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Energy activists snipe at rivals

Discussion in 'Energy, Environment, and Policy' started by tonybelding, Mar 25, 2007.

  1. tonybelding

    tonybelding Active Member

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  2. Takumi

    Takumi Member

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    So Big Oil is already in the Alternative Energy...
     
  3. DDB

    DDB Member

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    Tony, that's the beauty of capitalism...the markets (ideally) will sort out the winners and losers, especially without government involvement. It seems that everything smells like bacon nowadays which is a darn shame because I'd rather spend my tax dollars on a tesla rather than a technology which in my opinion is a joke...hydrogen.
     
  4. Tesla2Go

    Tesla2Go Member

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    Notice how solar gets the least and most idiotic criticism. "It's a fraud", that's it. Well, how exactly......?
     
  5. tonybelding

    tonybelding Active Member

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    I always try to take a philosophical view of these arguments and see both sides, because there is rarely 100% black and white, and many people are making an argument based on something they've seen in a crystal ball -- which is something I don't have.

    Taking solar as an example. . .

    It takes a long time for a solar panel to "pay back" the energy used to manufacture it, or the money you spent to buy and install it.  (Some people still think, incorrectly, that the costs are never paid back.)  You could put that money into an interest-bearing account instead, and buy grid electricity during the meantime, and possibly come out ahead financially.  So, it could be argued that solar panels portrayed as "free energy" are a fraud.

    Likewise, if you want to talk about displacing some significant percentage of the country's electrical needs with solar, then you are looking at covering large amounts of land with hideously expensive solar collectors -- and then you have to figure out some mechanism for storing energy, because the sun doesn't shine 24/7/365.  So, it could be argued that solar portrayed as a solution to all our energy problems is a fraud.

    The true solar advocate will then respond that solar panels are being researched heavily, and they are going to be cheaper and more efficient Real Soon Now.  I hope they are right, and I think they might be right, but I just don't have their crystal ball.

    For what it's worth, I do believe solar power has a definite role in the future.  I'm just not sure how big or how soon.  To expect it to be huge in the near future requires a leap of faith that some people are willing to make and some are not.  And that's also true, to varying degrees, with biofuels, hydrogen, nuclear power and even electric cars too.  This is why, as DDB says, it's usually best to let the free markets work things out.
     
  6. Tesla2Go

    Tesla2Go Member

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    That leap of faith has already been taken by a massive increase in investors and companies involved in producing solar cells in just the last 2-3 years. Of all the alternative energies out there, solar is growing the most, it's not really growing - it's exploding. So I guess for the average person, if there is such a thing, this leap of faith is for now still a bit difficult, but when heavy investors put large amounts of money into it, then you have to admit, something is going on.

    About payback time, even using older panels, payback time is about 7-8 years. So if you would instead put that money in a bank, you would have to calculate your earnings based on that 8 year period. So which would give you a larger earning? Putting the money you would have invested in a solar installation in a bank for 8 years, or investing it in a solar installation and not paying electricity for the next 30 years? I know in Germany and France (I think also Spain) you can sell your electricy for about 3 times what you pay for it. So you could invest in an installation just covering a third of your needs, and you would still come out even. Plus, how much would the interest rate you earn from the bank during those 8 years be eaten up by the increasing price of electricity?

    The land area needed would be insignificant, I do believe a large portion of future solar installations will be private. At least, for every home owner it will make sense to have your own solar installation on your roof, which will not only provide you with cheaper electricity in the long run, but protect you from black outs (a pretty big advantage).

    In any case, it won't take 10 or 15 years to see the prices on solar radically drop, and efficiencies go up, and I'm not really trying to convince the general public of anything, just giving my view of what I've read and studied about it. The investors have already been convinced and that's really all that's needed :) I have come to understand with every new technology, it doesn't matter how clearly and logically you explain to people the advantages, the attitude will in most cases be: I'll wait for somebody else to try it first. Same with mobile phones, microwave ovens, the internet, and solar. We see a pretty small adoption at first, and then pretty quickly an epidemic at the point when peoples fear of the unknown is overtaken by the fear of not being left behind :)
     
  7. tonybelding

    tonybelding Active Member

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    I believe that could also be said about ethanol, and it's pretty easy to show that ethanol is mostly bogus.

    That depends on your definition of "insignificant" and what you're trying to accomplish. Meanwhile, you have to not only predict that solar technology and costs will improve, but you also have to make some assumptions about how other technologies will not.

    My favorite example: If Dr. Bussard's "polywell" IEC fusion reactor works (and he believes he has the experimental data to show that it will work), then solar should become obsolete very quickly, or at best relegated to specialized niches -- along with most other energy sources we use today.

    Geothermal is another source that many overlook. It's a fantastically good power source for those parts of the world (like Iceland) with easy-to-tap geothermal formations, and the USA has probably the world's biggest and richest geothermal formation -- at Yellowstone. However, there was also a recent study concluding that, with a bit of research and development (deep drilling, etc.), it could be possible to produce useful amounts of geothermal power nearly anywhere.

    Incidentally, in 1911 Nikola Tesla authored an article about alternative energy for a popular magazine -- he considered the burning of fossil fuels "a crime against future generations". In the article he briefly considered and dismissed a number of energy sources, including solar, before settling on geothermal power as being the most promising to develop.

    There was a man most definitely ahead of his time.
     

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