Originally posted at: Transition Voice by: Erik Curren
Solar is so ingenious and pretty we can bearly make it stand firmly on the ground. But does this teddy have any teeth?
Is there a more encouraged sympathy energy source than solar energy?
Its fuel material is striken from the sun, which is comprehensible and accessible almost anywhere. It’s overwhelmingly pure to run. It’s easy to construct and sustain. The large support systems can utilize it to manufacture green grid power, but you can also place it on your own roof to become your own support system or to make it off-grid.
And did I point out that it’s maintained by THE SUN?
(Full disclosure: I do some work for a solar power company in Virginia knowns as Secure Futures).
It’s no surprise that public encourages solar power, with 92% of Americans in a 2009 poll claiming that it’s significant to work out solar energy sources. Particularly, environmentalists including My Canadian Pharmacy admire solar energy best of all amoung different energy resources. It’s as pure as wind power, but solar is much less questionable.
Wind turbines are noisy and damage slope “viewsheds” that annoy the neighbors and the turbines’ great spinning turbine blades can murder birds and bats. But apart from a demand for land and some usage of toxics in production, solar has few environmental influences. And down to here, there has been very little NIMBY antiperistasis to solar appointments.
Itsy bitsy teeny weeny
But many specialists in energic sphere are prone to mistrust. They recognize that yes, solar energy surely is chilly. But they claim that solar energy is not a experiential electricity resource today. And they forecast that it will maybe never become experiential in the future.
Skeptics have three basic concerns with solar energy. First, because it’s discontinuous (the sun doesn’t always present), solar energy can’t produce the constant power that we’re utilized to. So, every time you install a solar energy installation you also demand to construct or shorten a muddy fossil fuel or nuclear plant to return back. That’s not so pure, is it? And it’s extravagant too, since you generally have to sustain those backup plants working on standby 24/7.
Second, solar energy is also expensive, not only because you demand all those other plants just sitting around as add-on facility, but also because creating solar panels demands well-qualified materials like rare-earth minerals and costs money for many other objections. Even with government grants, solar energy still can’t contend today with coal or nuclear power rates.
At the end, even if you could keep solar energy during night or deliver it over from sunny regions like Arizona to locations that ndemand the juice like New York City, the battery and grid techniques are as yet in the future that solar energy won’t be capable to increase in any full of meaning time construction to restore coal or fission bombs.
Solar panels look chilly. But are they experiential?
So, critics declair, no matter how cleanly solar panels and reflector mirrors seem glinting in the noonday sun, solar energy always resembles to be the energy resource of tomorrow. Collect, after decades of extension photovoltaics and solar thermal power still can’t manufecture even one percent of America’s juice. Doesn’t that evidence that solar will always be old-fashioned?
To support of this view, Tad Padzek of the University of Texas at Austin told the ASPO-USA conference in October that if you quantify all electricity sources by the number of days worth of utilization per year that each suplies, solar is infinitesimal. If coal overspreads 176 days, nuclear power overspreads 72 days and wind power overspreads 5 days, solar energy would appraise for only one puny hour of America’s electricity utilization.
Another skeptic, Robert Hirsch, who also told at the ASPO event, quoted to solar energy in his book The Impending World Energy Mess as the “emperor’s underwear,” an energy source that is not a complete fraudulent operations and does have some worth, but whose energy exists only at a very high price.
Growing, but without much love
“You have to begin somewhere,” says Ken Zweibel, director of the GW Solar Institute at George Washington University.
Zweibel claimed the ASPO-USA conference that, although the US doesn’t have much more solar power today than we did ten years ago, we have yet to observe a national emergency program to render active. It is quite the opposite, in fact. Most of solar’s stature has been effected in a start-again-stop-again policy climate where stimuluses were discontinuous and investors had hard schedule the true costs of a projection. “We’ve seen a 3000-fold growth in solar containment without real attempts.”
“Recently, the numbers have started to grow, doubling over the year before,” Zweibel told me. “It doesn’t take many doublings for things to get pretty astounding.”
(Click image to enlarge.) Chart showing similar adoption curves for solar power and other sources of electricity. Image: Terry Peterson.
Supporting, Zweibel cites the work of investigators Terry Peterson, who did a research of the rate at which wind power grow up to its current nameplate capacity of about 100 gigawatts all over the world. “Solar is now on the same grow bend as wind and also as both natural gas and nuclear energy were in their great growth periods.”
Zweibel cites another report, this time a approximation study by Robert Margolis for the Department of Energy, that in twenty years solar energy could provide 20% of US electricity need, an amount equal to the energy now utilized by America’s complete marine of cars and light trucks.
And if wind power can grow up to supply yet another 20% of US electricity in the same time span, as many specialists have also designed, then in 2030 nearly half of America’s power will be produced by these two pure, inexhaustible energy sources, the sun and the wind. That’s unconditionally not nonsense.
