Solar panels-practical???

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During the congressional debates there was a lot of talk about alternative energy sources. They discussed wind power and roof mounted solar panels. Where I live, the roof is covered with a foot (or more) of snow during most of the winter. Solar panels would be useless.
First, we can't run this country (or much of anything) off of sunbeams. There are 745 watts/sq meter of solar energy that falls on the earth's surface. At noon. At the equator. With no clouds. The only way to increase that number is to move the orbit of the earth closer to the sun.
Assuming 50% conversion efficiency, it would take a solar collector the size of the Los Angeles basin (about 1200 sq miles) to provide electricity just for California. Then, too, there is the initial cost and on-going maintenance. Plus Angelinos would be living in the dark.
That said, solar collectors for modest projects - such as water heating - MAY be cost effective. Solar water heaters are cheap and easy to construct. Their only drawback is a 55-gallon drum sitting atop your house.
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Industy can't be run on solar, but houses sure can. I think it's more like 900 W at the earths surface. At 50% conversion, for a 30' x 40' house, that's about 250 Amp service!! Yeah, weather dependent, but dats why God invented batteries and, more recently, inverters. :) Clearly will need backup, but the sun provides incredible juice. You can do the math and show that a relatively narrow belt of solar cells around the globe could supply several times the whole world's supply of juice. A strip of solar panels 1 meter wide encircling the equator would provide about 6 million KW. A strip 1 mile wide would yield 10 billion KW. etc. At any given time. More or less.
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Mr. P.V.\'d (formerly Droll Troll), Yonkers, NY
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On Sun, 12 Nov 2006 18:58:14 -0500, "Proctologically Violated"

The average available solar energy in continental USA is more like 300 watts/meter. Given conversion efficiencies the amount of electrical power that can be generated is more like 50watts per square meter at best.
Using batteries and inverters introduce a whole raft of other inefficiencies. Not to mention the environmental problems of building and maintaining banks of batteries. And for those long periods ,in some places where there is little sunshine, backup base load generators have to be kept on line.
All the equations for realistic solar power generation, in many parts of the world just do not work. OTOH in some parts of the world it is a possibility.
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So I was off by a factor of 10.... or so. :) Still, a lot of energy is available. If the Big Oil lobbyists are ever kicked out of DC, mebbe things will progress faster. Or when Big Oil gets into solar cells.
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It doesn't matter whether Big Oil gets into solar cells or whether a law is passed in D.C. or whether the world is run by those in Patik-print dresses. There is no way sufficient solar energy can be captured or stored to make a positive difference in our energy needs. It is a physical impossibility.
Of course being physically impossible won't stop the politicians. Look what happened in Hawaii recently when the state government imposed price controls on gasoline. Governments LOVE to tinker with the general marketplace. (Taxes, quotas, price controls, tariffs, etc. The general marketplace always wins.)
We CAN exist with a high-percentage of our energy needs coming from solar power if we're willing to change our lifestyle, i.e., reduce our consumption dramatically. But that's solving the wrong problem. Somehow, giving up air conditioning, communications, and eating anything from farther away than the next county is just not acceptable - that's the way they live in Darfur.
Remember, it was "BIG OIL" in the personification of John D. Rockefeller that brought the price of Kerosene down from $3.00 per gallon to five cents (in only three years). Of course this put the whale-oil people out of business, but we did have light.
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Nonsense.
Bob
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Certainly, if every house were roofed with collectors, it would eliminate the need for new generation capability. Grid tied systems eliminate the need for batteries. When it's sunny where you are, the surplus can be sent elsewhere and vise-versa. In hot areas, the time of highest demand is the time of greatest production.
When they figure out how to mass produce cells cheaply, they will get very popular. That's the only thing holding them back. It will happen.
Bob
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Bob F wrote:

That is exactly the problem. Until someone figures out how to get the cost down, they make no economic sense. Here in the socialist state of NJ, they put a tax on every electric users bill to raise money to fund solar. So, last time I checked, you can get a medium sytem of about 6KW, which actually costs $50K, for about 20K, because the other poor saps are paying the rest. Then promoters of this crap, like BP, proceed to do some more bogus math to justify it. They claim you can save another $500 a year or so, because the interest to finance it is tax deductible, if secured by a mortgage. But they completely ignore the fact even if the mortgage interest is tax deductible, it only reduces the cost of borrowing the money, which they never factor in.
And after all this, they tell you it will reduce your electric bill by 50%. Big deal. If you had to actually incur the true cost of paying for this, which of course, in the end the citizens as a whole do, it would make no sense at all. If you borrowed $50K at 7% interest, it would cost $3500 a year. And if you had a $300 a month electric bill, which is pretty damn high, it would save you a whopping, $1800 a year. In other words, the system would never pay for itself, without even factoring in how long it would last, what it might cost to repair, etc.
And of course we just had a big scandel with the $100Mil that is sitting in a public fund that was raised to support this. Turns out there were no financial controls on it, no control over who could spend the money, or tracking what it went for. And it appears some of it went to pay former employees of the state BPU, who became "consultants" to work on special projects.

