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Elon Musk: only a space of 100 miles by 100 miles filled with solar panels will generate enough electricity for the whole US!!!!

That is the power of the sun, according to Elon Musk. He said that would be a little part of Arizona.

Uh-huh. 10,000 square miles. Cleaning, weed control, maintenance are non-trivial issues. And power would have to be stored for nights and cloudy days, etc.

As a system baseload source, solar sucks.

All the electricity that is generated through the solar panels can directly go into the grid. And all the people can tap electricity from the grid.

And, things as "cleaning, weed control, maintenance" will lead to more jobs.

As long Fusion is not yet 100% ready to use, the sun is the best option (and wind also), I think.

The grid gets unstable when 20%, or even less, is fed in from variable and fluctuating "renewable" sources. The grid requires steady predictable input, in exact phase.

Cleaning and maintaining 10,000 sq. mi. of solar panels is an insane proposition. Here's a 20-acre array in Germany after a year and a half:
http://notrickszone.com/2011/07/04/solar-follies/

Heck, why stop there? Float them on a giant barge in the middle of an ocean and let the waves clean them. Put another set on the opposite side of the world to balance out day vs. night production so you wouldn't need to worry about storage. Hook them up to a world-wide power grid and your over-production concerns go away because the day vs. night loads would balance out across the world. Same goes for summer vs. winter.

:-D

Yes, I'm being facetious.

The salt water would make quick work of them.

Brian, I do not weed or clean my solar panels. They do not have any weeds and the rain cleans them au natural.

@RNB - I think he may have been referring to the weeding the ground they sit on?

We already maintain that much real estate many times over, We currently maintain the interstate highway system. It IS doable and those would be "domestic JOBS". I believe it has actually been proposed by some. Add Elon to the list.

Brian H is not saying it's impossible, only that it has costs that people don't think about immediately. Possibility does not mean practicality. I'm not claiming it's impractical either. I don't know all the facts.

My solar panels are three years old, have never been cleaned, don't need cleaning, and produce about double our electrical usage. The economics are a different story, but reliability isn't an issue. We could not, however, survive without fossil fuels as we have no storage so rely on the grid to fill in periods without sun. As an owner of several hundred electric panels I can say categorically that they make zero economic sense. The amortized cost is far, far above the carbon burning equivalent (by about ten times). The only way it works is through massive government subsidies in the form of credits and grants, for which I am eternally grateful to the US taxpayer's largess.

Lost longish answer to forum glitch.

Long story short: Solar is not reliable, night, bad weather, winter 75-80% of populated areas would require backup power, single area would mean risk of blackout entire US, need backup power, only hydro could provide one, because nuclear or coal require time to heat up or cool down (if you want to save something).

Dense Plasma Focus (DPF) fusion could provide that backup, but then you no longer need that solar.

Well this is why constant power renewable energies like geothermal and tidal would be the best if we could tap them more affordably.

Solar and wind need storage...molten salt might offer a solution for grid scale storage. It has the potential to store 100 MW in a tank 30(h) x 80 (d) feet. The weed issue from the pic provided could have been easily solved by not having stupid gaps between the panels allowing for light to get through and thus grass to grow. Cleaning can be automated if done properly.

First realistic step is rooftop solar for residential homes with a battery backup to store excess power. A 60 kWh battery backup should be enough for most homes...a total offgrid package like this could be had to power the average home for around $25,000...about a 8 year payback (less when you factor in gas savings if you drive an EV as well). Its all about generating the energy as close as possible to where that energy is consumed. This way you avoid massive grid scale storage systems and the need for a distribution infrastructure (grid) at all, not to mention efficiency losses the further you try to send electricity from its generation point. Rooftop solar offers the best way to do this. Combine this with smart devices, LED lighting, and an automated central management control system in the home that minimizes power waste and we really aren't that far off.

I think Tesla, Solar City and Shea Homes (eco home builder SolarCity already works with) will be collaborating to roll this into a total package offering an energy efficient home, solar panels, backup battery, and Tesla EV all rolled into one easy mortgage type payment to replace your current mortgage, utility bill, ICE lease, and gasoline/ mechanic bill!

That is the mortgage I want to pay! And you will save big time over the life of your house and EV!

@ teddyg

You made a good point: "Its all about generating the energy as close as possible to where that energy is consumed".

And that mortgage for that total package offering an energy efficient home, solar panels, backup battery, and Tesla EV, sounds just fine to me.

To make Solar Energy real successful for private people, one must also think of Energy Storage. Because it will be better for you (as a private person) if you can become really independant from the grid. So, that you can store all the energy that you generate from the Solar panels on the roof of your house. What would such a battery cost?

By the way has such a battery been developed yet?
How many MegaWatt should this battery be able to store?

Well people forget that the hybrid answer in terms of power generation works best... Solar where it works* (Southern CA, Nevada and Arizona), Wind where it works, Geothermal where it works, and Natural Gas and Coal where the the cleaner sources do not work. Maybe tidal power can be made practical, maybe not... Fusion is a pipe dream for at least a few decades.

*works - means economically viable

Solar has its place and will become more economically practical but is not the answer for everywhere...

@ FLsportscarenth...

I agree with you about that.

But has such a battery been developed yet?

Or build a huge transparent acrylic dome 100 miles in diameter and place it on top to keep it protected from pretty much anything but the sun.

Be fun to fix after airplanes or meteorites crash into it!

The main issue is availability and LCOE of solar. It really is not worth the cost at this point. If you look at DOE data, solar in $/kWhr is much more expensive than something like NG and will still rely on traditional power plants for changes in load and peak loads on the grid.

In the future, some hybrid system of fuel cells + solar could be feasible, but with current costs is impractical and a waste of investment.

@ Brian.C

What would be a better investment (in your opinion)?

For power generation, natural gas power plants or even SOFC. Since natural gas is so cheap right now they are the best option for return on investment (even better than coal because of current US emission requirements on power plants). A colleague of mine recently ran some numbers on a new plant that is going up in a few years and the IRR is nearly 20%/year for a 10 year lifetime (before a refit is necessary).

Obviously there are many other deciding factors for each specific project such as cost of land, engineerings, and specific components used, but in general natural gas is the way to go right now, but things can change quickly as these things are very sensitive to current government regulations and policies.

This is kind of a taboo option these days, but nuclear is another great alternative. Especially if reactor technology that runs on depleted fuel comes to fruition (I know Bill Gates is a big supporter of this). Main issues against this is really public opinion and a campaign against nuclear power (largely supported by coal and oil lobbyists). Nuclear allows immense power generation without reintroducing carbon into the environment and using depleted fuels only reduces the amount of radioactive material in storage (I think there is enough depleted fuel in storage for a few decades of power).

While solar seems pretty neat and there are TONS of potential exergy coming in from the sun, I believe that it will never be a primary source of power because of availability. I mentioned it briefly earlier, but ultimately I think the best sustainable source of energy would be solar + fuel cells. Solar energy can be used for hydrogen production from water with only oxygen as a byproduct. This hydrogen can be run through fuel cells to generate power as needed. Unfortunately, the technology for this is far off since both solar and fuel cell technology are both far from mature. There are a lot of papers on this and you should read them yourselves to gain your own thoughts on it!

Of course these are all my opinion and thoughts from my own experience.

Solar technology far from mature???

I suppose that improvement is always welcome, but the solar technology of today has been widely applied already on millions of rooftops on the planet already.

Yes, Fuel cell technology is certainly not mature yet. That's for sure.


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