Empty Energy Promises II: Solar Energy

August 28th, 2007

Share

Empty Energy Promises is a series of posts over the next couple of month which will look into the claims of some of some of the most hyped technologies and energy sources, and ask whether in reality, they have any real chance of living up to what they are being hailed as. This is not an anti-environmental posting, but quite the opposite. It’s the view of Depleted Cranium that pouring money and resources into energy sources which do not have a real chance of being a workable solution to enviornmental and energy needs is counter-productive and does nothing to help the environment. Sometimes what you hope for and the truth are not the same.

PREVIOUS EDITION: Vol I: A Very Very Inconvenient Truth (More energy, not less!)

How much energy are we talking about? Check out this handy chart!

Solar Energy:

In the past twenty to thirty years, literally billions of dollars have been spent on research and development of solar energy as a viable form of usable utility-level electricity. Many are convinced that solar energy is the key to the future energy needs of man. Installation of solar panels on homes and business is being promoted by many, with claims that the panels can pay for themselves in just a few years. While this may be true for the property owner, this is mostly due to massive government subsidies for the use of solar energy.

In the US alone, generous tax breaks, energy vouchers and other government programs designed to promote solar energy have spent untold billions of dollars. Solar power stations in the US, Spain and Germany have been built at costs of hundreds of millions of dollars each, despite being of rather modest generation capacity, by grid standards. Despite this truly massive expenditure of funds and resources only a tiny fraction of a percentage of electricity comes from solar energy. And the rapid growth of solar, relatively speaking, has been puny compared to the rate at which coal-burning power plants are being built.

 

This chart shows power generation sources for the US in 2005. Where’s solar? It’s lumped in with
“other” along with waste-heat-recovery, wind, biomass, dump gas recovery and other methods. The
actual portion of energy generated is around .011%-.034%or so, depending on how it’s counted
(on grid capacity, total capacity, total operating capacity, etc.) Chart source

But why? What is wrong with this picture? Why is it that solar energy seems to be relegated to remote sites and satellites and space stations? There is a limiting factor of solar energy, and there is no way around it. Quite simply: a given amount of solar panels doesn’t give you that much power. And it never will be able to. This is because light, even on a bright sunny day, only contains a relatively small amount of energy. The energy which the sun illuminating a one square foot patch on a sunny day might be a few watts, at the very most. That’s under the best of conditions. And conditions are very rarely that good. Solar energy produces no energy at night, little energy at dawn and dusk and less on cloudy days.

Combine this with the fact that even the best systems now are only about 40% efficient, and most are less than 30% and it becomes apparent that it’s a loosing battle. Even if, in theory, 100% efficiency conversion method were discovered, and even if solar costs could be cut by 75%, the power density is so low, that the sheer amount of land needed, the maintenance of the facilities, the fact that solar cells degrade after a decade or so, the cost of installation and other incidental expenses means that solar energy is likely to remain one of the most expensive and impractical means of generating electricity.

This is not to say it does not have it’s place. For satellite and space probes, which bask in the high intensity of the sun’s direct rays nearly continuously, solar energy is ideal. For powering remote motoring stations, communications relays or for failsafe energy for emergency equipment, solar is a natural choice. And for homes and businesses, solar water heating panels are a great way to take some of the load off of heating off of furnaces or water heaters.

Solar power generation schemes can be broken up into two basic types: Photovoltaic and thermal.

Photovoltaic:

These are the well known panels which you see on emergency road-side phones, calculators and satellites. In some applications they work great. For remote locations that need a source of energy that does not require refueling, or for space flight, where highly intense sunlight is nearly constant, they can be the best choice. But can they really be a major source of power for the electrical grid? There are some major shortcomings of the technology which make it a very poor choice for major energy needs.

Problems:

Expensive – Even though a single solar cell might not seem like it is that costly, outfitting a building with them can cost many thousands, even to produce a small fraction of the structures power needs. And although many will claim government subsidies and tax breaks can counteract the cost, this does not actually make them more economically feasible, it just means that the end user does not always foot the whole bill. Solar cells are, when it comes down to it, semiconductor devices, and large arrays of them are simply not cheap.

Require Huge Amounts of Space – The best solar cells are, right now, about 30% efficient, and experimental prototypes have pushed 40% efficiency in converting light to electricity. But even at such high efficiencies, covering the roof of the average home would only be enough to cover basic energy needs when the sun is shining and few appliances are running. Turn on the air conditioner, the lights and the washing machine, and you’ll be pushing the limits of the available power. Even with batteries for surge needs, it’s not likely that you could ever power a house on solar energy without some very drastic cuts in energy usage, such as no electric oven, only a tiny television, a high efficiency laptop computer and small LED lights. Either that, or you will need massive amounts of realestate.

Non-Constant Power – The most obvious problem is that they simply do not produce energy when you need it. Rather, energy comes when the sun is out. If it’s overcast or night, you have no energy. Thus, the energy needs to be stored somehow. Either that, or have another source of energy when solar is not available. Both have issues. Using batteries, hydrogen or pumped water storage, huge amounts of energy are lost to the inherent inefficiency of the storage medium. Hydroelectric dams can be opened, coal fired plants can be put online when needed and nuclear reactors have variable thermal outputs, so most energy sources can be made available when needed. But not solar. If there is a huge need for power and it’s night, you have a problem. If it’s a sunny day and there is little demand, you could have a surplus, if the grid uses solar as a major power source.

