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Power

Deploying Solar In California's Urban Areas Could Meet Demand Five Times Over 437

Lucas123 writes: About 8% of terrestrial surfaces in California have been developed, ranging from cities and buildings to park spaces. If photovoltaic panels, along with concentrating solar power, were more effectively deployed in and around those areas, it could meet between three and five times what California currently uses for electricity, according to a new study. The study from the Carnegie Institution for Science, found that using small- and utility-scale solar power in and around developed areas could generate up to 15,000 terawatt-hours of energy a year using photovoltaic technology, and 6,000 TWh of energy a year using concentrating solar power technology. "Integrating solar facilities into the urban and suburban environment causes the least amount of land-cover change and the lowest environmental impact," post-doctoral environmental earth scientist Rebecca Hernandez said.
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Deploying Solar In California's Urban Areas Could Meet Demand Five Times Over

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  • by Firethorn ( 177587 ) on Tuesday March 17, 2015 @03:51AM (#49273255) Homepage Journal

    The main concern for solar hasn't been one of the space necessary for a long time. Partially covering something like half the south-facing side of a roof has been sufficient to cover a home's needs for quite some time. A few more percent in panel efficiency would only decrease the coverage necessary.

    Like for most things, the real killer has been cost. Smaller footprints are good, reduces cost and increases flexibility(you don't NEED to take down that one tree...). Today it's getting to the point that we need to work to make installs cheaper, including the inverter, which of the items that can fail, currently have the lowest warranty period as well. If you 'plan' on replacing it once it's out of warranty, you'll go through 3 inverters per replacement of the solar panels. Yes, both actually last longer than that, but it's an expense to be wary of.

    Personally, in order to manage cost I like to propose 'dual use' applications - solar panels on a roof can act as a solar barrier and reduce the heat load in the house, reducing electricity needs for HVAC even as it supplies electricity for the very same HVAC. My latest 'idea', which is far from unique, is the 'solar car park'. We know people like parking in the shade, and solar panels are typically* strong enough that you can use them directly for roofing material as long as your roof is either small enough or you don't need it to be absolutely tight(like for a house). A few dribbles won't hurt a car but the shade certainly would be nice.

    So you mount the panels up over your parking lot(or driveway), and you come out to a shaded, and therefore not blazing hot, car. You park at the store and again, don't come back to a blazing hot car. As a bonus, it'll even extend the life of your paint job and interior, as well as help protect any sensitive electronics that don't like baking in a hot vehicle.

    *Some are, some aren't, but it's easy enough to specify/check.

    • by jklovanc ( 1603149 ) on Tuesday March 17, 2015 @04:12AM (#49273299)

      Partially covering something like half the south-facing side of a roof has been sufficient to cover a home's needs for quite some time.

      Only true if there is something else to supply electricity at night. Net zero is not off the grid. The thing is that if cheap solar eats into the day production from conventional thermal then night power will become more expensive.

      • by Aereus ( 1042228 ) on Tuesday March 17, 2015 @04:25AM (#49273323)
        Feed into a small molten salt reservoir buried in the yard to pull out of at night? Or some sort of battery to draw out of instead? Assuming high-draw appliances like the stove, water heater, and furnace were from an alternate source like natural gas, the rest shouldn't draw all that much power at night. And even the water could be switched over to an on-demand system, rather than what most US homes use right now.
        • Feed into a small molten salt reservoir buried in the yard to pull out of at night?

          Molten salt only works from high intensity solar concentrates and is not something that can be installed in one's back yard. Also, very few high rise apartments have back yards.

          Assuming high-draw appliances like the stove, water heater, and furnace were from an alternate source like natural gas,

          I thought solar was supposed to allow us to use less fossil fuels like natural gas and not more. Any gains by using solar may be wiped out by burning more natural gas to make up for storage problems. I don't think that is a good plan.

          • by itzly ( 3699663 ) on Tuesday March 17, 2015 @05:45AM (#49273587)

            I thought solar was supposed to allow us to use less fossil fuels like natural gas and not more. Any gains by using solar may be wiped out by burning more natural gas to make up for storage problems. I don't think that is a good plan.

