Discussion in 'Community' started by brap, Jun 24, 2004.

  1. brap macrumors 68000

    May 10, 2004
    I've always wondered, since I was really small. Well, Sim City small in fact.

    Solar power. Yeah, it sucks, doesn't it? Teeny tiny photovoltaic cells on top of people's houses doing diddly squat. Powering the fountain on a sunny day.

    But think about it. Sunlight. Really, really abundant. Hardly about to dry up. ~50% availability. FREE. So my question is -- why the hell aren't there 30 or 40 HUGE-ass solar plants dotted around the African/Mid eastern equator? Fuel cells, exports, local emplyment... hell BP, Exxon or whoever could make a fortune, and take a tiny weight off their ugly corporate conscience. Instead, oil companies go to utterly ludicrous lengths of extracting oil from Canadian tar deposits - surely the initial outlay of one of these such excursions would be better spent elsewhere?

    I know, dust-storms in the Sahara and stuff, blah, we have technology. Research could be done. So my question is, why hasn't this happened? Are there some fundamental brick walls here or what? i'm not a physicist, help me out :rolleyes:
  2. Nermal Moderator


    Staff Member

    Dec 7, 2002
    New Zealand
    I sometimes fill up at BP, and they have solar panels on their canopy. They have a little sign showing how much energy they're generating at the moment. As to what happens with the stuff they make, they probably use it to power their pumps and still have to draw from the national grid :eek:
  3. javabear90 macrumors 6502a


    Dec 7, 2003
    Houston, TX
    what I think would be cool is if every house in the USA/Europe had solar shingles and or windmills. This would mean that a lot of energy would be genrerated. You could draw from the grid if you needed to but.... ya. Also if cars were electric and or hydrogen powered that would be awesome.
  4. musicpyrite macrumors 68000


    Jan 6, 2004
    Cape Cod
    Solar panels are too expensive to be used effictivly. cost/efficiency is too high.
  5. PlaceofDis macrumors Core

    Jan 6, 2004
    true, but if big corporations and more people started to use solar power at least somewhat the prices would start to drop, thus more and more people would have solar panels and the prices wouldnt be that bad. Plus if people had solar panels for use just during the day and were to draw power off of a grid for evening and night use it would still be benefical to the environment
  6. Mav451 macrumors 68000


    Jul 1, 2003
    Well, they're expensive also because of the lack of subsidies. Compare the subsidies that are poured into gasoline industry. I find it funny how people complain about the gas prices now. Gas prices always should've been MUCH higher--that way, we wouldn't have the over abundance of fuel INEFFICIENT truck/SUVs that we have today. EVERY car should be at least 30MPG, by now, I mean, that is what you would expect, by the year 2004.

    Sadly, the auto-industry and the current Administration, thinks otherwise. There is already proof in college engineering labs, AROUND the world, that even existing cars can be made to be more fuel-efficient, without the need for fuel cells/electricity/etc.

    If that's the case, our fuel efficiency, WITH those new technologies, could be even higher. Again, the issue is the false subsidies that have been poured into gasoline prices. If prices were higher (like they are in places in Europe), people would realize just how LUDICROUS it is, for any car in 2004, to have <35mpg. Even worse is how trucks/SUVs continue to get away with MPGs in the 10-15's. That's just unacceptable.
  7. Frohickey macrumors 6502a

    Feb 27, 2003
    Solar panels are made out of slabs of semiconductor material.
    Semiconductor material could be silicon or other materials.
    It takes a lot of energy to create molten silicon (just like melting glass) to make solar panels.

    Solar panels are not energy efficient, especially if you count the energy used in the manufacture of the panels themselves.
  8. G4scott macrumors 68020


    Jan 9, 2002
    Austin, TX
    Ok, let's not start up another "Trucks and SUV's waste gas" thread. We've got enough of those around here. If you want to vent, do it elsewhere.

    Solar energy would be great if it could be harnessed efficiently. There are solar roofing tiles you can buy, but they pay off for themselves in 10-20 years. Not exactly something that the everyday joe schmoe would want to invest in. I do understand that there is research being done to make photoelectric cells more efficient, but we won't see the benefits of that research for some time...

    Not to mention transmitting the power from the equator to major areas that need it would be expensive, and somewhat wasteful.

    Solar power does have it's advantages, because it's an energy source that won't be going away anytime soon, and there's so much of it, but harnessing large amounts of it is expensive, and there are problems, like what would happen if you had a week of storms and little sunlight, and where'd you get energy from and things like that. Until solar power can get to the point of supplying, and storing large amounts of energy to power small to midsize towns efficiently, and cheaply, then we won't really see much large scale use.
  9. Sun Baked macrumors G5

    Sun Baked

    May 19, 2002
    Arnold wants every new home built to include a solar panel.

