sell you a box that loses energy by converting solar panel/battery DC to AC, and then sell you a box that loses energy by converting AC back to DC again, and this sells lots of circuitry and boxes that all heat up and waste energy. Inefficiencies add up, 25% loss for one step plus 25% loss for another step = 50% loss and the lower cost boxes you buy at Harbor Freight, Walmart etc seem to have the lowest efficiencies.
3. But large systems (kilowatts) are dominated by either
A. grid tie thinking (supply electricity to power company who usually makes you pay 3,000$ for extra equipment for hook up and other things) OR
B. a battery system, which is extremely expensive due to batteries that have to be replaced.
4. An alternative not provided is to wire up cheap solar panels directly to equipment via a minimum of boxes and with no batteries for ca. 5x less electronic equipment circuitry cost. why is this important:: when you look at the specs on inverters (convert 24 or 48 or 96 volt DC into AC and charge controllers, the specifications dont even cover below 20% maximum solar power because the inefficiencies are horrible (typically 25% or far worse energy loss just for this one step). If you charge batteries, you lose 10% inefficiency just in the charging step alone. Equipment from the Technologies that Be are not designed to run at any decent efficiency at low light levels (cloudy conditions) and such conditions are given up as hopeless by the Technologies that Be who provide either a. sell to utility at high light levels (equipment designed to work at high light levels) or b. expensive battery systems (nothing in between!).
5. It gets even worse when you want to use the "best" technology from sellers who will sell you 200 watt panels for maybe 100-200$ each and then sell you FOR EACH PANEL a specific controller for another 200$ (per panel!) that will improve efficiency a couple percent or maybe 5% depending on what panels are used. I have had discussions with an engineer who designed one such product and with a major seller who both told me that this is obviously a stupid idea (double the cost of panels by introducing a zillion more transistor circuit junctions to flow current through to slightly increase efficiency or slightly decrease installation time). The Technologies that Be are having an equipment festival that should be avoided. Even many installers and designers dont really understand how solar panels are loaded for efficiency (they dont work like batteries)
6. Representative Alternative:
A. If you have electric hot water heater now, you can buy two large 200 watt panels for about 400$ and buy an electronic device (http://techluck.com/about.php) for 200$ that will connect directly (in parallel, dont have to remove anything) to your hot water heater and efficiently (seems to be in upper 90%s) loads the panels just right to send virtually all available power into your tank to drop your hot water costs possibly in half. I have used this system and it works extremely efficiently, to heat hot water). This works well when it is below zero outside. very nice way to use solar for hot water when it is below freezing outside. I have no financial relationship with the inventor/seller but am just a very satisfied customer.
B. If you have 400 or 500 watts of panels (about 500$) and want to inject their electrical output directly into your house wiring very efficiently, the price for doing so has dropped dramatically recently. I was very surprised to buy for 125$ (direct from factory in China) a box that will take the 500 watt solar panel output and plug right into a house AC plug to essentially "grid tie" in a very cheap and convenient fashion. The Technologies that Be hate this and I understand may have made it illegal or a rule violation. The excuse is (of course) safety in that if the power grid goes dark and your solar panels still inject power, then you will kill a power line worker: but this is nonsense for two reasons: 1. the box only matches your solar power output to the AC line voltage and frequency, if no main power to copy, the converter box from solar panels to your outlet cant work and 2. they are designed to specially shut off for this safety reason. This (keep consumer unaware or petrified of death) situation is very similar to what we had in the 60s when telephone companies were renting phones for 10$ per month and forbade consumers from buying 10$ phones from Taiwan for "safety" reasons (and finally had to give up because everyone ignored them). If everyone could hook up 500 watts (two large panels) for the price of only a 125$ injection box, their electric bills should be a little lower and the panels could serve as a nice backup power (connect to DC-AC inverter) if grid power goes down. This was available on amazon.com a few months ago and I have not checked prices recently.
The above provides some details behind my statements that the main stream media presentation of dreams and desires is good at enriching big organizations that are "in charge" of the equipment and of the dialogue. I have an analogous rant with detailed specifics on how our drug industry is even more off track using the legal system to sell old drugs at extreme prices but dont have time to shift my focus off of solar. These are reasons why we need to abandon the main stream weavers of life style aspirations and product buys and focus on local resilience by getting in touch with how the physical world works and rebuild everything at a sustainable and practical way DURING the decay.
Choice of battery for me was nickel iron. 100+ year old tech
One recent article I read was about some guys who dug up some 85 year old ones, put new KOH in them and low an behold, 50% of rated performance. not bad.
I am KISS kind of guy. If you do not have it it will not break down. so no charge controller, no inverter.
Nickel iron are not damaged by overcharging, ( but your consumption of distilled water goes up…)
A neighbor has engineered and installed solar systems for many years. He was very enthusiastic about the approach that you (Mots) outlined here for lighting, especially. Staying with 12 Volts DC and Costco $85 car batteries (which were rated as the best car batteries by Consumer Reports).
He pointed out this 12 Volt LED light bulb:
He was unfamiliar with advantages for using PV for solar hot water heating and was hoping to find out more about how that is done.
Thanks for this discussion.