            These problems are not going to get solved by whining about them. Instead, we should just build the solar panels. At first, storage won't be a problem, because we can use the peak energy for A/C. And when solar power actually grows to a point where storage is a problem, it will be fixed, because there will be money to be made in energy storage.

            • by jklovanc ( 1603149 ) on Tuesday March 17, 2015 @06:02AM (#49273691)

              Solar is already causing a problem. It is called the duck graph [caiso.com]. Basically as solar rapidly drops off at sunset conventional is having trouble ramping up to meet demand. There is too many incentives for solar production and not enough for storage and that needs to be changed now.

              • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Tuesday March 17, 2015 @06:12AM (#49273741) Homepage Journal

                If only we had a way to predict when the sun would set...

                • There is a limit as to how fast a plant can ramp.

                  • by itzly ( 3699663 )

                    So, improve the design. For instance, in a plant that burns fuel to generate heat to make steam that drives a turbine, you can start with burning fuel, and storing the heat somewhere. When the power is needed, you quickly generate the steam, and run the turbine.

                  • by sjames ( 1099 )

                    And the sun doesn't just blink off, especially across the whole state.

                    • by itzly ( 3699663 )

                      And even less when you connect the grid to the next state.

                    • Did you look at the report? It happens over a three hour period more than doubling output and it is a problem.

                      The existing fleet includes many long-start resources that need time to come on line before they can support upcoming ramps. Therefore, they must produce at some minimum power output levels in times when this electricity is not needed.

                    • That does not help California as the rest of the US is dark before they are. There are not many solar panels in the Pacific Ocean.

                    • What state has sunlight at sunset in California? When California is having it's sunset issue the rest if the continental US is already dark.

                  • by sribe ( 304414 )

                    There is a limit as to how fast a plant can ramp.

                    Coal-fired has this problem. Natural gas generators can ramp much faster, and can easily cope with this kind of load variance.

                    • by sribe ( 304414 )

                      The one renewable that load-follows really well is hydro. Solar and wind can be paired with dams on the grid, so long as the overnight rise in river level stays tolerable.

                      That's somewhat geographically constrained, but where you have a reservoir available, with the capacity to adjust levels daily like that, it works really well. West of Denver, there's one facility where they pump the water up a substantial distance during off-peak hours, so that there's more stored energy to be released when needed. But that requires mountainous terrain.

                      I knew guys who were working on a different system, basically a football-field-sized plastic air bladder anchored at the bottom of a reserv

              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by Anonymous Coward

                Here in Germany there are fears that the partial solar eclipse on friday will cause problems for the utilities as it will affect all panels at the same and in a relatively short time. There are hopes for a cloudy sky to reduce the effect.

                But all in all I'm pro solar.

              • by Terje Mathisen ( 128806 ) on Tuesday March 17, 2015 @09:17AM (#49274665)

                One of the reasons Denmark can run on wind (currently 39% of their total) and solar power (500 MW total from 90,000 private installations according to wikipedia) is that we have installed multiple DC transmissions lines between Denmark and Norway, and hydro-electric power is by far the most responsive to changing load.

                On the west coast mountains we have storage dams where surplus power can be used to pump up water during periods of surplus production and then let down again when Denmark, Sweden or countries further south need some extra power.

                From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P... [wikipedia.org] you can see that this is _by far_ the largest grid energy storage form, accounting for more than 99% of the total capacity worldwide.

                The total efficiency (70%-87%) is quite good, which means that this is not just a good idea but can pay for itself anywhere the difference between peak and off-peak energy costs are larger than the ~20% that is lost to pump friction.

                Terje

            • "It will be fixed" is the same as saying, "we will do magic."

              It won't be fixed until someone invents the magic battery. We also need the magic battery for making our transportation work on electricity. The magic battery needs to be cheap and small and cheap and high capacity and cheap and lightweight and cheap. That's not going to happen by magic. All these energy protesters and environmental protesters and carbon tax advocates are not going to help a damned bit unless they get their PHD's in electro

              • The magic battery needs to be cheap and small and cheap and high capacity and cheap and lightweight and cheap.