Low Voltage DC Power – Solar cells produce DC electricity, but the power grid uses AC. In order to convert the DC to AC current requires a process called inversion. This process is somewhat lossy and as much as 25% of the energy can be lost to heat in the process of converting it to AC. But it gets worse: the voltage produced by solar cells varies greatly, depending on the intensity of the light. This needs to be compensated for and the regulation process can produce even more energy loss.

It’s important for the power grid to have reliable and stable power. If solar energy were to become a major part of the power grid’s generating capacity, it would make it difficult to ensure that there is always enough power to meet needs and that spontaneous brownouts do not occur if a freak thunderstorm should block out the sun.

 

Simply put, it just is not practical as a means of generating electricity for general purpose fixed sites and power grid usage. The amount of cells needed and their inconsistent output precludes it from ever being more than a very small portion of energy production. Even if price could be reduced to less than 10% of what it is now, it simply is, to put it bluntly: never going to happen.

Just look at one example of an attempt to produce a solar photovoltaic power plant:

Largest Single photovoltaic station under operation/construction:
Waldpolenz Solar Park – Leipzig, Germany
Maximum Power output – 40 Megawatts (under optimal conditions)
Expected Annual Energy Output: 40,000MWh
Average Power Output: Approximately 4.5 megawatts*

Land Used: 220 hectares / 543 acres / approximately .85 square miles
Cost: Approximately 130-160 million euros, projected. Or about a quarter of a billion US dollars.

*The amount of power output by the plant, ranges from as much as 40 megawatts down to approximately zero at night. The the total energy generated in a year is equivalent to the plant operating continuously at 4.5 megawatts.

The other major form of solar energy for electricity is Solar Thermal:

Basically this approach concentrates sun light in order to heat a fluid or other medium and then drive a sterling engine, steam engine or some other sort of thermal engine. It’s somewhat comparable to the solar water panels on homes, which preheat water to help reduce the energy used by a water heater. However, to effectively produce electricity requires much greater temperatures than such panels.

This can take the form of either troughs of parabolic mirrors to collect light, or a “power tower” design, in which tracking mirrors move with the sun and reflect it toward a central heat collector. One major advantage of these systems is that they can retain heat for some period of time, allowing power to not be entirely limited to times of good sunlight, but also be stored for a short time after.

Unfortunately, such systems are really only suited to areas with a lot of direct sunlight, such as deserts. And the cost to energy ratio is not that much better than photovoltaics.

Here are a few examples:

 

“Nevada Solar One” is one of the latest attempts using a “Trough” design. It should become operational in a few years.

It is currently under construction.

Maximum Power Output- 64 Megawatts (summer, Daytime)
Average Power Output – Unknown. Estimated around 30-50 Megawatts

Land used: Approximately 250 acres for collectors.
Cost: Proposed at roughly $240 million. New estimates may be as much as a half billion dollars!

The system involves pumping fluid through piping to be heated by the solar mirrors and then collected and used to power a thermal engine. Unfortunately it seems this may have issues with leaks and need for maintenance and operating costs.

 


“Solar Two” is one of two experimental solar “Power Towers” which the United States DOE constructed. Each uses hundreds of mirrors pointed at a tower, which contains a system of molten salts and heat exchangers which can power a thermal engine. In experiments, the system proved capable of producing approximately 30 megawatts. However, only 10 megawatts could be produced continuously and reliably. Over a billion dollars have been spent on research and construction of solar thermal systems in Mojave desert of the US. It also takes up a considerable amount of space. The mirrors alone take up about 30 acres.

(Notice from the construction crane. This thing is quite huge)

The first fully-operational, grid-power system is scheduled to be built in Spain within the next few years. It will be larger than the Solar Project prototype systems built in the US and will have up to 2493 highly reflective mirrors, mounted on a complex system of gimbals and actuators, in order to focus the sun as it moves.

The system, dubbed Solar Tres, is expected to produce 15 megawatts continuously and will cost a projected 100 million US Dollars.

 

 

What does a solar car look like?

Okay, but how long until they get it so that regular sized and shaped cars can be powered by solar energy?
NEVER

It simply cannot happen. The car shown above hardly qualifies as a “car” it’s high efficiency electric motors drive at a reasonable pace, but it’s occupant sits in a tiny, unairconditioned seat, in a tiny, ultralight weight car, made of flimsy materials, with no radio, no power steering, not even power breaks. It is designed for absolute efficiency and covered with highly efficient solar cells. Even so, it does not even have enough spare power for blinkers, and it must be followed by a safety vehicle.

The reason it will never be a full sized car? If you covered every inch of a car with solar cells, you would simply not be able to get enough energy from light to propel and operate the car. Even if the solar cells were nearly 100% efficient. And forget about A/C, power windows, radio or anything else. There is a certain amount of energy which is required to move a vehicle over hills, against air and to accelerate to a reasonable speed from a stop. And the amount of light which falls on the surface of a vehicle contains nowhere near that energy. You can’t break the laws of physics.

