Solar, Wind, and Geothermal as an answer to all of life's little problems

Discussion in 'Earth Science' started by Ecologonomics, Mar 14, 2009.

  1. Ecologonomics Registered Member

    If anyone has seen the modern marvels on solar technology, there is a segment on there about how much surface area we would have to cover in Nevada in order to power the entire United States with power. It is somewhere around a fifth of the state. With the new advancements in solar technology coupled with other alternative energy sources we should easily be able to power the country far into the future. The lower we drive down the cost of energy the less it is going to cost to do things like desalinization, creating hydrogen for fuel, cleaner manufacturing processes, reduce pollution, and countless other positive goods for society.

    The reason that is always quoted is that we don't have enough money or the returns on investments aren't high enough. This may be true but if it is so good for us, why can't we all just invest a hundred bucks and solve the problem?

    Go to the IPCC and check out the first presentation.

    Page 22 of this presentation that shows a graph of the money spent on energy technology. If we hadn't wasted all the money over the last 30 years on fossil fuels and nuclear we could have the entire United States powered.

    The problem lies in the wrong people getting our money and using it to further interests that don't reflect the public.
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  3. original sine Registered Senior Member

    What portion of the US budget has been allocated to developing nuclear energy in the last 30 years? I would say it is rather insignificant when compared to R&D for fuels like ethanol. One fifth of the state of Nevada is over 20,000 square miles. All of that would be dedicated to solar panels according to your idea! That is just for the United States. What about the rest of the world? Do you think that countries like Italy have an equivalent parcel of land to dedicate to solar panels? What about the security of such a network? One well placed bomb could wipe out the supply of electricity for the entire US or at least the vast majority of the population.

    I am all for sustainable and clean energies but I think that we need to make solar, wind, hydroelectric, geothermal, or biofuels more efficient before we start devoting vast resources to implementing our current blueprints. Imagine if we built solar panels across your 1/5 of Nevada and then a few years later we learned how to store 10 times the amount of energy using the same amount of land.

    We need to plan and dedicate our resources appropriately. It seems like humanity wants to solve every problem immediately. I believe it is our mortality that drives us to implement solutions that result in visible changes while we are alive, because we all want to see our world improve as a result of our existence. However I also believe that there is just as much if not more value in a sound plan as there is in a swift action. We need to analyze our problems and work with what we have while striving to create solutions that are increasingly more effective than what we currently use.
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  5. Ecologonomics Registered Member

    Well I only use 1/5th of Nevada as an example. Naturally they would be spread out in efficient ways.

    The idea isn't so much to build this project immediately but instead to channel funds away from countless worthless projects that we spend our money on and using that to start influencing the right areas.

    I was surprised to find out that there are still coal power plants being built.
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  7. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    You'd be wildly wrong. Fusion research alone, never mind big ticket items like the continuing effort to find some way of handling the waste, draws three or four times the government money of ethanol, per year right now, - never mind the generations of investment. Hydrogen fuel cell research draws double ethanol's budget, , but even the two together don't add up to even fusion alone.
    Not panels - heat collectors and engine mirrors and such, twice as efficient and more.

    At currently achievable efficiencies, allowing for ten or 15% in access roads and the like, about 10,000 square miles of various good location would meet the US entire energy needs (gas, oil, electricity, coal, etc).
    Solar setups are distributed over large areas, and have few central weak points. They would be far more difficult to substantially wreck than coal and nuclear plants, or gas refineries.
  8. original sine Registered Senior Member

    Thanks for the information iceaura, my assumptions were based on "facts" and arguments I had heard at one point or another and had not examined at length. I concede that I am probably painfully wrong on the efficiency and spending for solar energy. Despite my misinformation, it seems that the American public in general is on board for renewable energy sources, yet there seems to be slow to no progress in that direction. If these facts are as black and white as you present them, how is the American Department of Energy responding to this potential source of power?
  9. Captain Kremmen All aboard, me Hearties! Valued Senior Member

    I was just about to open up a thread about parabolic solar troughs, but this thread will do fine.

    If you have good sunlight, production of electricity using parabolic troughs must be the simplest way to produce clean energy.