                On the bright side, cheap + cheap + cheap + cheap adds up to expensive, so that's already covered!

          • I thought solar was supposed to allow us to use less fossil fuels like natural gas and not more.

            90% efficient burners means you end up using less natural gas than you would using electric appliances, with the natural gas being burned at the electric plant.

            It's not the 'best' of plans, but it would still reduce our CO2 emissions, especially if it's displacing coal. That being said, something like a 'retired' Tesla Model-S battery with half it's capacity remaining would be able to run most electric appliances, even if you might need a system smart enough to not turn on the water heater and the stove at

            • That being said, something like a 'retired' Tesla Model-S battery with half it's capacity remaining would be able to run most electric appliances, even if you might need a system smart enough to not turn on the water heater and the stove at the same time.

              That is a great technical answer that does nothing to address the reality of it...

              Our homes are not smart and not likely to become smart any time soon...

              What you describe probably could be done and without inventing anything new or fancy. What it DOES require is money, lots of money. Who is going to pay for all that?

              Hooking it up to the house, having appliances smart enough to know when to run, etc. is all going to cost a lot of money.

              It is the actual implementation part that causes such ideas to fall apa

              • What you describe probably could be done and without inventing anything new or fancy. What it DOES require is money, lots of money. Who is going to pay for all that?

                One of the things I have learned over the years is that Californians don't worry about silly things like budgets and how to pay for things, and even less so the consequences involved in budgeting and paying for things.

                This is the State that has repeatedly fucked up its energy industry to the point of severe crisis. Seems to be planning to do it yet again.

          • by Sabriel ( 134364 )

            A solution would then be to have the molten salt system (or whatever thermal energy storage system is most practical) fed power from/to multiple houses.

        • Feed into a small molten salt reservoir buried in the yard to pull out of at night?

          As jklovanc said, that only works when you're powering a turbine via heat. It would be a highly wasteful system to transform that electricity into heat, only to turn it back into electricity again. LiIon batteries are around 80-90% efficient at transformation, the suggested heat system would be lucky to hit 30%. Especially when you consider economy of scale when it comes to insulation.

          Now, a small heat reservoir like a BIG hot water tank that can also provide heating to the house itself if necessary woul

          • by sjames ( 1099 )

            Solar water heating is often a hybrid approach where a large preheat tank is solar heated and feeds into an on-demand heater to get it up to full temperature.

          • even up here where the water from the well is only a degree or so above freezing

            I recently visited "The Kimberly", it's one of the hottest places on Earth, the well water is pumped into a water tower for pressure where it sits in the tropical sun all day. It's impossible to have a cold shower, if you get up first in the morning there is about 30 seconds of cool water from the underground pipes before the ~32deg C tank water comes thu.

        • Feed into a small molten salt reservoir buried in the yard

          Last I heard molten salt was still being worked on because it is insanely corrosive and generally nasty to work with.

          That doesnt exactly scream "put a resevoir in every yard".

      • Only true if there is something else to supply electricity at night.

        Good point, I should have remembered to stick a 'net zero' in there. You could do it with a battery, but like I said, expense is the biggest issue, not room.

        • by FlyHelicopters ( 1540845 ) on Tuesday March 17, 2015 @07:05AM (#49273965)

          You could do it with a battery

          I'm not sure why people keep saying this...

          You're asking people to switch to a new type of lifestyle, one in which they may or may not have power to last through the night. Make your power during the day, charge your battery, then use it at night.

          What if the weather is bad for a few days? No power?

          This only works if you shut down the power plants, if they still have to exist, then this doesn't work because they have large fixed costs of existing that have to be paid for.

          We often run our AC at night, it gets quite warm and without it it would be nearly impossible to sleep. Are you suggesting we would have a big enough battery to run the AC for several days of no solar power?

          Do you have any idea how big that would have to be?