Conclusion:

Solar energy has an important place for certain tasks. For operating remote sensors or equipment that cannot be accessed and is away from power sources; for providing energy to space probes and satellites; for redundant power for low-consumption items, solar is a natural choice. But for a major source of grid electricity? It is unlikely that the issues inherent to solar energy will ever allow it to be economical or practical for large power needs. It may be affordable to individuals, but only if they take advantage of the government incentives. And despite how it may seem, Uncle Sam does not have unlimited funds. And certainly not enough to make a solar powered society a realistic possibility. It would cost trillions upon trillions, if it ever even could be done.

 

Sources for info:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_Two
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nevada_Solar_One
http://news.mongabay.com/2006/0209-solar.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_Power
http://www.solarenergy.org/
http://www.treehugger.com/files/2006/04/largest_solar_p.php
http://www.renewableenergyaccess.com/rea/news/story?id=47541


(Why isn’t it all footnoted and numbered? Because it’s a blog post, not a graduate thesis. Still, the information is factually accurate. If it isn’t, then prove it. And I’ll have to eat crow. But… that isn’t going to happen.)


This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 28th, 2007 at 12:28 am and is filed under Bad Science, Enviornment, Website. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
View blog reactions

27 Responses to “Empty Energy Promises II: Solar Energy”

  1. 1
    Nicholas Says:

    Excellent write-up, I have to say.
    At first blush, it’s a little disturbing to see a negative slant toward solar energy, but if renewable energy is going to succeed, it’s got to be able to stand up to very intense scrutiny.
    If there’s a fallacy in your argument (and I know very little about this so there may not be), it’s that solar doesn’t necessarily need to support the entire grid. Rather, it just needs to carry a certain percentage of the load and that percentage can vary by region/climate.
    The other interesting point you make is that solar can be relatively cheap for the home user, but only because of government subsidies. I agree that eventually it needs to be affordable without any government support, but we do need to keep in mind that nuclear, coal and petroleum are the most highly subsidized of all, from what I understand. If we could remove those subsidies and move them to subsidize renewables wouldn’t we be better off?

    Learning more about Sustainable Living at:
    http://www.movinglikewater.com


    Quote Comment
  2. 2
    drbuzz0 Says:

    I agree with you that solar power has it’s place. Okay, first of all: Water heating and home heating. At worst, it does nothing. At best, you burn almost no fuel. And it’s dirt cheap because it’s so simple.

    Now, one argument which has been made is that it does not need to support the whole grid. Okay, but if it cannot support 50% or 25% or 2%? Well, at some point you can say “We spend twenty billion dollars and decreased co2 emissions by 2% or the equivalent of a single power plant closing.” Well then the question is could that same money have done more elsewhere?

    What if you added hydroelectric capabilities to a dam what was only flood-control? or put it into deep ocean turbines? or into geothermal energy? Or to improving the efficiency of existing steam or water turbines? Or swapping out old inefficient transformers?

    If you stack things up, wind, ocean current, geothermal, tidal, hydroelectric: You can look at the money spent and what you get in return.

    Honestly, you want to make a difference, I’d really say that solar wise: I don’t understand why everybody who has a house doesn’t put some solar water panels on the roof! Just think of this: How hot does it get in an attic in the summer? Really damn hot. Put up some panels and now you can go all summer without using nearly any energy for your hot shower in the morning! And even in the winter, the system can still heat water enough to reduce heating costs. Oh and also… in the summer, it can help draw heat away from your roof (cooler with less air conditioning use).

    And did I mention again that by comparison it’s cheap and simple?

    This is what I’d love to see some more focus on. I think that there’s a lot that can be done for a lot better return.

    Thanks a lot for your comment!


    Quote Comment
  3. 3
    Moving Like Water » Does solar have what it takes? Says:

    [...] that spirit, I read with great interest a write up on the challenges of solar power over at Depleted Cranium. In essence, the point of the article is that the cost and lack of efficiencies inherent in solar [...]


    Quote Comment
  4. 4
    Solarguy Says:

    First off, a couple of corrections. Solar panels are nowhere near 40% or even 30% efficient. right now the best commercially available panels in the world are under 18%. By the time you consider all the other system losses in getting that DC power from the panels into grid power, you are looking at 15% max. But actually panel efficiency is not the problem, it is the price per watt. Panel efficiency is only important in that less efficiency = more room for the same watts.

    We have been in the solar electric business for over 25 years, so you would think that we would be arguing with the article. The problem is, aside from a few minor what it says is about 95% true. Right now – despite what you might hear from the Earth Muffins – solar is one of the most subsidized industries in the world. The only thing that comes close is Ethanol (another loser..).

    Solar electric has a place, but it will never be a large place for all of the reasons cited in the article. For one example, it may be useful in the sunbelt states to reduce peak power spikes from noon to evening when all the air conditioners kick in. The world could save 10-20% (or more) with energy conservation, but that is not “cool” and does not make for showpieces to tell all your neighbors how green you are.


    Quote Comment
  5. 5
    Herre Rost van Tonningen Says:

    Solar cells are at the moment 2 tot 3 times too expensive for massive use. However the rate of reducing the costprice is comparable with the chips technology of computers which is 100 times in 10 years.
    It looks like the author is only facing to the past and so he is right.
    But in 2 to 3 years solar energy (thermal and photovoltaic) will be the first choice for renewable energy.
    For that we need some courageous governments and utilities who help this to happen by subsidizing certain projects

    And let me correct the solar value: that is about 1 kW per sqm or 90 watt per sqft in good conditions.