    Of course there are developers building reduced dependence homes and grid free homes.

    Tucson's Zero Energy Showcase Home



    And systems are only half the cost of and SUV, but they do start at more reasonable levels.


    But you really have to look at the builders and buyers, most of the a/c systems they put in are cheap ($1-2k here) and energy efficient systems really start costing some money.
  10. MacAztec macrumors 68040


    Oct 28, 2001
    San Luis Obispo, CA
    I wish we had Solar Panels here where I live. Its probly sunny about 98% of the time. I live in palm springs, california. During the winter, a small solar panel on the roof of our house would be enough to keep the pool at a nice temperature all the time. I think thats pretty sweet. No matter if its 40 degrees outside or whatnot, your pool is still nice.

    I read somewhere that if the government grabbed a plot of land (300 sq. miles) in nevada or Arizona, and built huge solar panels on all of it, it would be enough to power the US. Thats sweet.

    [Edit] - Guess it is less land actually. 55km by 55km plot, at 7 hours of sunlight a day.

  11. jefhatfield Retired


    Jul 9, 2000
    it's one of those ugly catch 22s...one day the demand will increase production and competition and thus bring down prices to where it's practical

    sometimes a product does not need mass production to be cheap, or at least sometimes...he he...take building a PC from scratch

    when i first starting seeing a "personal computer" a lot, with the apple IIe era, people pretty much bought computers and that was how most got their machines

    then sometime in the 90s, one could build a decent machine a lot cheaper than a computer company and it may have made sense both for lower price and for customability

    but now, with a small number of super-chain computer stores, with the lowest prices to be had for computers, even lower than mail order or the net, has made building a pc just an option for the fun of it...there's no way to save money in the process of building one's own pc

    circuit city and fry's deal with such bulk and a need to move stuff that you can buy a pc on closeout, 2+ ghz pentium 4s, sometimes great video card, for $300 usd, or less (229 for 2.4 ghz celeron/256 ram)...which makes buying a motherboard, processor, video card, ram, and computer case, as well as mouse and keyboard, a totally useless endeavor when it comes to saving money these days over just getting a comparable pc at a superstore

    it's funny how it takes some super force of nature, like a major pc superstore, to finally dominate the market with the lowest prices and homogonize everything

    but that's way off topic ;)

    back to solar panels...if governor arnold makes it standard to use solar panels in california, then the demand will skyrocket, many new manufacturers will enter the fray, and there won't be any more talk about how expensive solar panels will cost

    we will all be looking at homogonized solar "ahnold homes" nationwide or at least throughout "collifornia" ;)

    i believe that solar energy or any other alternative won't come along cheaply until we have exhausted all of our fossil fuels less than 100 years from now...there is just too much money yet to be had using fossil fuels...and too many jobs tied into that industry

    ...also explains why we are in iraq since i guess most still do not buy any line of WMDs ;)
  12. brap thread starter macrumors 68000

    May 10, 2004
    Joe Schmoe down the road, the bloke with the social conscience might back it. Hell, he might even vote for you, should you have a slightly less selfdestructive policy. Well, over here anyway, we know the US ballots are just money and religion - I digress! If only for ideological reasons. Who knows until you try?
    See, wasteful. I don't buy that. What about the burning of natural gas at oilfields? and the energy used to extract the oil from the tar?
    I also don't buy into that -- how many conventional storms do you get a year in the Sahara? I'm sure some kind of walled defence would mean at least some capacity during a sandstorm. There would simply have to be a network, spread the load, fill in the gaps. And such.
    Damn that 'necessity/mother of invention' cliche.
    I was really hoping I was just being plebian, but nobody came back with a physical reason, other than that billion-dollar companies don't want to. *sigh* :(
  13. Mr. Anderson Moderator emeritus

    Mr. Anderson

    Nov 1, 2001
  14. MongoTheGeek macrumors 68040


    Sep 13, 2003
    Its not so much where you are as when you are.
    A number I seem to remember hearing back in the 80s is that solar panels take 3 times the energy to produce than you get back from them over a 20 year life span. Efficiencies have increased since then but I think they are only a little bit past the break even point.
  15. krimson macrumors 65816


    Oct 29, 2003
    Democratic People's Republic of Kalifornia
    My friend remodded his Los Feliz house a few years back, when the DWP was giving out large rebates ($7500 of his scalable $12,000) for homeowners who bought solar systems. He's has about 1/4th of the roof covered in the new panels (not the 2'x4' monsters of way back, they're 1.5'x1.5' tiles. During the day he sells a small portion of the energy back to the system, keeps the pool pumps running, most of his lighting, garden timers.. mostly the small stuff. the AC and his PC's still use regular power (they're on different circuits, he tried to explain). He said he'll make back his initial investment in 8 years, 5 years now.
    It was a huge pain for him to install the system... first, not many contractors were available who knew how to install the new systems. Thefers had already started to shingle the roof, so they had to tear those off, and start over. he also had to get this switch installed by the DWP where the the power would switch from using one source to another, and something else to route the power back into the system during shortages, or something. It's been a while, so im not remembering exactly. Basically, the power company doesn't make it any easier to put in solar systems (that feed back into the system), large scale home generators (also that can feed back).