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    These arrays concentrate the suns energy to run steam turbines.
    They are computer controlled to face the sun from dawn till dusk.

    This is one company called Solel.
    Solel’s technology converts sunshine into useful thermal energy, and subsequently into electricity, by way of parabolic mirrors that concentrate the solar energy onto solar thermal receivers containing a heat transfer fluid. The heat transfer fluid is circulated and heated through the receivers, and the heat is released to a series of heat exchangers to generate super-heated steam. The steam powers a turbine/generator to produce electricity delivered to a utility’s electric grid.

    Another company, called Abengoa solar is building a plant using molten salt as a heat transfer fluid instead of superheated oil.

    The only thing that is delaying the use of such technology, is the current availability of energy almost free from the ground, in the form of coal and oil.
    That's hard to compete with.
    If the oil price was to go over $200 a barrel, these technologies would prosper.
  10. Slacker47 Paint it Black Registered Senior Member

    We are in a tricky situation. You may have heard that Iraq has given oil rights to US companies. I am guessing that a major pipeline will follow and oil will not rise in price for a couple of decades.... too bad. I am all for developing solar to its full potential.

    On a side note, having free power, in multiple definitions, for all people is not necessarily beneficial. When people stop having to fight, we all get weak and lazy. Yet, our mechanical society will progress and grow in strength.
  11. Captain Kremmen All aboard, me Hearties! Valued Senior Member

    The picture on my post below seems to have disappeared.
    I'll try again.
    This is a parabolic trough.

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    What I like about these is their simplicity.
    The sun heats oil in a tube running along the mirror's focus. Heated oil boils water. Steam drives turbines and produces electricity.

    Not much to go wrong, and an abundant source of energy in sunlight.

    Mass produced, I can't see them costing a lot of money to make either.
  12. spidergoat Liddle' Dick Tater Valued Senior Member

    We just have to get used to it, the future of our society will be much less energy intensive. We don't have the extra cash to invest in alternative energy like we should have. It's far too late now.
  13. Captain Kremmen All aboard, me Hearties! Valued Senior Member

    I wonder if some mathematician will calculate for us how much electricity one of these troughs would produce in a day, even at 10% efficiency. Say you had one a hundred metres long and a metre in height.

    I think the problem is two things.

    Almost free energy from fossil fuels, which are still abundant.

    The lack of will to do anything.
  14. Captain Kremmen All aboard, me Hearties! Valued Senior Member

    Future Inventors, entrepreneurs, whatever. Listen!
    The money is in the boring stuff.
    Forget all the exotic stuff like fusion.
    Energy is bombarding the planet constantly.
    Producing energy is not a problem. The Sun does it.
    All you have to do is capture it.

    Combine a more efficient solar power system with a more effective battery, all forms of energy storage ,and you will have a money maker.

    Solar Power and Battery technology, that's my tip for the future.
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2009
  15. Diode-Man Awesome User Title Registered Senior Member

    22,000 miles of solar panels???

    (1) The upkeep cost would be massive.

    (2) It would create tons and tons of jobs

    (3) It would give us a superior method of powering America.

    (4)Would it be economical to instead reduce the price of solar panels by mass production: By making it building code for all homes and businesses to be covered by solar panels?

    I do like the idea though.

    My original idea was to have a ring of solar panels on various places of the globe. Since the sun is always shining somewhere... Such massive tracts of land covered in solar panels. Anything could go wrong.

    Perhaps... perhaps not. :shrug:

    Money is as strange a creature as fractals.
  16. Diode-Man Awesome User Title Registered Senior Member

    My best idea for energy production:

    (1) Find an ice asteroid
    (2) Pull it near to the sun
    (3) But not before we build a space station loaded with solar panels that can resist high temperatures, with maybe some thermal couples behind the panels to produce addition energy.
    (4) Build super massive tanks and split the water from the asteroid into hydrogen and oxygen, "drop ship" that into the ocean with parachutes....

    Unless nano-based-batteries turn out to hold more energy than expected.....
  17. dazzlepecs Registered Senior Member

    i am doing solar cell technology at university right now

    140km^2 will supply all of the USAs energy needs... And thats at like 10% efficiency too..

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