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  1. #1
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    Great Solar plan for the US

    The current issue of Scientific American (Jan. 08) provides a comprehensive analysis of a plan to provide 69% of all our electricity and 35% of all US energy use through solar power generation by 2050. At costs comparable to traditional energy sources and with technology that is already available. It requires a large initial investment to scale up production and provide industry incentives of $420 Bil - less than we have spent so far on direct costs for the Iraq war.

    It also requires a land area of 30,000 sq miles, (300 x 100 mi), which is less than 1/8th of the available and suitable land in the Southwest US. While that area seems like a lot, it is less per Gigawatt than coal takes when the land for mining is taken into account, not to mention the environmental destruction associated with coal. Excess solar power for nightime use is stored as compressed air in underground caverns silmilar to what is used for natural gas storage all over the US already.

    http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=a-solar-grand-plan

    Happy New Year!
    Last edited by mtnroads; 01-01-08 at 08:13 PM.
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  2. #2
    Senior Member mike's Avatar
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    I like Arnold S. proposal to put solar panels on the roofs of whole neighborhoods in southern California and turn cities into electricity producers.
    Mike

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    Senior Member maddyfish's Avatar
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    Whats the enviromental heat trade off for that much space devited to solar panels?
    Not too much to say here

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    Senior Member mike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by maddyfish View Post
    Whats the enviromental heat trade off for that much space devited to solar panels?
    Good question. I have often wondered about that myself.

    Do solar panels absorb solar energy thus reducing the heat that would normally be added to our atmosphere? I wonder, for example, if buildings that have solar panels on them are naturally cooler than buildings with traditional roofing material because the solar energy is converted to electricity rather than heat that is absorbed into the roof.
    Mike

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by maddyfish View Post
    Whats the enviromental heat trade off for that much space devited to solar panels?
    Well, we're talking about desert here - sand and rock and dirt. It would seem to be a perfect use for it, and in fact the panels would provide some shading/reflectance that could provide a slight cooling benefit, since the planet is currently absorbing slightly more heat than it emits in radiation.
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by mike View Post
    Good question. I have often wondered about that myself.

    Do solar panels absorb solar energy thus reducing the heat that would normally be added to our atmosphere? I wonder, for example, if buildings that have solar panels on them are naturally cooler than buildings with traditional roofing material because the solar energy is converted to electricity rather than heat that is absorbed into the roof.
    Yes they absorb solar energy and provide shading, so the house would be slightly cooler as long as there is an airspace between the panel and the roof surface.
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  7. #7
    Senior Member mike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtnroads View Post
    Yes they absorb solar energy and provide shading, so the house would be slightly cooler as long as there is an airspace between the panel and the roof surface.
    So, solar paneled roofs used to power air conditioners for the building would be a double-plus; reduced heat absorbtion through the roof and using the roof space for powering a cooling system. That's neat.

    I suppose in fact, there are more efficient ways to cool a building like using solar evaporators. I remember seeing the most simple cooling systems on islands in the south pacific that just had water sprinklers on the sheet metal roofs. The sun was so God-awful hot that by the time the water slid down the roof, most of it evaporated before it hit the gutters. I don't know how effective they were in practice, but it must have worked to some extent.
    Mike

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    Evaporative cooling on a large surface area works pretty well - that's why we cool down when we sweat. And swamp coolers are more efficient than regular A/C (energy-wise) as long as it is a fairly dry climate. But you would not want to power regular A/C with solar panels - takes way too much juice to do that. Cooling fans like you mention, both inside and attic fans, automated window and shading to block solar gain and catch breezes all work pretty well. One of the biggest efficiency gains in a sunny/warm climate is a simple attic fan powered by a solar panel for summer use
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  9. #9
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    This sounds like one of several good plans for retooling the country's pathetic energy infrastructure. Why can't we study all the plans, select the best one, and begin implementing it within 5 years?

    This would make a great legacy for the next president, whoever he/she might be? Teddy Roosevelt will always be remembered for the Panama Canal and FDR for the Tennessee Valley Administration. Our 44th President should be remembered for ending both global warming and dependence on foreign energy. There is nothing this country could do right now that would be a better investment for the future.