    Quote Comment
  6. 6
    drbuzz0 Says:

    In response to solarguy: There have been some developments of a 42% efficient photovoltaic effect compound. The current standard is about 30 or so, for the compound alone. When pressed into the final cell, connected and made into a panel, yes the efficiency would be 10-18% or so. This is due to practical factors like internal resistance and the attenuation factors of protective coatings. I went with the number of 30% efficiency, because I wanted to be sure I was being very generous. Numbers approaching this are theoretically possible with the photo voltaic effect.

    I agree that it’s a bit high, and perhaps I should have added context. It was somewhat meant to be “What is the maximum theoretical limit” one could expect a solar cell to achieve. The point being: There is a ceiling. Even if you had some of the best systems around. So 30% is basically a basic estimate of the practical upper limit. With any energy conversion system breaking 50% effeciency in converting thermal/luminous/ionization or other similar energy to electricity is very very difficult. And getting 100% is effectively impossible.

    “IN THIS HOUSE WE RESPECT THE LAWS OF THERMODYNAMICS” – Homer Simpson

    Herre: I think you should double check your numbers 1kw per square meter sounds about like what you get in geosynchronous orbit altitude total.

    The point is that there is a practical limit for luminous energy conversion. It’s about 40%, but that’s in some very advanced materials in the lab. If you want better you have to go to something entirely different. Maybe some nano technology or exotic conversion mechanism?

    But that is immaterial. The point is, no matter how much money you pour into efficiency, breaking 50% would be… very difficult and unlikely… breaking 100% is against the laws of physics.

    You can’t get more energy than is avaliable for a given area of illumination. Simple as that. Just can’t.

    But if I come down on solar too hard it’s because of what I see way too much of: The misconception that the wave of the future is a solar powered world. “We don’t need any more powerplants” or “Soon we’ll be off of oil with solar” or “Why are we burning coal when the sun is right there.”

    Well… it simply ain’t that easy. Now, if you put solar panels on your roof and run your house on it, props. At least you’re going out of your way to personally take a stand. And solar panels are unbeatable for remote locations, for satellites and for low power uses.

    But seriously: If we make out energy plans for a solar powered world in ten years. We’re going to be in trouble in 10 years.


    Quote Comment
  7. 7
    Pangean Says:

    Even if we accept your calculations which lead to 40W/sq m, (which are skewed lower by the lower solar intensity in the wealthy Global North, and if we assume that the world is currently underconsuming its true energy needs by a factor let\’s say 5 (rich countries wastefully overconsuming by 2X, poor countries underconsuming by 10X), then total potential global energy needs (electric, heat, and transpo) today are 60 TW, then the world would need the grand total of 1,500,000 sq km of solar.

    sounds like a lot, but it\’s not!

    since i accepted the 40W/sq m number which is based on the value of solar averaged across the cold and temperate zones, then let us use as our denominator – 135,000,000 sq km – the land area of NorAm, Europe, LatAm, Africa, Australia, and Asia.

    Only ~1% of global land area is necessary to power the entire world\’s latent energy needs!
    Throw in population growth of 50% by 2050, and excluding overall improvements in energy efficiency for all industrial processes, then we might need as much as 2% of global land area……and of course, we could also use ocean surface area, but even without doing so, at most only 2% of land surface area is needed, and under these solar farms, there can still be animal grazing and farming.

    Despite high retail prices for solar modules, which are partly driven by insufficient silicon fab capacity, the underlying manufacturing costs continue to drop, and are widely estimated to reach $1/watt within the next 3 years, and will continue to drop far beyond that….I am already informed by a CEO of a solar company that they have designs that reach $1/watt today INCLUDING inverter, rigging and installation, and expect to reach $0.29/watt by 2010 at 5MW scales.

    $1/watt is the magic number, at which solar is competitive with the cheapest coal fired plants built circa 2000. In fact, the costs of new coal, nuclear and natural gas power plants now are reaching $2 – $3/watt due to shortages of steel, concrete, etc.

    This $1/watt number will be reached broadly within the solar space sometime between 2010 and 2014 (earlier numbers from the startups, the later number from the older companies like Boeing Spectrolabs).

    Intermittency:
    The intermittency of solar will be temporarily (10-20 years) addressed by storage technologies such as nanobatteries and supercapacitors.

    In the very short run, it is overcome by supplementation of the existing coal, oil, nuke, gas, (CONG) and hydro grid.

    For the vast majority of the people of the world, there is no grid electricity, thus solar represents a huge advance even with the intermittency and required storage technologies. Just as cell phones leapfrogged landlines in the Global South, so too, will solar and wind leapfrog CONG.

    The ultimate overcoming of solar\’s intermittency will occur by 2030 at the latest, via lossless, intercontinental high temperature superconducting (HTSC) power lines.

    Both the DOE and the EU\’s visions for the Grid 2030 include intercontinental HTSC lines.

    The first HTSC cables are being laid next year in NYC and Long Island. The first lines will be expensive and short – 1,000m long, and costing triple the price of copper. The superconducting cable manufacturers expect costs to match copper within 5 years.

    After a period of superconducting advancement drought and disappointment from 1989 until this year, there has been a spate of recent advancements in the field, and the optimism has returned.