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That is exactly the problem. Until someone figures out how to get the cost down, they make no economic sense. Here in the socialist state of NJ, they put a tax on every electric users bill to raise money to fund solar. So, last time I checked, you can get a medium sytem of about 6KW, which actually costs $50K, for about 20K, because the other poor saps are paying the rest. . . . .
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I'm in the socialist state of NJ (actually SJ) and I'm one of those poor saps that pays the electric tax to help fund these systems for others. But, honestly, I don't mind doing it and I think it is a good idea. Of course, that funding system is like a pyramid scheme that initially works for those who get in early then has diminishing and then nonexistent returns. My thinking is that the more funding that can go into alternative energy sources now, the larger the pool of people using those systems will be, and eventually the overall cost of the systems will come down. And I do think that by funding these things now we will eventually become less dependent on non-renewable sources of energy such as oil, coal, and gas.
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BETA-32 wrote:

And that's why we continue to get ripped off by the politicians in this state. Cause guys like you like to hand over money to the politicians and then have them decide when and if to give it back to you. This is a huge economic mistake and is a gross misallocation of resources. Instead of letting the free market work, politicians, who can't even run the parts of this state they supposed to run efficiently, now think they know more about energy than the free market. That $100mil is gone right out of the consumers pocket, right down a rathole. All they are doing is giiving a $20 or $30K subsidy to a small number of people that won;t even make a 1% difference in the states energy usage.
The new Mercedes E320 diesel gets 40MPG, and has lower CO2 emissions than a gas engine. How about we set up another NJ fund, take money from the citizens and give $30K to anyone who want to buy one of these so they can get if for less than half price. That a good idea too?
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I don't really want them to give it back to me because I am not ready to install a solar system. But, I am willing to contribute toward a fund that will help subsidize you or someone else who is willing to invest their own money in a solar system. I think of it as seed money or as an incentive to help get more solar systems up and running. I don't want to support someone buying a luxury Mercedes even if it gets high mileage because there is new real new technology being brought online by doing that. But I would support partially subsidizing you or others in purchasing a new-technology hybrid vehicle. My thinking is that until these new environmentally friendly technologies actually start being used, the cost of purchasing them will remain high. But if they come into more common use, the costs will come down and more and more people will then opt for those systems.
Of course, I know we don't agree on this.
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in putting a river between us ;) This is another example of today's "political science". People must remember that the government does not manufacture anything but paperwork.
Frank
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Proctologically Violated wrote:

That wouldn't power Chicago, much less the earth.
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wrote:

The numbers from here: http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/aeo/pdf/trend_3.pdf look like somewhere on the order of 4 trillion kilowatt hours per year, or an average of 456,621,000 watts.
At 750 watts, 40% of the time, at 40% efficiency, you'd get 0.12 killowats per meter. That only requires around 4,000 square kilometers.
I don't see the problem. find a chunk of desert 40 miles square, and go to town...
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Goedjn wrote:

You mean no problems other than solar is not even close to economically feasible? If it were that simple, you think utilities would still be using nukes, oil, gas and coal instead?
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Solar heating makes sense in some areas, but mostly where there is plenty of sun and little need for heat. Seems to me, water power from both rivers and oceans would make sense as well as windmills. It will take more research to be more practical, but there is an unlimited supply of ocean waves.
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On 13 Nov 2006 11:21:42 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net wrote:

1) Yes. For a while. But more importantly 2) I misspoke myself. I should have said: There are a lot of problems with solar power, but "there's not enough solar energy per square meter to meet the nation's needs" isn't one of them.
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There is a lot of research around the world on developing better, cheaper solar cells. Part of the motivation for this research is the demand. Increasing the demand helps. It is in our best interest to move this process along.
More efficient cells, cheaper cells, flexible cells, organic cells, etc. It is all being developed.
Bob
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wrote:

Although it's likely to remain the case for quite some time that you're better off using solar energy without converting it to electricity first, whenever you can manage it.
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energy, convenient to move and easy to use. But there are work-arounds for a lot of things a house uses energy for. Trivial example- use a passive-solar-heated tank as a preheater for the water heater. Takes a lot less juice to raise water from lukewarm to hot, than it does wellhead temp, to hot. Same water tank can also be a heat mass in the sunroom on the sunny side of the house, that you use a small fan to route warm air to the inside in winter, or set up a convection current in summer to suck cool air through the house at night. Yeah, its a PITA running around messing with valves and windowshades, but the energy is free once you amortize the hardware.
aem sends...
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