    "Think Outside the Cage"

  10. #10
    Senior Member maddyfish's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtnroads View Post
    Yes they absorb solar energy and provide shading, so the house would be slightly cooler as long as there is an airspace between the panel and the roof surface.
    So the land where these would be in use would be cooler than it normally is?

    Would there be any way to do this, that didn't involve severely damaging the desert enviroment? In other words, are they off the ground enough that desert life would continue underneath? Or around them?

    How would that many panels affect water drain off? I know it doesn't rain much there, but when it does would the flash floods be better or worse than they are now?
    Not too much to say here

  11. #11
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by maddyfish View Post
    So the land where these would be in use would be cooler than it normally is?

    Would there be any way to do this, that didn't involve severely damaging the desert enviroment? In other words, are they off the ground enough that desert life would continue underneath? Or around them?

    How would that many panels affect water drain off? I know it doesn't rain much there, but when it does would the flash floods be better or worse than they are now
    ?
    I think it would totally **** up the desert environment. But it would be good for all the other environments.

    Overall, I doubt if the world would be any hotter or cooler. Isn't that the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics? But I suppose the local area could be affected.


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  12. #12
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    I think it's an awesome plan, and as you state, we need to get going on something that will work. Obviously this would need some further analysis but the basic concept seems sound and is exciting. Our planet is of course run by solar energy for the most part - the oceans, climate, even fossil fuels are the stored output of millions of years of solar energy, being used up in a few short centuries.
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    As far as f-ing up the desert environment - it may be that it would, or it may be possible to design in such a way that the impact is minimal. But the desert contains much less biodiversity than the rainforest and temperate zones which are currently at high risk due to global warming, so it might be a reasonable trade-off. We are currently losing over 3000 species/yr due to climate change and that can only go so far before the Earth loses the bio-complexity which maintains stability.
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    30,000 square miles! While I'm all for renewable energy, that's a gigantic area, about the size of all of South Carolina.

    I'd much prefer that we solar panel existing developed land than to condemn such a large new land area. People think of the desert SW as a wasteland, but it has it's own ecosystems and doesn't need to be ravaged by industrial development like this. It's not just the panels, but the roads to access them, the warehouses to supply the spare parts, the people to maintain the systems.

    Conservation is still the low-hanging fruit. I can't see condeming thousands of square miles of the desert to produce electricity cheap enough to light up empy skyscrapers at night.

    - Mark

  15. #15
    www.chipsea.blogspot.com ChipSeal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtnroads View Post
    As far as f-ing up the desert environment - it may be that it would, or it may be possible to design in such a way that the impact is minimal. But the desert contains much less biodiversity than the rainforest and temperate zones which are currently at high risk due to global warming, so it might be a reasonable trade-off. We are currently losing over 3000 species/yr due to climate change and that can only go so far before the Earth loses the bio-complexity which maintains stability.
    Yeah right! Name three species that went extinct in 2007.

    This is more fantasy from computer models. You need to avoid the the hysterical claims of the Earth First! crowd. It makes you look foolish.
    Vehicular cycling techniques have not been tried and found difficult. They have been presumed difficult and not tried.

  16. #16
    Senior Member swwhite's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChipSeal View Post
    Yeah right! Name three species that went extinct in 2007.
    I don't know three, but I can start off with the Yangtze River dolphin. I believe that was declared extinct in 2007.
    Riding in search of the simple life.

  17. #17
    Senior Member swwhite's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CrimsonEclipse View Post
    2999 to go...
    CE
    OK, you got me interested.

    Begonia eiromischa (whatever that is). I don't know of the following link will work.

    http://www.bic.org.my/?action=news&d...id=140907NST-0

    2998 to go.
    Riding in search of the simple life.

  18. #18
    Senior Member swwhite's Avatar
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    And the green sawfish. That gets our three.

    http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegrap...006009,00.html
    Riding in search of the simple life.

  19. #19
    Senior Member swwhite's Avatar
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    And finally, an extra just to be sure.

    http://www.cryptomundo.com/cryptozoo...okako-cryptid/
    Riding in search of the simple life.