    The end result is that somewhere on earth, the sun is always shining, and if that power can be transmitted with minimal loss to where it is needed, then the power storage problem diminishes significantly, except for transportation applications.

    Global solar power capacity installation has doubled every 2 years for the last 16 years.
    A continuation of that doubling pace, which is inevitable as solar\’s relative prices continue to decline compared to rising costs of CONG, means that in 10 years, solar will reach at least 3.2% of global energy.
    Continue those 24 month doublings for another 10 years after that, and in 20 years solar will be only competing with wind as the cheapest source of energy in the world, and will have replaced almost all over forms of energy.

    This trend will be even more exaggerated in the Global South, which is much more heavily impacted by marginal increases in the cost of hydrocarbon energy, and which is the locale of the largest growth rate of energy usage.

    So, in a sense I agree with your point that in 10 years, it is unlikely to be either a wind or solar majority powered world, with the two sources likely to add up to ONLY 15% of global energy, but in 20 years, solar and wind will have replaced all over forms of energy generation – CONG – aside from utilization of methane from human, animal, plant and garbage dump waste. And this replacement will have occurred with an overall massive growth in energy usage, especially in the Global South,

    The future is bright, but the path is torturous.

    The triumph of solar and wind energy is inevitable, but there will have to be considerable efforts at industrial and agricultural efficiency gains, systematic carpooling, and energy rationing to accommodate the energy disruptions brought about by currency collapse, imperialist wars in petro zones, depletion of cheap energy sources, and resistance to pollution-generating power plants.


    Quote Comment
  8. 8
    Depleted Cranium » Blog Archive » Greenpeace Issues “Top Ten” against nuclear power Says:

    [...] as mentioned here before, “renewables” like wind and solar can barely hope to fulfill even a tiny percentage of power generation, despite billions upon [...]


    Quote Comment
  9. 9
    Everything for Kids Says:

    Everything for Kids

    I couldn’t understand some parts of this article, but it sounds interesting


    Quote Comment
  10. 10
    Depleted Cranium » Blog Archive » Nanosolar “Worlds Lowest Cost Solar” Says:

    [...] sorry, but research and development advances is NEVER going to solve the issues of solar, because light onl…g, no matter how much effeciency you manage to [...]


    Quote Comment
  11. 11
    massachusetts criminal defense attorney Says:

    Mass. Man, 67, Charged With

    PORTSMOUTH, NH — A 67-year-old Massachusetts man is being held on a $500000 bail after being arraigned in Portsmouth on


    Quote Comment
  12. 12
    Depleted Cranium » Blog Archive » Nellis Airforce Base Gets Green Energy (It Burns Greenbacks) Says:

    [...] precipitation or clouds. This compares very favorably to other solar installations, for example Waldpolenz Solar Park in Germany has a capacity of over five times that of this solar installation but produces only marginally more [...]


    Quote Comment
  13. 13
    Chows Says:

    Hey guys, Solar car you see in the last section is from U of T (you can see it on the nose), I am actually on the team. That car was able to race in the North American Solar Challenge from Chicago to LA through the Rockies and that car was able to climb the mountain using 16.8% efficient silicon solar panels with 30Kg of Li-Polymer batteries If we were able to get 100% efficient cells on the car, we would be able to make it look like a Ferrari and perhaps go as fast as one-with air conditioning.

    The vehicles we build is to show the world how little power you actually need to go from point A to point B, these races/competitions are the F1 of green racing. What this means is that we design our vehicles to optimize for aerodynamics and weight so it looks like an airplane wing and weighs next to nothing, that’s why its small and needs a chase vehicle. Power and energy saving is what we are competing against, the two window slits you see at the nose are flashers, we would turn them on if we were required to, but since every watt counts, we would rather save it for kinetic energy rather than…making it pretty.

    By the way, if you modify a Prius and make it come with a solar panel, take out the gas engine and replace it with batteries, you will have a solar car that works reliably, oh and Prius’ are being sold as we speak, so solar powered cars are nearer than “never”.

    The solar car has about 8m^2 of array, and we expect 1000watts/m2, so that means if we had 100% efficient solar cells, we would expect a little less than 8000 watts of power due to curvature of the body. On the race, we had 16.8% solar cells which meant we used only 1344 watt, leaving approximately 6000+ watts for air conditioning, which takes about 7hp (5215 watts) and 1000 more to go much much much faster.

    There actually a lot of wrong information presented here, but i have to go back to work. Whoever wrote this article clearly did not do their research, don’t believe in what this article says.


    Quote Comment
  14. 14
    ERnesSto Says:

    really even me , I am 16 years old and i have not seen someone so negative! I think you should do more of your research. Chow i really believe what chow says, for the fact that i have just got in to this subject in school! There are some wrong facts here..

    -_-”
    wow :( too bad this guy who created this web probably doesn’t like mother nature.. or maybe I am wrong he likes oil and get stuff easy .. umm idk
    pretty good how you narrate stuff and can manipulate people with your thoughts and research xD


    Quote Comment
  15. 15
    drbuzz0 Says:

    I do not “like oil” and actually I think petroleum is a becoming and more and more problematic energy source. Let me try to explain something to you here: Solar can’t do it. It can’t be a major energy source. That’s the fact of it. It’s not that I don’t want it to be or think it would be nice if it were.