          • Solar panels work just fine in ambient light and will produce significant energy in the fog or on overcast days. Sure, you'll lose some, maybe upto as much as 50% efficiency in really overcast days, you'll just have to get a bigger battery to reduce the "range anxiety" type issue. Solar panels are actually more efficient at cooler temperatures than hot ones. Germany leads the world in residential solar right now, and doesn’t have a sunny climate.

            If people insulated their houses to a high level like
            • If people insulated their houses to a high level like PassivHaus

              How much does that cost? What is the payback period?

            • you'll just have to get a bigger battery to reduce the "range anxiety" type issue

              Of course there is more to it than the size of the battery, there is how much amperage the battery can put out at once.

              What type of battery is going to run my AC in the summer? A total of 8 tons of cooling, plus the rest of the house?

              I suspect that the cost of such a battery would be cost prohibitive.

              It is hard enough to get people to replace their 10-15 year old 13 SEER AC units, when the payback is clear on those, these pie-in-the-sky dreams of batteries and solar on houses are just nuts.

              Who is going to

          • by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) * on Tuesday March 17, 2015 @09:56AM (#49274977)

            You're asking people to switch to a new type of lifestyle, one in which they may or may not have power to last through the night. Make your power during the day, charge your battery, then use it at night. What if the weather is bad for a few days? No power?

            Those problems are trivially (albeit perhaps not inexpensively) solved by simply specifying a big enough battery.

            We often run our AC at night, it gets quite warm and without it it would be nearly impossible to sleep.

            I'm 99% certain you have poor insulation (compared to what anyone who was trying to run their AC off solar power would have), and that's your real problem.

            Besides, almost everywhere except the tropics gets cool enough at night that opening windows and running a whole house fan should be able to let people avoid running the AC at night. (And houses in warm areas like that should be designed so that windows can be opened at night, by (for example) having wide enough roof overhangs to keep rain out. If you live in Florida and your house is designed the same way as one in New England, you're Doing It Wrong.)

            Are you suggesting we would have a big enough battery to run the AC for several days of no solar power?

            Yes!

            You might also want to keep in mind that if there's no solar power, there's not much solar heat gain either, so your AC will require less power at that time (if it needs to run at all).

            Do you have any idea how big that would have to be?

            By the time you've increased the efficiency of your house to the point that solar makes sense to begin with, the answer is "not all that big."

      • The night power needed is exactly the same regardless how you produce power at daytime, hence the cost is exactly the same.
        Further more private house holds usually have fixed rate contracts and are not bound to spot market prices ... so they pay at night the same as at daytime.

        For a private household it neither matters if "someone" connects a solar plant in the GW range to the grid or if they themselves connect a "rooftop" solar plant to the grid.

        Only legislations and feed in tariffs have an impact on price

    • The main concern for solar hasn't been one of the space necessary for a long time. Partially covering something like half the south-facing side of a roof has been sufficient to cover a home's needs for quite some time. A few more percent in panel efficiency would only decrease the coverage necessary.

      This is not always true...

      I live in Texas, we get a decent amount of sunshine...

      My house faces "south/north", the roof is split between the two, so half of it faces almost directly south. If I cover every bit of roof that faces south with solar panels, I'll produce about 1/3 of my annual electrical consumption.

      It is not possible to completely offset my annual consumption, I don't have enough roof space.

      • That's what the suggestion of using solar panels to cover the driveway. It creates sun protection for cars parked there or anything you want to do and generates electricity at the same time.

        • That wouldn't be enough either...

          Cooling a home in the summer in Texas uses a lot of power... My house is big but my lot is small, the roof is bigger than the driveway is...

          And consider the cost of putting up a structure that would withstand storms, that adds even more to the cost, making it completely and totally pointless...

          ---

          I have to say, all these wonderful ideas are great, until someone has to pay for them...

          • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Tuesday March 17, 2015 @06:18AM (#49273767) Homepage Journal

            If you offset the panels from the roof by a few inches, the cooling demands will likely go down. The sun will heat the panels rather than the roof and convection will carry that heat away.