    Enough ranting, time for me to get some coffee.
  16. Angelus macrumors 6502

    Apr 19, 2002
    New Zealand
    Solar would be nice but..

    I don't see it happening anytime soon. Personally, if i was building a house i would love to have solar panels on the roof and the like. However at this stage its expensive and the cost/efficiency is not very appealing. therefore i think people should focus on more economical and simple ways to maximise the "free" energy around us.
    For example,the hallway in my house has no windows or anything so the light that reaches it during the day comes from adjacent rooms. This was a major problem since the hall was really dark if any doors were closed.This meant lightbulbs were used even during the day. About two years ago, we got "Skytubes". Theses are tubes lined with highly reflective metal which are connected to the roof and the ceiling of the hall. The difference was outstanding, they provide natural light from dawn to dusk and even on nights when the moon is out. They are definitely going into my house when i build it.
    If you want the world to focus more on renewable energy, you have to use every source eg. water,wind ,solar etc since some countries will be crippled by relying on just one,eg. here in ireland when its sunny its really sunny but god knows how many overcast months we have in the autumn and winter.
    I would really like to see hydrogen powered cars become mainstream. I remember being in physics class and reading about hydrogen combustion and thinking now if science could make cars on the principle, it would be such a fantastic achievement.
  17. kgarner macrumors 68000


    Jan 28, 2004
    Not be nit-picky, but that info is for powering all of Australia, not the USA (20 million--according to website vs. 250 million or more).
  18. jeffy.dee-lux macrumors 6502a

    Nov 19, 2003
    Talking about solar power, people always ask, what if its cloudy, or with wind, what if the wind goes down.
    You know, for quite a while, humans lives were actually affected by changes in the weather, and believe it or not, we got along just fine. Now we seem to have this attitude that no matter what the weather is doing, we've gotta go on with our lives exactly the same way as if it were sunny. "Hey, its been pretty rainy out lately, running low on juice, i guess i better cut out on TV, turn down the heat and put on a sweater or something, take shorter hot showers, maybe turn off a couple lights when i'm not in the room." Would that really be so horrible? People can't seem to stand the thought of living at the whim of nature, we have to take our lives completely into our own hands, cause we don't trust our planet to provide for us, despite the fact that this planet has harbored life for hundreds of millions of years. This concern is what got us to start growing our own food, and this planet has been off balance ever since, ecologically. Anybody who's read Ishmael, by daniel quinn, will know exactly what i'm talking about.
    I'm not one of those people who says we should abandon our lives and go back to nomadism, but man, are we so uptight that we can't stand the thought of having to reduce our energy consumption if the sun goes out for a while or if the wind goes down?
  19. MacAztec macrumors 68040


    Oct 28, 2001
    San Luis Obispo, CA
    Ok, so 12 x 50 is 600, so thats a 600 by 600 km piece of land to power the united states.

    So about a 320x320 mile piece of land would do it.
  20. Frohickey macrumors 6502a

    Feb 27, 2003
    But there was a period of time when solar panels and its installation were being subsidized by local municipalities and state governments. If it was going to take off into the mainstream, it should have done so at that point.

    I'd like to see the numbers as to how much the raw materials cost for a sizeable solar panel, and how much energy it takes to make a solar panel.

    I think that we need genetically engineered 'shock plants'. Plants that transform solar energy and water into carbohydrates and 320 amps of cold-cranking power. :p :D

    You just have to watch out that you are not grounded when you trim the leaves back. :eek:

    Okay, how about a Dyson sphere?
  21. JesseJames macrumors 6502a

    Mar 28, 2003
    How'd I get here? How can I leave?
    I'm just surprised that solar cell technology hasn't evolved as much as it should have at this point.
    Does anyone know who's at the forefront of this seemingly abandoned technology?
  22. Frohickey macrumors 6502a

    Feb 27, 2003
    I would think that space applications would be at the forefront of this technology since that would be the best place to deploy it when every single ounce of weight counts and hauling fuel to power your satellite means it has a fixed life, or else you need to refuel it periodically.

    This technology advance would then trickle down to earthbound consumers, but only to the point where the price to performance makes sense.

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