    Believe me, it would be great if you could just pull lots of energy out of the sky. Sorry, but you can’t. There’s no easy cost-effective way to do it.

    This is not false at all. This is the honest truth.

    Are you saying I don’t “like mother nature” because I’m telling it to you straight? You’d like to have a fantasy that a given energy source will save the world when it won’t and can’t.

    Look, ERneSto, the fact that you’re in school and only 16 is something I’m glad to hear. You’re the kind of person I want to get to. You are at a point where you’re starting to gather the facts and evaluate things and up to now you’ve probably been fed a lot of overly optimistic messages that do not jive with reality.


    Quote Comment
  16. 16
    drbuzz0 Says:

            Chows said:

    The vehicles we build is to show the world how little power you actually need to go from point A to point B, these races/competitions are the F1 of green racing. What this means is that we design our vehicles to optimize for aerodynamics and weight so it looks like an airplane wing and weighs next to nothing, that’s why its small and needs a chase vehicle. Power and energy saving is what we are competing against, the two window slits you see at the nose are flashers, we would turn them on if we were required to, but since every watt counts, we would rather save it for kinetic energy rather than…making it pretty.

    By the way, if you modify a Prius and make it come with a solar panel, take out the gas engine and replace it with batteries, you will have a solar car that works reliably, oh and Prius’ are being sold as we speak, so solar powered cars are nearer than “never”.

    The solar car has about 8m^2 of array, and we expect 1000watts/m2, so that means if we had 100% efficient solar cells, we would expect a little less than 8000 watts of power due to curvature of the body. On the race, we had 16.8% solar cells which meant we used only 1344 watt, leaving approximately 6000+ watts for air conditioning, which takes about 7hp (5215 watts) and 1000 more to go much much much faster.

    There actually a lot of wrong information presented here, but i have to go back to work. Whoever wrote this article clearly did not do their research, don’t believe in what this article says.

    Okay, first of all, you can never have 100% effecient solar cells. There are thermodynamic factors that come into play but beyond that it’s the simple nature of the photovoltaic effect. Every time an electron is excited from an atom by a photon, it either is captured by one of the junctions of the solar cell or it settles to another atom with a positive charge and the two cancel each other out. You can never get 100% assurance that every electron will be collected. Also not every photon will cause an electron to be transferred and thus create a net charge. Many will only add heat to the material.

    a 100% effecient solar cell is therefore a physical impossibility. The solar cells we have now, some of them can break 20% and even push 25-26%. The fact that solar cells that good exist is nothing short of astounding. It is a feat of engineering that is just amazing.

    Now, as you state, the car built was built to show how little energy you could get by with – to squeeze every drop of effeciency out of a vehicle. The problem is it can’t cut it for real cars. People can’t be expected to drop their kids off at school and go pick up the groceries in a car that is like that. Realistically cars need to be big enough to carry a couple of passengers, tall enough to be seen on the highway, strong enough to endure an accident etc.

    Also, the above car was driving in a dry area in the summer – the best conditions you could hope for.

    To get a car to run at acceptable safety and performance is going to require more than a few horsepower. Seven horsepower is barely enough to run a sitdown lawn mower on. No, you need much more than that for a practical general purpose automobile.

    The Pruis could be converted to all battery but that would really diminish the survivability because it was built as a parallel hybrid. This means the electric motors on their own are not necessarily sufficient for general driving. However, it’s possible that yes you could add additional batteries and beef up the motors and that would give you an electric car with modest range.

    Adding solar panels to the roof of the Pruis is an option some people have gone for, but the fact is that it does not produce enough power to drive on or even to make a signifficant difference in energy consumption. Under the best conditions you’ll only get less than 100 or so watts and under most conditions you’ll get worse. That is not enough to drive on., In fact, it’s not even close.

    The only possibility is that if you left it sitting in the sun for a couple of weeks, without driving, it might be enough to add some charge to the battery, but only if you’ve got pretty good conditions, like it’s the mid summer and you’re not parked in the shade.


    Quote Comment
  17. 17
    Q Says:

            ERnesSto said:

    really even me , I am 16 years old and i have not seen someone so negative! I think you should do more of your research. Chow i really believe what chow says, for the fact that i have just got in to this subject in school! There are some wrong facts here..

    -_-”
    wow :( too bad this guy who created this web probably doesn’t like mother nature.. or maybe I am wrong he likes oil and get stuff easy .. umm idk
    pretty good how you narrate stuff and can manipulate people with your thoughts and research xD

    No it’s nothing of the sort. The author doesn’t dislike nature or have a thing for oil. This is just the true, brutually honest facts. If you care at all about the enviornment then you’ll listen to this and actually consider the limitations of solar power.

    Do you realize solar panels have been around since the 1950′s? if they could provide limitless clean power why haven’t they? Just stop eating the propaganda and look at the skeptical side for a change. Really, this is too important to not understand.

    This is reality and the reality is that you’ve been given false or slanted information.


    Quote Comment
  18. 18
    Jon Says:

    http://www.digitalworldtokyo.com/index.php/digital_tokyo/articles/gasoline_car_converted_to_run_on_solar_power/


    Quote Comment
  19. 19
    drbuzz0 Says:

    It’s an electric car. They replaced the gasoline motor with an electric motor or electric motors. It has a battery. The solar panels may charge the battery, but not nearly enough to drive on them. The energy is negligible compared to the energy used to drive.