          • Cooling a home in the summer in Texas uses a lot of power...

            Only because of crap building codes which permit building homes inadequate for the conditions. If you built houses out of dirt you'd have lower cooling costs. But that would be alternative architecture in the minds of Texans.

            • I don't think "dirt" is required, but I do know what you mean.

              And yes, they are allowed to build houses that have terrible insulation, but people like it because they are cheap.

              I could, right now, spend many tens of thousands of dollars to properly insulate my home, the payback varies, but the single biggest problem I have is my windows. But good replacement windows and frames are expensive. :(

      • "My house faces "south/north", the roof is split between the two, so half of it faces almost directly south. If I cover every bit of roof that faces south with solar panels, I'll produce about 1/3 of my annual electrical consumption."

        That's because you have never heard of the word 'insulation'.

      • by Firethorn ( 177587 ) on Tuesday March 17, 2015 @05:59AM (#49273665) Homepage Journal

        I'm sorry that I often forget my disclaimers like 'excluding outliers', 'average situation only', etc...

        As nospam mentioned, there might be a problem with your house. Now, I'm no expert, but I'd need some more information to do an assessment:
        square footage of the south facing side of your house
        annual kwh usage

        For example, I'm an outlier. I'd have to completely cover my south-facing roof with solar panels to match my usage, but I live in Alaska.

        Some things that might be 'nice to know':
        Have you ever had an energy audit of your house done? Do you know what the R-Value of your walls/roof is? What's the SEER for your air conditioner? If you're using more than 3X the power that could be generated by solar for your roof, you may be better served by installing more insulation, replacing a marginal HVAC system with a more efficient one, etc...

        Heck, I pointed out that solar panels can help cut HVAC requirements by their mere presence - they're not normally installed directly on the roof, so that few inches acts as insulation(and can even create a heat chimney effect to keep things even cooler), preventing direct sunlight from heating the roof extra, increasing cooling needs.

        • I'm sorry that I often forget my disclaimers like 'excluding outliers', 'average situation only', etc...

          I do understand... you may very well have meant well... but so many people leave out details and as they say, the devil is in the details...

          A good example is that while the panels may have a long life and even a good warranty (assume you can get service on that warranty in 5-10 years), other parts such as the inverter are not so robust. What is the actual ongoing MX cost over 10 years? It is bound to be more than zero. It might not be much, I honestly don't know, but that issue is brushed under the car

    • by durrr ( 1316311 )

      I would really want to know where the 15000 TWh figure comes from, considering that it's 3x the US annual electricity consumption.

      And to reach that figure you would: assuming you have the same MWh density as the topaz solar farm. Require something like 300 000 km^2. Which isn't 8% of California but more like 75%.

  • What is the material, labor and recycling cost of doing so ? Lack of space is likely not the blocking issue with solar. Google probably has the answers.

  • And meet 0% of the demand at night if they don't have storage which is very expensive.

    • by quenda ( 644621 )

      And meet 0% of the demand at night if they don't have storage which is very expensive.

      No problems. Just dam and flood the San Fernando Valley. Pump up water in the day, and run on hydro at night.
      Cost and other practical factors don't seem to come into consideration in this discussion.

    • Re:Night (Score:4, Interesting)

      by mjgday ( 173139 ) on Tuesday March 17, 2015 @04:43AM (#49273387)

      Storage is today's big issue in the energy world.

      Having said that, the cost of a storage system used to double the cost of a 3-4 kW (peak) PV system about 5 years ago. I expect since then the prices of PV has fallen more sharply than the price of lead acid batteries, meaning it may well now triple, but still it's hardly "very expensive".

      It is cheaper, and more optimal electrically, to sell the power to the grid and then buy it back from another generator when you aren't generating. Of course that doesn't work if everyone is using the same kind of generators and there's no storage, which is why we need storage. As many storage technologies suffer from efficiencies of scale it probably makes more sense to at least partially centralise the storage.

      What probably needs to happen (it certainly needs to happen in .uk) is the energy market needs to be restructured so as to make storing energy profitable, then companies will set up to do it.