  20. #20
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    Good work swwhite!
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  21. #21
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    I wonder why we need such massive efforts? Wouldn't we be better off if solar panel were distributed rather than centralized? If we had one on the roof, wouldn't that be better than transporting the energy across a state or continent?

    I ran into this proposal
    http://renu.citizenre.com/index.php?p=edu_solution where Ed Begley Jr talks about a plan to finance solar panels for private homes. To my mind, this type of deal has got to happen... it's just a matter of when.

  22. #22
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChipSeal View Post
    Yeah right! Name three species that went extinct in 2007.

    This is more fantasy from computer models. You need to avoid the the hysterical claims of the Earth First! crowd. It makes you look foolish.
    If you don't think something very serious is happening, I think you are seriously misinformed.

    http://www.cnn.com/2003/TECH/science...appearingfish/

    A new global study concludes that 90 percent of all large fishes have disappeared from the world's oceans in the past half century, the devastating result of industrial fishing.

    The study, which took 10 years to complete and was published in the international journal Nature this week, paints a grim picture of the Earth's current populations of such species as sharks, swordfish, tuna and marlin.

    The authors used data going back 47 years from nine oceanic and four continental shelf systems, ranging from the tropics to the Antarctic. Whether off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada, or in the Gulf of Thailand, the findings were dire, according to the authors.

    "I think the point is there is nowhere left in the ocean not overfished," said Ransom Myers, a fisheries biologist at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia and lead author of the study.

    If you think this information is coming from an "Earth First!" source, you should try asking the hundreds of thousands of unemployed fishermen about this.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by gerv View Post
    I wonder why we need such massive efforts? Wouldn't we be better off if solar panel were distributed rather than centralized? If we had one on the roof, wouldn't that be better than transporting the energy across a state or continent?

    I ran into this proposal
    http://renu.citizenre.com/index.php?p=edu_solution where Ed Begley Jr talks about a plan to finance solar panels for private homes. To my mind, this type of deal has got to happen... it's just a matter of when.
    That looks interesting - thanks for the link. the concept is sound but solar PV is not quite as simple as the cell phone model that was mentioned in the video. There are installation constraints, orientation, shading from trees, etc. Plus how does it work if the person moves or sells the home? Those are just a few questions I would have, but I think the idea is a good one. Anything to get around the barrier of high initial capital cost helps.

    As far as why centralized over de-centralized solar generation, it is because there are tremendous cost efficiencies with scale - in cost per watt, installation, maintenance, etc. Putting it in a location of consistently high daily solar insolation eliminates the siting variables. And the size of the project would stimulate significant capital investment which would hopefully drive the cost/watt down.

    Still, ultimately I think we will need both centralized and decentralized solar, combined with wind where it is viable, geothermal, etc. The important lesson is that our needs can be met with renewables and there are alternatives to the destructive path of continued fossil fuel use.
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  24. #24
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    If you impact one area, your going to have an effect that is felt in other areas. So if you change the weather over AZ, then you can have a negative effect on the weather in TX.

    I remember reading that it only takes a few panels to power a house, and several home builders have done the leg work to find out how it would impact everything if we were to add panels to new homes being built. The main reason it hasn't gotten started is the extra cost. Most Americans don't buy a house they can truly afford, they buy what they can afford if they use every penny.

    When I build my next home, I plan to add a few panels.

    -Nate
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

  25. #25
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    Takes more than a few panels

    It takes more than a few panels to power the average US home - more like 16-24 of the 160W panels, at about $1K ea. That doesn't include the cost of the inverters, cut-off switches, wiring, breakers, etc, or installation. Actually that would be for a modest size home in California, a temperate climate where the average home uses only 500kWh/mo (the national average is double that). This is why the cheapest solar is the solar you avoid having to install because you cut your usage through conservation first.

    That's not to say that a small efficient cabin-size home that is well-designed couldn't do with a lot less, so in that scenario a half dozen might be enough, depending on location. Or just start small and add as you go. It's all good, as they say.
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