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#75399 - 02/24/07 09:45 PM Solar a viable energy alternative?  
e57  Offline
Joined: May 2003
Posts: 2,876
Just looking to open a can of worms.

How many electricians see Solar (PV) as a viable energy alternative?

Not in the terms of residential use, but in total consumption Residential, Industrial and Commercial.

For porposes of debate here are some numbers to play with:

This is the largest and most powerful solar facility planned to date, which will be roughly the size of San Francisco. About 5000 acres and 500MW....

Heres the total US (Production not consumption) in MWh

FYI I'm not getting into the nay saying of alternative energy - just getting the average "Electricians perspective".

Would you put one on your home?

[This message has been edited by e57 (edited 02-24-2007).]

Mark Heller
"Well - I oughta....." -Jackie Gleason

Work Gear for Electricians and the Trades

#75400 - 02/24/07 10:54 PM Re: Solar a viable energy alternative?  
renosteinke  Offline
Cat Servant
Joined: Jan 2005
Posts: 5,316
Blue Collar Country
I was involved with an engineer on one of these projects. The results, even with properly functioning gear (another story itself), were nowhere near the expectations.

Another project had solar heating for the water. This project was also beset with materials and control problems.

In both cased, the customers were professionals who had plenty of prior experience with "alternative energy." Suffice it to say that none of the previous projects ... some highly touted as 'successes' ... lived up to their promises either.

#75401 - 02/25/07 02:34 AM Re: Solar a viable energy alternative?  
gfretwell  Offline

Joined: Jul 2004
Posts: 9,060
I have been dabbling with solar energy since the Carter administration. There were a couple of IBM engineers who went crazy with it. One had an active solar heated house.
It was a maintenance nightmare and he ripped it all out to sell the house. I had a solar heated spa that my ex made me rip out on my way out of town.

Skip ahead

I now have a solar heated pool now. That works and actually does make sense. I looked into solar power for the pool pump I hit the wall. If nothing ever broke, my payback would be 20 years or so. That is about as simple a PV setup you can think of, no utility connection, no transfer equipment and minimal storage. When the collectors provide enough power you run the pump. It will be over $10,000. (1.5 KW system)
One of the problems with that "1.5kw" is that is on a cloudless day at noon on the summer solstice (or which day you have it perfectly aimed for). Any other time it will be putting out less.

The basic rule in solar, or most alternate energy, is, the simpler the better. Solar pool heaters are decidedly low tech, they use the existing plumbing and pump and they will buy you some extra swimming days, plenty if you cover the pool. As soon as you start getting much more complicated the payback periods and the PIA value starts increasing exponentially. If this is just a hobby, try to buy other people's heartaches, cheap and play but do not expect to really save any money.
I got my pool collectors from one of those "roof leak" people. [Linked Image]

Greg Fretwell

#75402 - 02/25/07 08:41 AM Re: Solar a viable energy alternative?  
walrus  Offline
Joined: Jul 2002
Posts: 680
Bangor Me. USA
I have a passive/active solar house. It works great. I live in Maine the temp is about 15 right now [Linked Image] so as you can imagine heating is a concern. I installed the SOlar hot water system, not sure what percentage of hot water it generates but the other day it was 5 degress out and the collector temp was 150 degrees. Its been working flawlessly for 15 years with 1 maintenance issue. The differential controller failed within a few months of startup. Since then absolutely nothing has broken.
As far as the passive part of my house goes, its nice but I wouldn't do it again. I'd still orient the house toward the south but I'd limit the windows and spend my money on insulation.

#75403 - 02/25/07 10:27 AM Re: Solar a viable energy alternative?  
George  Offline
Joined: Feb 2002
Posts: 375
I can put $15-20K in reasonable investments and generate enough income to pay my electric bill. My peak needs are met and someone else does the upkeep.

Or I can pay $15-20K for a solar system, often have too little power, and have repair bills.

I think the first option is best.

#75404 - 02/25/07 11:42 AM Re: Solar a viable energy alternative?  
Theelectrikid  Offline
Joined: Apr 2004
Posts: 810
Levittown, PA
(Yes I Know you weren't talking about residential) I ride by houses around here that have their roofs almost completely covered in Solar Panels. When I ask the people, "What does that power?" They reply, "The lights and maybe a TV or two."

I'll stick with the grid.

For nationwide solar power, the U.S isn't exactly the sunniest country. [Linked Image]
If we could find one spot that's always sunny (Mojave Desert?) and send the generated power across the country (did I hear someone say 765KV trans. lines?) I'll say it might work.

Ian A.

Is there anyone on board who knows how to fly a plane?

#75405 - 02/25/07 02:30 PM Re: Solar a viable energy alternative?  
Tesla  Offline
Joined: Jun 2004
Posts: 1,273
Sacramento, CA
PV is a niche play, only: It's for demand that is just too far away from the grid.

Solar hot water is economic already in the sunbelt. But that's a plumber's game.

PV orbiting the earth would make more sense. No weather and orbits can be chosen to provide almost continuous sun.

But we do not have the ability to mass transport or mass manufacture in space... YET.

Zero gravity + vacuum favors robotic mass production of semi-conductors.

All of this is pie in the sky... generations away. Yet, like the trans-continental railroad -- forseen in 1806 -- it's time will come: to our great-great-grandchildren.

BTW, the Amazon tributaries in Peru have enough hydro-potential to power the entire planet -- forever -- well, as long as the Sun shines and Earth maintains it's orbit. However such an easy conventional project gets zero consideration.


#75406 - 02/25/07 02:38 PM Re: Solar a viable energy alternative?  
e57  Offline
Joined: May 2003
Posts: 2,876
Once again - I'm not looking at an individuals single residential bill that might take 10-20 years to see a return on investment etc.

I'm looking at the broader scope of TOTAL consumption, the 3,717,353MWh's of power vs. the 500MW peak that would be available for roughly 6 hours a day. The Commercial and Industrial markets are the other two thirds of the market, and I don't think I'll ever see Solar making it past the cost/benefit test for them.

Even with the Residential market it only passes the cost/benefit test when the "Feel Good" policy factor is applied. As as mentioned the onus of adding a PV system is on the property owner, something that is out of reach for a majority of people without subsidies. And even then the NIMBY's of the world take offense if they can see them...

So far it seems the answer to "would you put one one your home" seems to be in the 50/50 60/40 range from this and another post on another forum.

But what do you think about the broader scope of the total consumption and production for solar?

It doesn't seem to me that even the Million Solar Roofs Initiative will make a dent. Especially when we have a hard time forcing fluorescent lighting down peoples throats when required.

Mark Heller
"Well - I oughta....." -Jackie Gleason

#75407 - 02/25/07 02:40 PM Re: Solar a viable energy alternative?  
e57  Offline
Joined: May 2003
Posts: 2,876
Tesla that is my kind of thinking.... And I'm thinking you're the type of person who has evaluated the effiecianties of the rotating magnetic field vs the output of PV cells....

Mark Heller
"Well - I oughta....." -Jackie Gleason

#75408 - 02/25/07 04:04 PM Re: Solar a viable energy alternative?  
gfretwell  Offline

Joined: Jul 2004
Posts: 9,060
Germany has a big government PV system but it operates at about a 50% taxpayer subsidy over what the customers pay for the power.
Scientific American had an article that set the actual production cost at a tad over .50 Euro per KWH. The customer pays less than half that, still expensive by US standards.

Greg Fretwell

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