      • Storage is today's big issue in the energy world.

        I agree completely but few people are working on storage as it is not sexy. They are content with pointing the finger at conventional plants and saying they will handle it. Sorry but the cost of power from conventional plants will rise if they only produce at night.

        PV has fallen more sharply than the price of lead acid batteries

        Lead acid batteries have long been known to be a poor solution to store large amounts of electricity. They take up lots of room, produce dangerous hydrogen gas and need to be maintained.

        the energy market needs to be restructured so as to make storing energy profitable,

        The cost of storage will always be high as the costs include

        • by itzly ( 3699663 )

          I agree completely but few people are working on storage as it is not sexy. They are content with pointing the finger at conventional plants and saying they will handle it. Sorry but the cost of power from conventional plants will rise if they only produce at night.

          Right now, we need less energy at night, so it's not a problem if there's less generated. And as long as solar doesn't cover 100% of daytime use, the same plants also need to run during the day. It's not a huge deal. We can also do a lot more with dynamic real-time pricing, so there will be financial incentive to move consumption around to peak production time. People can put their electric cars on the grid, and buy energy when it's cheap, and sell it back when it's expensive, and make a little bit of prof

          • And as long as solar doesn't cover 100% of daytime use

            The article is touting how solar can produce 500% of daytime use. See the problem? Those conventional plant would have to ramp down and back up again. Ramping costs more than continuous operation.

            People can put their electric cars on the grid, and buy energy when it's cheap

            That sounds great until you go to drive your car and it is drained.

            • Those conventional plant would have to ramp down and back up again. Ramping costs more than continuous operation.
              Ever looked at the load curve of your country?

              Conventional plants have to ramp up anyway around dawn and ramp down anyway shortly after dusk.

              Neither for the plants nor the operators it is a difference, only the moment in time changes if you add solar power to the mix.

        • Lead acid batteries have long been known to be a poor solution to store large amounts of electricity.
          And since long, decades I think, they are replaced by lead + gel batteries.

          The cost of storage will always be high as the costs include the following
          Pretty irrelevant when you need storage to run the grid. E.g. pumped storage is like 10% of total production in energy storage and power production. (GWh and GW). 5% you need minimum for a modern grid, otherwise you have to run with overproduction and use res

      • It is cheaper, and more optimal electrically, to sell the power to the grid and then buy it back from another generator when you aren't generating

        It is even cheaper and more optimal electrically, if your electric utility owns the solar panels and sells you the electricity from them when you need it.

      • Storage is today's big issue in the energy world.
        No, it is not. It is only relevant for "off grid" situations like on a boat/ship, or if you really want to have your house/flat "off grid".

        For the grid and large scale energy production, storage becomes relevant when you actually have situations where it is economically interesting to use stored energy ... that is not going to happen unless you produce minimum 50% of your power with renewables. And then you can at max store like 5% - 10% so economically it is

    • by AGMW ( 594303 )
      You sell any daytime excess back to the grid during the day, and draw back at night (see also Tesla's new home battery pack stuff?). Then California is generating a bunch of power during the day and maybe it could sell some of that to neighbouring states? Store some itself maybe (there are various technologies that could allow that)?

      It's odd how it seems like most posters are trying to find problems rather than trying to find solutions. It's almost like you don't want solar power, when 'solar' is one of t

      • Re:Night (Score:4, Informative)

        by jklovanc ( 1603149 ) on Tuesday March 17, 2015 @05:57AM (#49273653)

        You sell any daytime excess back to the grid during the day, and draw back at night

        You make it seem that the same energy that you sell during the day is bought back at night. That is not true. The electricity you sold during the day is used during the day and reduces the production requirements for conventional electricity produces. The electricity you buy at night is produced by those conventional producers. Someone still has to produce the tlectricity you use at night and it will not be another PV user because it will probably be night there too.

        see also Tesla's new home battery pack stuff?

        Lets install a $20,000 battery in a house and replace it every ten years.