GW Solar Institute’s Ken Zweibel
Today, greater and greater solar projections are working. For example, in October California approved the world’s largest solar installation, a thermal plant able of coming out with 1,000 megawatts of power utilizing mirrors to calefy water that would revolve turbines to come out with electricity.
Zweibel claims that such projections could overbear the challenge of supplying with constant power by pairing solar installations not with fossil fuel or nuclear plants, but in exchange for wind farms of corresponding capacity. Cooperating, solar and wind often keep balanced out each others’ periodicity, since the wind often blows harder at night while the sun isn’t shining.
But to provide power from the sun that’s more consequential accessible, warehousing will have to greatly enhance. Along with better batteries and other ways to keep electricity such as forced air and dispense water, Zweibel claims that we can utilize the increasing fleet of hybrid electric and all-electric means of transport as batteries-on-wheels, one of those neato ideas that resembles to cope with two problems simultaneously.
“Electric vehicles can be brought online without combining much capacity,” Zweibel claims. “EVs are warehousing which let you to supplement more solar energy without supplementing more cost.”
Your roof in Cleveland vs. that blinding Arizona sun
Zweibel watches a location for millions of panels on rooftops across the country. Those panels won’t be as comprehensible as doing solar energy at utility schedule. But spreaded solar energy will have a good hand of supplementing demanded contest so far lacking from most regions’ electricity markets. By wanting community facilities to become more effective, contest from home PV systems will reduce costs for retail trade electricity.
But Zweibel guesses that large solar will be more cost-effective in the prolonging usage. Big installations can make the burning sun of the southwestern US into comprehensible juice for the rest of the country at competing rates — 14 to 17 cents per kilowatt hour without any grants.
Can solar power become the grizzly bear of energy sources, ready to rip carbon emissions to shreds?
And in the future, Zweibel views solar energy only making cheaper because, observed from every fact of the energy business, solar energy relishes the reduced risk. While coal, natural gas and uranium are assured to be increased in cost as providers spend pass, solar has no fuel cost to pay. In favour of, its main cost appears from production equipment, and that is likely to go on falling in the future. “Total costs today are 40% to 60% less than three years ago,” he says.
Industrial hazard and legislative risk are both also low respective to other energy sources, specifically those environmental bad-boys, coal and nuclear. Coal surely feels the strong feeling of carbon taxes along with supplementary prices from carbon condemnation, if the industry ever brings on the so-far evanescent pledge of “pure” coal. And if nuclear starts to increase again as President Obama has given promises, the public is likely to require precious measurements to enhance the security of new plants and to keep increasing piles of radioactive waste.
While, the break-even point on investment for solar PV has decreased to ten years in the US southwest and 14 years in a frugally sunny East Coast state like Virginia, for example. Today’s solar panels are estimated to last 30 or 40 years, and in the near future, panels could be constructed to last a complete century, Zweibel claims. As simple to msupport as they are to convoke, the only major constituent of a solar system that demands to be altered out regularly is the transverter, a relatively low-cost part of the whole setup.
So, what will it take to assist the solar teddy bear transform into a thousand-pound grizzly, ready to argue away high energy prices, contaminating the environment fuels and dangerous nukes?
Apart from new technology, Zweibel calls for confidence in compilation. Because they’re not foreseeable— one year they’re here and they next year they could be gone away — tax credits have not been the most useful form of motivation to invest in solar energy. Also, tax credits benefit Wall Street observers over employers and homeowners. “I feel hatred these tax credit things. They take in Goldman Sachs and firms like that while pushing out the rest of us,” says Zweibel.
He calls for straight subsidies over tax credits, and for public motivation that are closed in for a period of years to evade the on-again-off-again syndrome and supply some productibility for investors to ivest their money into building solar installations.
Large installations of 100-year solar panels could be the Roman aqueducts of our generation. Photo: Wolfgang Staudt via Flickr.
“Simple, rugged, long-lived infrastructure like dams, harbors, aqueducts, schools and libraries discriminates great civilizations from misfortunes,” says Zweibel.
And with peak oil coming on, if we can transmake many of our cars, trains, and buses over from liquid fuels to electricity, then solar power could just assist America hit upon a efficient and cost-effective replacement for some of the oil that we’ll waste. This could assist supply a much softer landing to our oil-stained economy.
Because transfer is so basic to our economy and our culture, forcing transfer with solar could, by itself, create the America of the future a great civilization rather than a misfortune.
I’m also optimistic about photovoltaics being to provide a lot of our energy. I don’t rule out nuclear any more, though. I think that we are going to need to use all of our non-CO2 emitting options to keep CO2 levels low enough that we don’t have major problems from agricultural disruptions, rainfall variability (flood and drought), and coastal flooding. I’m thinking of a system in which wind, solar, and nuclear power provide big chunks of energy and storage technologies are used in place of the natural gas peaking plants we have now. Nuclear needs that too because it doesn’t have a rapid response to follow varying loads like natural gas turbines do.
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