    An electric car is going to require a certain amount of energy. It can be up to 500 watt hours per mile. For a small car like that, it could be less, maybe as few as 100 watt hours per mile, but it has to be something significant because the car must accelerate over its own inertia and it must also overcome wind resistance and rolling resistance (tire deformation and axle friction).

    So there’s only so little energy you can get by with. You can’t shrink it to zero because there will always be air and always be some resistance and nothing is 100% effecient etc. Current batteries can give descent range, not great range, but descent. There are plenty of efforts working on this front and its totally possible to run a car on batteries for a good 50+ miles. That’s no problem.

    So for the car to be powered by solar energy, the power provided by the solar panels must be as much or more than the car consumers, understand? If it’s less then the car is just running off batteries and the solar cells only contribute slightly. They may charge the battery if the car is not running, but it could take weeks or months. More likely you’d plug it in.

    With me so far?

    What I’m saying is if the solar cells don’t provide enough energy to drive the car on their own, then really the car is running on battery power. This make sense?

    Okay, so lets look at those panels. They don’t even cover the entire hood of the car. They cover maybe 75% of it. What would you say that is in terms of surface? Maybe a square meter. Maybe one and a half square meters?

    Okay, now you can look this up if you don’t believe me, but the amount of energy from the sun per square meter is about 200 watts per square meter on average. For a bright sunny day it can be as high as 1200 watts per square meter.

    So if that’s one and a half square meters we could have about 1800 watts of theoretical maximum energy. Almost two kilowatts. That’s the total amount of energy that is coming from the sun and hitting those panels under the best conditions. Still with me?

    Okay, now that energy needs to be converted to electricity. There’s a certain effeceicny for this. It runs about like this:

    Consumer Solar cells = about 16% = 288 watts
    Really high end consumer cells = about 24% max = 432 watts
    Exotic Super Effecient Laboratory Bleeding Edge Cells = about 33% = 594 watts

    Okay, so if you’re still with me, then we can assume that if those are the best, most exotic, cutting edge, specialty solar cells and if it’s a bright bright perfectly clear day then we might get a bit less than 600 watts. But we will more likely get less than 300 watts if we’re using normal solar cells that can be afforded.

    Okay, now my car has about 180 horsepower which is about 130 kilowatts (kilowatts is thousands of watts) so it would never be even a tiny fraction of the power to run my car, even if the motors were 100% effecient.

    So how little power could this car have? Well, lets think. about 5 horsepower is a riding lawnmower, and if this car is going to drive on highways and such it’s going to need at least 20 or so horsepower and probably much more, but 20 would be about the bare minimum.

    That comes out to about 15 kilowatts or about 15,000 watts. That doesn’t include the air conditioning or windshield wipers or power steering, of course, but clearly we have nowhere near the power required.

    So do you believe in math?


    Quote Comment
  20. 20
    Allen Ross Says:

    Everyone thinks that solar and/or wind are the answer to our energy problems– bull. What will light our homes and heat and cool us if the sun is not shinning and the wind isn’t blowing??? you guest it your good old local power plant. Power plants can’t be shut down, ever, something MUST be there when the wind stops or the sun dosen’t shine. All our efforts at saving the planet by eliminateing power plants will ultimatelly fall on its face and we will decide that nucular or ??? will work better. The solar and wind industries are A complete joke if you consider their unreliability. Spend your money and disconnect the power meter– now enjoy.


    Quote Comment
  21. 21
    DV82XL Says:

            Pangean said:

    The triumph of solar and wind energy is inevitable, but there will have to be considerable efforts at industrial and agricultural efficiency gains, systematic carpooling, and energy rationing to accommodate the energy disruptions brought about by currency collapse, imperialist wars in petro zones, depletion of cheap energy sources, and resistance to pollution-generating power plants.

    See this is why a background in science is so important. the statement above demonstrates a total failure to grasp scale. Carpooling is not going to do a damned thing to make solar & wind energy more effectual.

    More dreaming in color.


    Quote Comment
  22. 22
    drbuzz0 Says:

            DV82XL said:

    See this is why a background in science is so important. the statement above demonstrates a total failure to grasp scale. Carpooling is not going to do a damned thing to make solar & wind energy more effectual.

    More dreaming in color.

    There are so many things people don’t understand. For solar and wind to be viable you’d be looking at cutting energy consumption by ridiculous amounts – more than 90% That’s absurd. Even getting energy levels to plateu (much less drop) us unrealistic if we want to have any chance at lifting most of the world out of poverty.

    People don’t seem to grasp the fact that energy rationing is a BAD thing. A scarcity-based econemy guarantees poverty and it encourages cheating and regressive class burdening.

    The other thing is that there’s not that much room for effective simply with new technology. The most energy intensive industries are also the most effecient – by necessity. Any activity that uses massive amounts of energy has an incentive from the get go to do it as efficiently as possible. For example, something like aluminum manufacturing by its very nature is extremely energy intensive. Because of this. aluminum smelters use the most effecient transformers, the most effecient electrodes and the most effecient processes possible. When your aluminum mill uses 1.25 gigawatts, there’s a huge incentive to cut that to 1 gigawatt if you can do so by using better electrodes, more effecient process control etc.