        It's odd how it seems like most posters are trying to find problems rather than trying to find solutions.

        It's odd how it seems that some people solve 50% of the problem and leave the other 50% to other people to solve. There are solution and the main one being storage. There is too much emphasis on electricity production technology and not enough on storage.

        It's almost like you don't want solar power, when 'solar' is one of the things California has so much of.

        The problem is that California has almost no "solar" at night and little is being done to compensate for that. It does not matter if 4x the required energy is produced by solar if only a very little of it is available at night.

        The article makes it look like solar is the solution to the energy problem. It is part of the solution but more work on storage needs to be done.

        • by itzly ( 3699663 )

          Lets install a $20,000 battery in a house and replace it every ten years.

          And lets add a set of wheels and a roof, so we drive the battery around during the day. Sounds like a good plan.

          It's odd how it seems that some people solve 50% of the problem and leave the other 50% to other people to solve

          That's not odd, that's efficient. Intel wants to make smaller and smaller chips, but only solves 50% of the problems. They let ASML and other companies solve the other 50%.

          • And lets add a set of wheels and a roof, so we drive the battery around during the day. Sounds like a good plan.

            So it can be discharged when needed at night? Yeah, good plan.
            The problem is that the solar people think that solar solves the whole problem.

        • Re:Night (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Firethorn ( 177587 ) on Tuesday March 17, 2015 @06:07AM (#49273711) Homepage Journal

          Lets install a $20,000 battery in a house and replace it every ten years.

          How about you buy a ~$3k '70%' used EV battery, then use it for ~10 years until it gets to 30% or so, at which point you finally send it to the recyclers before buying a new one?

          Of course, that would entail both a massively increased number of strong EVs to supply the 'retired' batteries, and probably so much solar that you're encouraged to charge at work when the sun's out.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by blindseer ( 891256 )

            It would also require more rare earth elements than exist in the earth's crust. Perhaps that is an exaggeration but not by much, mining enough lithium, cadmium, or whatever, is not trivial. We just do not have the capacity to produce that amount of electricity storage in batteries.

            I held out promise for technologies like flywheel storage as it was a simple technology, requiring not much more than a motor/generator and a weight. I then realized that such devices would be expensive, require considerable ma

            • Re:Night (Score:4, Insightful)

              by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) * <mojoNO@SPAMworld3.net> on Tuesday March 17, 2015 @08:41AM (#49274437) Homepage

              Grid scale sodium sulphur batteries are already deployed at multiple sites around the world, especially in Japan and Hawaii. The only rare elements are in the control electronics, they last much longer than lithium and are easy to recycle.

            • Re:Night (Score:5, Insightful)

              by angel'o'sphere ( 80593 ) on Tuesday March 17, 2015 @10:25AM (#49275203) Journal

              It would also require more rare earth elements than exist in the earth's crust.
              That is complete nonsense.
              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R... [wikipedia.org]

              Raw earth elements belong to the most abundant elements on earth. Only the name is strange due to historical reasons when they got "discovered".

              like flywheel storage ..., and still require significant amounts of rare earth elements to produce
              No they don't. You only need a flywheel and a generator. If you sacrifice 1% efficiency there are no raw earth elements involved at all. (*facepalm*)

              Molten salt storage requires vast resources as well.
              What a nonsense :D

              None of these can compete with even first generation nuclear power
              Ofc it can't. You compare storage technology with power production. That is like comparing biodiesel with a motorbike. Wow, the motorbike is not even using diesle. So now you compare the motorbike with gasoline ... oki. Nevertheless the gasoline/diesel is the storage medium. And the bike the user/producer of energy.

              Your comparison makes no sense, especially as nuclear power is the most expensive power to produce, since ever actually. It never was cheaper than coal, water or anything else.

  • This study claims a reduction in carbon emissions from solar power but I've read studies that show increased carbon emissions from solar power. Why is that? Because solar power is very poor at matching when people use power. Sure, people tend to turn stuff off at night when the sun is down and turn them on when the sun shines but the load curve seen by utilities shows a peek power usage at about 6:00PM, when the sun is setting and solar power has already begun to wane.

