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Solar dream

Discussion in 'Energy, Environment, and Policy' started by richkae, Aug 25, 2013.

  1. richkae

    richkae VIN587

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    Americans drive 3 trillion miles per year in their cars and burn 134 billion gallons of gasoline per year.
    Those 134 billion gallons cost 530 billion dollars at 3.95 per gallon ( 2012 average price ).

    Total electric production in the US per year is about 4.1 trillion kWh
    Total generating capacity is about 9.2 trillion kWh ( less than half is utilized )

    If those 3 trillion miles were ( magically ) driven electrically, it would require about 1 trillion more kWh at 3 miles per kWh wall to wheel.
    That 1 trillion kWh would cost about 120 billion dollars assuming 12 cents per kWh and require us to use idle capacity in coal, oil or natural gas generation.
    The average cost of electricity in the US is 9.9 cents per kWh across residential, industrial and commercial customers, but assume a 20% increase because of additional fuel usage ( total guess ).

    If we drove the 3 trillion miles electrically we could save 410 billion dollars per year over gasoline.
    Now suppose we took that 410 billion dollars and used it to build solar PV. Solar PV installed by utilities runs close to $2 per watt ( spending $400+ billion dollars on it should surely drive the cost down but we'll stick with $2 )
    So we could add 205 billion watts of solar PV per year with the gasoline savings. One watt of solar produces about 1600 watt hours per year in a quality location.
    So that would add 328 billion kWh to the production mix per year.
    So it would take a little over 3 years to add enough solar to make all the energy needed for the EVs from solar and stop using additional fossil fuels.
    ( note that at the end of those 3 years, the price of electricity for the EVs would go down significantly, but I wont bother calculating that )

    It would take another 5 or so years to add enough solar to completely eliminate coal from the US energy mix.
    At that point the grid would be about 55% solar and the rest natural gas, nuclear, hydro and wind - then we could stop investing in solar and make driving nearly free and electricity prices would be dramatically lower than they are now.

    Of course this isn't a real plan. 100+ million EVs won't appear out of nowhere. EVs are still expensive and the operating cost savings over gasoline are needed to pay for the EVs themselves. 55% solar PV is not practical. Some portion of solar generation needs to be solar thermal which allows for collection during the day and continuous production over night. I don't know what the proper mix of solar PV, solar thermal, wind and natural gas is. This is just an exercise in exploring how much we spend on gasoline and what else we could do with that money.
     
  2. SCW-Greg

    SCW-Greg Active Member

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    This is the kind of thinking we need on the hill! Not short-sighted special interests.

    Thanks Richkae!
     
  3. Raffy.Roma

    Raffy.Roma Active Member

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    @richkae

    This is the kind of dream that I like. Very good post Richkae!
     
  4. tigerade

    tigerade Member

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    Here is a nice little graph I enjoy looking at:

    US_Solar_Electricity_Production.png

    There is no doubt that solar power is growing in the United States (and it is around the world, for that matter). It's growing fast, I read an article the other day saying that every four minutes another solar system is installed:

    Solar Energy Installation Growth | The Energy Collective

    From the article:
    So there is no question that solar power is already growing exponentially. The question is "How can we make solar, and other renewables grow faster in order to displace carbon-burning energy sources?". And that is a great question. I think Richkae's analysis is interesting here and worth study. But let's be sure not to narrow our focus too much on just solar - wind is a perfectly good source of energy too. America has no offshore wind power at the moment, that is a shame. Both offshore and onshore wind could dramatically decrease our dependance on coal, and possibly natural gas too. Geothermal I think is underutilized as well. Another renewable everyone forgets about: Hydro. Yes, there is more potential for new hydro than you may think.

    More food for thought, perhaps water can help clean our energy grid?
    New Hydropower Laws Could Add 60 GW Of Clean Energy To US Grid

    Of course, there is also the huge potential for energy efficiency, which I think is needed and can substantially reduce the size of the goal posts we face. It is much easier to replace electricity generation when there is less electricity generation that needs to be replaced.

    So I think Richkae's post is very interesting, but I wanted to add a few apples and oranges into the basket to remember that we have multiple tools in our tool belt for the transition to a clean energy future. :)
     
  5. brianstorms

    brianstorms Member

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    All well and good but what's missing from these technology dreams is the fact the many of those trillions of miles would be utterly unnecessary if cities, towns, and neighborhoods would be better designed in terms of proximity to food, shopping, schools, etc. When I see, like in San Diego County, developers come in, buy up large amounts of land, pay off whoever to get it zoned to their liking, then build hideous towers of apartments without any first-floor retail, corner grocers, etc (totally violating the time-tested design patterns of Alexander's A Pattern Language), forcing everyone to drive all over for errands, that is waste. It is waste whether the motors run on gas or kilowatts.

    We basically need completely new cities. Designed for people first, not cars and trucks first. The easy part is things like solar. Solving the hard part would make for a much better world even without alt energies.
     
  6. sp4rk

    sp4rk Banned

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    My biggest gripe is the train / car conflict.

    It seems that every train station (and rail in between) in the midwest, have level crossings at grade.

    When the train comes through, especially at rush hour, village and towns are cut in two by diesel belching trains tying up the crossings. And the crossings remain impassable while the train unloads and loads.

    Wonder how many gallons of wasted fuel are burnt just by cars waiting and waiting and waiting for clearance.

    Passengers should never be let to cross rails at stations and card should drive UNDER the rails.

    It is so inefficient!

    Compare this to most European cities ... well, let's not.
     