    You don’t have to force airlines to use high bypass turbofans. You don’t have to force railroads to use high compression turbocharged diesel engines.

    People seem to think that energy is being wasted everywhere because nobody cares about effeciency. Absolute bull****. You think CF lights are going to improve the effeciency of lighting? Maybe of small residential lighting, but I’ve got some bad news: The places that use very very large amounts of lighting all switched to Metal halide and sodium lamps 30+ years ago and those are more than twice as effecient as CF anyway.


    Quote Comment
  23. 23
    DV82XL Says:

            drbuzz0 said:

    People seem to think that energy is being wasted everywhere because nobody cares about efficiency. Absolute bull****.

    This sort of tokenism is what is killing any serious debate on the energy issue. ‘Doing without’, appeals to some sort of subconscious vestigial Calvinism, that seems to be inherent in English speaking cultures.


    Quote Comment
  24. 24
    DV82XL Says:

    And I just found this – A life-cycle assessment by Meier Engineering Research found that nuclear fission energy actually had a lower life-cycle greenhouse gas emission rate than solar: 15 tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent per gigawatt, compared to 39 tons for photovoltaic, using a building-integrated photovoltaic system for the assessment.


    Quote Comment
  25. 25
    Gordon Says:

            DV82XL said:

    This sort of tokenism is what is killing any serious debate on the energy issue. ‘Doing without’, appeals to some sort of subconscious vestigial Calvinism, that seems to be inherent in English speaking cultures.

    Yet on one hand, they don’t want to say ‘doing without’ too strongly. It’s a split message. Tell the self-haters that we won’t have light and tell the more mainline ones that we’ll still have light but it will be with flourescent bulbs.

    Anyway, as buzz says, this is tokenism because, for example, Cf light bulbs won’t change lighting. Commercial has been using primarily flourescent for indoor lighting and primarily sodium or mercury for outdoor lighting for decades. It’s only going to address a tiny area, which all these things tend to address.

    Other point: You can’t do without! That’s bad. An economy needs to increase the standard of living on the top in order to increase it on the bottom. If rich people weren’t buying cars in the 1910′s then there would never have been the infrastructure or technology for the model-T in the 1920′s. Besides that, a healthy economy must grow to accommodate increased population and evolving technology etc. You can’t have a shirking economy. By definition that is a recession.

    People seem to think we can go backwards but then somehow stop at a convient point. IE: We won’t regress all the way back to mud huts, but just to modest cottages. No, it does not work that way. You either are moving up or moving down and when you move down you have a recession and everything starts going to hell. You can’t pick and choose what is and what isn’;t based on how necessary it is.

    Less money in the flow and that means less upgrades to limousines and ambulances. You can’t legislate that only the ‘lavish’ things stop growing. God, I don’t know why this is so hard to understand! People might think 3G phones are frivelous, but I’ll say two things: 1. That technology may show up in watching videos on your phone, but it also will end up allowing for telemedicine or other extremely beneficial products. 2. When 3G towers need to be upgraded and my company does it, that means I get paid and so do the guys who work on it under me and so do the othere owners of the company. We then use this to feed ourselves, pay our mortgages and to pay our taxes.

    Christ. The day people start ‘doing without’ it all goes to hell.


    Quote Comment
  26. 26
    George Carty Says:

            Gordon said:

    Anyway, as buzz says, this is tokenism because, for example, Cf light bulbs won’t change lighting. Commercial has been using primarily flourescent for indoor lighting and primarily sodium or mercury for outdoor lighting for decades.

    It’s only going to address a tiny area, which all these things tend to address.

    When I brought this up on Daily Kos, one user claimed that corporate culture these days is so short-termist (in order to qualify for bonuses) that industry won’t make the investments in greater efficiency, even if they would pay for themselves in the long run.

            Gordon said:

    Other point: You can’t do without! That’s bad.

    An economy needs to increase the standard of living on the top in order to increase it on the bottom.

    If rich people weren’t buying cars in the 1910′s then there would never have been the infrastructure or technology for the model-T in the 1920′s.

    Besides that, a healthy economy must grow to accommodate increased population and evolving technology etc. You can’t have a shirking economy. By definition that is a recession.

    People seem to think we can go backwards but then somehow stop at a convient point. IE: We won’t regress all the way back to mud huts, but just to modest cottages.

    I thought that an economy which requires continuous growth just to sustain itself was called a “Ponzi scheme”.

    My disagreement with the Club of Rome types is that they believe we have already exceeded the limits to growth (setting the stage for an inevitable dieoff), while I believe we are still comfortably below those limits. I do still believe that their are limits though.

    I think nuclear fission power can raise the Third World’s standard of living up to the First World level and sustain a population of up to 10 billion without use of fossil fuels, but beyond that point we would need fusion.


    Quote Comment
  27. 27
    DV82XL Says:

            George Carty said:

    I thought that an economy which requires continuous growth just to sustain itself was called a “Ponzi scheme”.

    Funny, but not quite. Ponzi schemes are fraud because there is no underlying value to support growth, (Ponzi’s original scheme was to arbitrage postage coupons across national borders, a thin market at best) as long as there is real production, there is real wealth creation, and thus real growth.


    Quote Comment

Leave a Reply

Current month ye@r day *

Please copy the string pO1bK5 to the field below:

*

Protected by WP Anti Spam