    How does this translate into increas

    • by itzly ( 3699663 )

      Solar power is a dead end.

      Not as dead as coal and gas.

      Nuclear power is the answer.

      Great. Now please convince the people of California to install a plant in their back yard.

    • Until there is a solution for nuclear waste, it is illegal to build nuclear power plants in California. Notice that when the sun shine, there is no need to use natural gas, so gas use is reduced. Your argument is mistaken.
    • by kesuki ( 321456 )

      i thought they built a iron fusion reactor, only risk is the world has so much iron that it might all spontaneously fuse and destroy the earth and all life on it. actually i'm kidding thats from a scifi story!

    • by catmistake ( 814204 ) on Tuesday March 17, 2015 @08:16AM (#49274325) Journal

      Nuclear power is the answer. I know someone is going to point out the nuclear waste that comes from nuclear power now.

      Yes, waste is a concern. But the real concern is the economics of nuclear energy has never made any sense. It is outrageously expensive, and never has a nuclear power plant been able to have been built without massive capital from governments. An individual can install wind and solar and other alternative energies on a local scale. There are solvable problems involved. Eventually, the problem of energy storage will be solved. But the problem with nuclear power, which is that is the most expensive form of energy ever conceived, will never be solved. Nuclear energy proponents ignore this, but it is the only thing standing in the way of your dream of nuclear power being the solution to the world's energy needs: its just too damn expensive. Money wins every time.

    • The more solar power on the grid means more gas turbines.

      Only in the US where gas is cheap due to fracking. In Germany they have closed older coal plants and replaced them with newer, cleaner ones that can ramp their output up quickly to support solar. Those coal plants use carbon capture so are actually quite low on CO2 emissions.

      The problem then comes in that any technology that makes storing electric energy cheap also makes coal and nuclear power cheaper. Then why not just make solar power cheaper? Because that will never solve the problem of the sun going down.

      Um... So if storing electricity were cheap, that wouldn't solve the problem of solar only being available during daylight?

      Also, coal and nuclear are not cheap at all. Coal looks cheap until you include all the externalized costs. Nuclear is just damn expensive from any angle.

      My answer to that is Waste Annihilating Molten Salt Reactors.

      Unfortunately no-one with the tens of billions of dollars needed to build a commercial molten salt reactor is willing to give you any. Something about the way all molten salt reactors built so far had severe problems and don't look like commercially viable technology must be putting them off.

  • by Dereck1701 ( 1922824 ) on Tuesday March 17, 2015 @07:38AM (#49274107)

    Sounds great, few problems though. First off is cost, they're talking about placing solar panels across millions of square acres. I could have mistyped but from what I can figure (6.7M acres / 15 sqft solar panels) that would take a mind boggling number of solar panels, almost 20 Billion. At current rates that would cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $19 Trillion dollars. Secondly what do you do with all that power, you'll either have to build one heck of a grid storage system or fundamentally rethink how electricity is used, or a little of both. Our energy future will involve a mix of power if we have any sense, Some solar to take up the slack on those hot days, some fossil for peak loads or cloudy days and nuclear/coal/wind for baseload.

  • by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Tuesday March 17, 2015 @10:33AM (#49275275) Homepage
    At this point in time, we have effective energy generation - geothermal, solar,and wind all are cheaper than coal and approaching natural gas.

    What we need is a better way to transmit, store or retrieve power (electrical, heat, momentum, pressure, chemical, it doesn't matter - and yes, a room temperature superconductor will count). Do that and pretty instantly several things will happen:

    1)Coal plants will all shut down. They are too expensive now, even not accounting for their massively bad ecological issues.

    2)New natural gas plants will cease to be created. A few might even shut down.

    3) New nuclear plants will suddenly be approved .... in the middle of deserts and other areas safely far away from population centers

    4) New geothermal, solar, tidal, and wind power plants will pop up to replace the coal plants.

    Also, there is the possibility that cars will switch to the new power source, but no guarantee.

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