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View Diary: Solar Energy Vs. Mountaintop Removal (50 comments)

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  •  Something else that has to be considered (4+ / 0-)

    if you go ahead and build the massive solar plants in the SW desert, you have to get that power to the users - a lot along the East and West Coasts and around the Great Lakes.

    This means power transmission lines.  The newer UHVDC technologies can transmit electric power with a lose of about 5% per 2,000 km of run. But those lines would need to be built, and often building new power lines meets with strong opposition.

    You can say "go to distributed solar, local generation, and get away from big powerlines."  But local has problems, energy density and energy storage.

    If you look at solar flux maps of the US, a lot of the country averages no more than 5 kwh/sq-m/day. Plug in the conversion efficiency of the new darling CIGS thin film solar cells and that works out to about a half kwh per day per square meter. The world average electric power consumption is about 6 kwh/day, 12 square meters of cells.  For the US it's  four to five times that.

    And then you need to store it, current batteries designed for solar applications have about a 3 year life span if used on a daily cycle that matches most metropolitan households.  Now start thinking about multiplexes and apartments, where the roof area per 'household' is much less than that of a single family home.  Ditto for urban commercial buildings.

    The switchover would not be easy, if Al Gore was elected next year I doubt that a full switch to solar could be completed before 2025 at the best, Delaware is still going to be strip mined.  The capacity to make that much photovoltaics just isn't there, and will take years to built.

    Note that wind power currently is nearly an order of magnitude cheaper than solar, for a quick switch-over it might be a better bet.  While there are solar power technologies that should be more efficient, they're still in the lab or pilot stage.

    •  Wind Gets Treated Like the Ugly Step Child (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Phoenix Woman, DaleA, A Siegel

      Because it would do well in area that are currently pulling in the ethanol subsidies, but it would do real well in the northern plains, great lakes, and on both coasts.

      For America, the desert solar would be a natural bet for areas like southern california and vegas..

    •  The new Stanford nanowire battery solves storage (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Bob Guyer

      Or at least it will, once it's built. ;-)

      And Octillion's NanoWindow film tech will turn regular windowpanes into solar collectors.

      And of course there are all those urban rooftops going begging.

      A bunch of things are coming together.  And who's to say that wind and solar can't work together?  Why not put solar cells on turbines?  That way, the turbines wouldn't need 10 mph winds to generate energy.

      •  All nice, and like dozens of other advances (0+ / 0-)

        I've read over the last 40 years, yet to be tested Real World

        Some researchers contacted by Chemistry World questioned whether the technique would be useful for commercial batteries. 'The most appealing result is obviously the high cycling capacity that these materials are able to deliver,' said one leading expert on lithium battery anodes, who asked not to be named. 'However, the test is limited to only 10 cycles and this is far too few to determine the industrial impact of the electrode. Also, the rate of the cycling test is very low and thus the power capability, another important practical requisite, has not been ascertained.'

        Urban rooftop both often suffer from shadowing from other buildings and being on building with a much higher demand to area ration than exurbian single family dwellings.

        Solar need collection area oriented towards the sun, wind needs to get up above the ground.  Putting big solar arrays on wind turbines is very much like putting large sails on them, the arrays would be highly stressed and frequently damaged. On top of that they'd be harder to install and maintain that ground level solar; plus most of the best places for wind power are less than optimal for solar - fairly far north, in mountainous regions, in areas with frequent cloud cover.

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