  7. brianstorms

    brianstorms Member

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    Yep, that and high quality, plentiful, ubiquitous mass public transportation. We're gonna need some crazy determined billionaires to make it happen in the US unfortunately. The public will (and the unseen but pervasive corporate will) simply isn't there to make it happen,
     
  8. tigerade

    tigerade Member

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    That is completely agreeable but probably not realistic in the United States. Our country often rejects central planning on housing and urban development. Look at the angry (and misinformed) reaction to Agenda 21.
     
  9. richkae

    richkae VIN587

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    In order to keep it all simple I outlined a case for a huge amount of solar that overstates how much solar to build.

    Clearly you cant have 100% wind or solar providing your energy because they are weather dependent and solar doesn't work to charge cars at night.
    There are four clean technologies that I can think of that show a lot of promise: tidal, wind, solar PV, and solarthermal.
    Tidal is absolutely reliable. But the others are weather dependent. Wind typically works well at night. Solarthermal can store energy for short term ( overnight ).
    Solar thermal combined with natural gas should probably also be used ( you use the same turbine and generators and augment the sun with natural gas when it is overcast ).
     
  10. RichardC

    RichardC Cdn Sig & Solar Supporter

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    Excellent thread. Add in some VG2 (vehicle-to-grid) where the cars on the grid (and possibly also spare or outdated battery packs) provide electricity storage buffers, together with thermal (hot water) and ice production and storage to buffer heating and cooling demands buildings, and tie it all together using smart grid technology with real time pricing to drive both demand and production responses, and a realistic and cost effective model for a post carbon economy quickly emerges. While Tesla, understandably, does not recommend or warrant the use of its battery for stationary power applications, Nissan has been offering, for more than a year now, a "Leaf-to-Home" backup power system for about $3,200 with only a quarter the power storage capacity of a Tesla. See:
    http://blog.nissan-global.com/EN/?p=4866
    http://www.theverge.com/2012/5/31/3054451/nissan-leaf-to-home-electric-charger
    http://www.technologyreview.com/tomarket/428251/home-power-supply/
    http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1079955_nissan-leaf-to-home-power-station-will-it-make-it-to-u-s

    All of us with both Teslas and solar panels have inverters to convert the high voltage DC power from our solar panels into split phase 120 / 240VAC power for the grid and the opposite in the Tesla (to convert 120 / 240VAC split phase power into the high voltage DC power stored in the Tesla's batteries. Imagine a relatively simple home energy controller which could: (a) direct the high voltage DC power from the solar panels directly to the Tesla's batteries; (b) convert the high voltage DC power from the solar panels into split phase 120 / 240VACpower for either use in the house or sale onto the grid; or (c) convert the high voltage DC power from the Tesla into split phase 120 / 240VACpower for either use in the house or sale onto the grid, or any non-conflicting combinations of those three functions, all in response to real time pricing information on the grid. Enhanced variations could include some amount of stationary battery storage, controls for multiple vehicles, control of demand management (e.g., controlling heating, cooling, hot water, washer, dryer, etc.), thermal storage and other features as the market may demand.
     
  11. Robert.Boston

    Robert.Boston Model S VIN P01536

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    First a minor technical point: you price electricity at the retail price, but the retail price includes charges to collect the fixed costs of the system (wires and generation). The marginal cost is more like 5-6cents per kWh. So you've overstated the replacement cost by about a factor of two, understating your budget.

    In most of the country, solar is not the most cost-effective renewable option. You'll get much more bang for your buck installing wind in most areas and offshore energy platforms for waves, currents, and wind in others.
     
  12. bonaire

    bonaire Active Member

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    Electricity is used in gas refining and delivery and dispersal (pumps). Without gas, we would reclaim a lot of kWh usable for charging. It is said that a gallon of retail gas used at least 3-4 kWh to be produced and sold. Plus, diesel for the delivery trucks and machines to find and drill wells, etc. of course, the other issue is how many jobs would be lost when cutting out refining and oil production eventually to be replaced mainly by limited electrical grid growth. It has to happen, eventually.
     
  13. richkae

    richkae VIN587

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    Thanks Robert. I didn't actually even start out this train of thought focused on solar. I was mostly focusing on how much money we burn on gasoline every year and what else we could do with that. It is like paying 1/3 of the price of a house every year to rent it - instead of buying it and living clean and clear ( emphasis on clean ) for the rest of your life.

    I settled on solar partly because its the worst case ( cost wise ) of green energy and then forgot where that came from. "If we could do this with pie-in-the-sky solar, imagine what we could do with more cost effective renewable energy."
     
  14. Robert.Boston

    Robert.Boston Model S VIN P01536

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    On that point we are in complete agreement.
     
  15. tigerade

    tigerade Member

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  16. ggies07

    ggies07 Active Member

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    That's awesome. Thanks for the article.
     
  17. tigerade

    tigerade Member

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  18. PV4EV

    PV4EV Member

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    I too have often thought about the 'what-if' scenario of rapidly ( <5 yrs) converting the bulk of all ICE transportation into EV solutions all round, and a major shift into distributed V2G storage solutions.

    I believe it would be ( somewhat magically) possible to convert the US into a self sustaining economy fuelled by renewables.


    There's a couple of other major potential benefits . . . To make all this happen would involve vast investment, vast material resources and mass job creation (etc)

    If the US pulled its troops out the middle east it could reduce military budgets by the odd $X Trillion to pay for the grand scheme, a lot of people coming home could be deployed into making the scheme happen.

    Meanwhile, the entire middle east economically implodes because the cost of oil would drop to $zilch per barrel, and most of those economies have nothing else coming in to keep them going. They could be left to fight it out amongst themselves.


    Interesting dilemma on many levels . .
     

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