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View Diary: Solar Energy Cheaper than Coal? (351 comments)

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  •  Just not the case (2+ / 0-)
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    offgrid, dotcommodity

    The sun provides us MUCH more energy than we could ever use.  Combined with geothermal, tidal power, wind power and wave power, clean, renewable energy can provide us far more energy than we currently use.  It's just that it would be expensive to do so at the current level of technology.

    •  "expensive" being the point (0+ / 0-)

      "Expensive" means that we can have it, but people in Somalia or Nepal cannot.

      Since we already monopolize far more than our share of the world's energy, I am somehow expecting that the rest of the world won't be all that impressed with our use of solar -- unless we insure that they can get it too.

      And of course we (whether Democratic or Republican) will do no such thing.

      Editor, Red and Black Publishers

      by Lenny Flank on Tue Dec 18, 2007 at 06:56:37 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Energy is key though... (0+ / 0-)

        In the near term maximizing efficiency is a good thing and needs to be done energy should not be wasted.

        In the long term energy is how we end poverty, hunger, and damage to the environment.  Hunger is straight up an problem of how to convert energy to carbohydrates and other nutrients.  Everything is recyclable with sufficient energy.  If everything is recyclable and there is plenty of energy to go around people can travel the world, have plasma TVs, computers, clothes,  and houses cheap.

        Yes, it is a utopian vision but nothing gets solved without energy it is the basis of the economy and human existence as we know it.

        •  my point exactly (0+ / 0-)

          When energy itself is monopolized by a few rich nations, then how do we expect the products of that energy will ever be equitably distributed?

          As I noted before, there really are only two choices:

          (1) the rich nations give up their monopoly on energy and the wealth it creates, and equalize the distribution of both,


          (2) the wealthy antions simply force the poorer nations to put up with the unequal distribution of energy (and wealth) that currently exists.

          Which do we prefer?

          Editor, Red and Black Publishers

          by Lenny Flank on Tue Dec 18, 2007 at 07:36:49 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  #3 collect mor energy (0+ / 0-)
            1. Collect more useful energy.  

            In round numbers since I do not feel like tracking down sources... :)

            Solar flux is something like 1000x as much energy as is used by humans excluding photosynthetic energy eaten by humans. Interestingly photosynthetic energy eaten by humans is about the same amount.

            So, how about we gather .2% of solar energy an use it to make everyone's life better.  Make it .3% and take care of making more food.

            And, that is just the solar energy that hits this tiny mudball.  There is plenty more where that came from.

            As I said it is a utopian dream, but look at the changes in just the last 30 years.  If we can get through the next 200 or so without wiping out civilization I think this is a solvable problem.

            •  on whose dime? (0+ / 0-)

              Collecting more energy is great, wonderful, fantastic.

              How, again, are we expecting Nepal or Haiti or Guatemala to PAY for it?

              Or, as usual, are we just expecting that WE will build all those wonderful things, and the rest of the world can just go screw itself . . . . again.

              Editor, Red and Black Publishers

              by Lenny Flank on Tue Dec 18, 2007 at 08:15:19 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  In the modern world energy = money (0+ / 0-)

                A corollary to collecting more energy is that collecting the energy needs to be cheap. So, the barrier to Nepal, Haiti and Guatemala goes away.  I actually prefer to think of cost in terms of energy because if you think about it, in the modern world energy is the economic force.  Massive amounts of cheap energy means everything is cheap.  Cheap energy therefore means something that produces many more times as much energy as was used to produce that thing.

                So, how to get cheap energy.  The key is lifetime energy output vs energy input and what can be produced if all the energy was used to manufacture more panels.  In the case of the nanosolar economics and a 30 year lifetime at $2 per watt and assuming $.125 per kwh for for energy the panels cost 16kwh per W to manufacture and 43.8Kwh produced.  That is counting all energy inputs including food, raw material extraction, etc...

                Doubling of capacity should occur every 10 years i.e. a panel produces enough power to recreate itself in about 10 years. So, we only get about 8x as much production before we have to start replacing the initial panels.  But, that does mean that by the time replacements start happening, all the panels made actually cost 2 kwh/W.  This is an issue with silicon panels in that they produce enough power to recreate themselves in closer to 20 years, if they last 30 you run into limitations due to only getting maybe a single doubling of production by the time replacements need to be made.  I think two more doublings of output relative to input over the life of the panel are needed before things can really take off.  So, a 30 year life and replacement energy at 6 years would do the trick.  Which would be a cost of just under 9kwh per watt (4x365x6/1000) that 1W initial panel has resulted in 32W of panels in 30 years.  As that should leave enough left over for replacing the panels as the reach end of life.

                This is of course total energy, we may already be very close to that level of doubling with the nanosolar technology since a significant portion of that energy cost is the food for the people who make the panels, extract the raw materials, etc... which is already predominantly solar energy.

                So, you will then ask how does that solve the poor country problem.  Simple... $2 in fossil fuels produces 32W of solar assume only half goes to producing more panels then the cost of panels at 30 years is $.0625 per watt.  The trick is creating the feedback loop that can make energy that cheap.

                Of course this is a utopian vision and reality can and probably will rear its ugly head.  Because cheap energy will completely disrupt the economics of the developed world.  Essentially eliminating scarcity from which disparate wealth is created.  So, I would expect hoarding of silicon and aluminum in an attempt by some to be "richer" than others.  Fortunately, that may be difficult considering they are the two of the most abundant elements on the planet next to oxygen.

                So, I am rambling much and there are all kinds of issues, but I am definitely thinking that poor countries have no problem affording the technology when installed cost reached $1 per watt or more accurately 8kwh per W.

                •  this is for nations (0+ / 0-)

                  I am definitely thinking that poor countries have no problem affording the technology when installed cost reached $1 per watt or more accurately 8kwh per W.

                  that, uh, currently don't have the money to feed themselves . . . right . . . ?

                  Editor, Red and Black Publishers

                  by Lenny Flank on Wed Dec 19, 2007 at 03:33:45 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Similar problems (0+ / 0-)

                    Food is solar energy. Sun, soil, and water, and in some cases just sun and water are all that is needed to produce food. And, many of these countries they used to have plenty of food, but western agriculture is unsuitable for the countries and destroyed their food production capabilities.  In most cases water is the problem.  But, plentiful energy is a solution for that in the form of desalination.

                    And, $1/W is cost now.  After a few feedback cycles the cost is essentially pennies per watt because the panels built previously provide the energy to make subsequent panels.

                    This is not a decade or 2 decade help for poor countries it is at least half a century and probably a full century.  And, unfortunately the suffering will continue until then, and it will take political will to get things started. You cannot fix 2 centuries of environmental, political, and humanitarian damage in a couple years.

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