Somehow, much like all those “oil substitutes” we heard about last year (oil from cow turds, oil from bacteria, oil from fruit, etc.), I doubt we’ll ever hear about this again. Still, never hurts to keep hoping…
Great news for the people; bad news for right-wingers!
I was excited about the article until I got to that paragraph. There is still that fundamental battery problem with solar power. Batteries are have so many nasty things made of really toxic materials inside of them. You can’t easily throw them away and they are horribly pollutant to the ground water underneath landfills. For solar power to really take off they’ll need to develop a better battery that isn’t so toxic and can hold a higher capacitance.
Even if they can’t develop a better battery, the delivery system needs some improvement too. The further the power station is from the consumers, the more electricity is lost. This could be fantastic for the Sun belt in the US and other equatorial countries, however more northern climates (like Ohio) would be unable to use it half the year due to clouds, snow and everything else.
That sodium array idea could work pretty well for most of the Southwest US. I know there is one in Death Valley, and it works well due to the lack of anything else around. Desert areas have plenty open space in deserts with nothing but coyotes and cactii to worry about.
Depending on the total cost, it could be profitable to purchase chunks of desert and building up an array to sell electricity to cities. Wean us off coal, and work towards weaning off of oil.
You could solve the energy storage problem if you made biodiesel out of Algae
Algae produces over half of the world oxygen, some estimates as much as 90%, as you know. You’ll be better burning down rainforests. Algae are on the otherhand, solar powered.
On a similar theme, I was talking with a friend in the UAE about solar power and he laughed. Politically they cannot introduce alternative energy because of all the oil - go figure!
They have in Iraq.
I think the algae power idea is that you build big bio reactors somewhere sunny like New Mexico, so the algae you’re harvesting are ones that wouldn’t have existed if you weren’t making fuel. So it won’t change the atmosphere at all - the algae grow and convert CO2 to O2 you turn 'em into fuel and burn them to reverse the process.
I also thought this was an interesting article about the application of solar power:
Even if it only generates electricity for a few hours a day, it will still help. How efficient are current solar panels during cloudy weather?
Include windy power too for extra coverage.
Funny, the article didn’t acknowledge National Taiwan University’s involvement in that project. it was a joint effort between NTU and OSU.
Solar panels still work when it’s cloudy.
The solar tower Vay mentions works 24/7 because it heats up the earth under the catchment array and the energy is produced by thermal air movement rather than solar voltaic cells.
You don’t need batteries, you can feed the power into the grid using an active inverter. Systems can be set up to feed into the grid when the household has a surplus and you can take power from the grid when you have a deficit. Clean, green, seamless integration.
Other exciting developments in solar include spray on cells and printed circuits.
Considering that commercial panels are only between 12-20% efficient to begin with not much: about 50% of their max but even as low as 5-10% (of the max) when it’s dark because of clouds.
Anyone see this one?
Solar-powered refrigerators, with no moving parts.
[quote]A scientist in Taiwan has invented the world’s first chlorophyll organic battery that can supply electricity within 10 seconds of being wetted with water, beverages or even urine.
Chungpin Hovering Liao, a professor at the Graduate School of Electro-Optic and Material Science of National Formosa University in central Taiwan's Yunlin County, told a news conference Wednesday that the battery, when wetted, can provide electricity for two days to a week. While the strength of the battery is about half that of an ordinary battery, its storage capacity is more than that of Japan's water-powered fuel cells, he said. The production cost of the chlorophyll organic battery is very cheap -- about NT$1 to NT$2 (US$.03 to US$.06) , Liao said, adding that the battery contains no toxic substances and will not pose an environmental hazard, even if discarded at will.
Considering that commercial panels are only between 12-20% efficient to begin with not much: about 50% of their max but even as low as 5-10% (of the max) when it’s dark because of clouds.[/quote]
I had a thought come to me last night while listening to the Leo Leporte techguy podcast. What would happen if we really did change over to solar power in mass? What effects would the clouds really have?
The main question has to do with consistency. One of the benefits of running on coal, nuclear, and oil, power is that you know how much electricity will be produced and it is constant. There won’t be major fluctuations in the amount of voltage and amperage produced. What would happen on a cloudy day? If we were dependent on a majority of our power coming from the sun, would there be “brown outs” as production dropped?
That saline-electric power plant could still work when it’s cloudy right? UV rays should be less affected by cloud cover than the visible light spectrum.
Just a thought. Any others?
That’s why we are a LONG WAY from using solar or wind as the sole provider of energy. But electricity can be stored overnight in giant salt heat electricity converters to balance the load.
I agree with what you said regarding the constant supply from nuclear power etc. but you can e.g. use batteries to store energy for those dark times and/or store hot water in a boiler that has been heated during the day. Most batteries are toxic but so is the waste from nuclear plants, and burning coal or oil is not suitable at all if you want something enviro-friendly. No energy source is perfect, but at least solar power is clean (doesn’t need to be the only option on the table though).
I agree with what you said regarding the constant supply from nuclear power etc. but you can e.g. use batteries to store energy for those dark times and/or store hot water in a boiler that has been heated during the day. Most batteries are toxic but so is the waste from nuclear plants, and burning coal or oil is not suitable at all if you want something enviro-friendly. No energy source is perfect, but at least solar power is clean (doesn’t need to be the only option on the table though).[/quote]
The problem is that batteries are expensive and the energy density is much less than for oil and the like. Even worse LiIon batteries which have the best combination of energy density and cost have a very short operational life before you need to replace them because the capacity drops by 20% per year (100% charged, 25 degree C). If they are hotter, it’s even worse. This is the reason laptop batteries are basically worthless after a few years use.
It’s not cost effective to maintain a vast LiIon battery pack to store power station output in the day and release it at night - you spend a fortune replacing cells as they died.
People have tried to store energy in other ways of course, my favourite being spending electricity pumping water to a reservoir at the top of a hill when electricity was cheap and running it back down via turbines when to get the electricity back so it could be sold back to the grid. A sort of electrical arbitrage really.
Of course ubiquitous solar power will presumably make electricity very cheap in the day, so maybe more storage businesses will start. I bet they won’t use batteries though.
Incidentally, energy density really shows the appeal of some sort of biological system. Look at this chart
Body fat metabolism has quite a high energy density. Algae make lipids (i.e. fats) using solar power. You can grow 'em in tanks and refine it and end up with something with a comparable energy density to gasoline. Biotechnology will surely make the process more efficient since you could hack the algae to produce things that would burn in a diesel engine without much refining.
It’s a closed process too, since burning them will only release the carbon they captured when they grew.
I’m talking off my head here but the algae solution looked cool. I might guess that there are some considerations on the amount of water required to grow the algae though. Also what do the algae need to grow on, water, light and what else?
Solar is going to do well but it’s just not going to work efficiently for a lot of cooler climates and there’s no way it could handle peak demands like middle of summer and winter.
Personally I think nuclear power is the main solution to greenhouse problems at least as a stopgap for the 21st century. However it brings with it problems of proliferating technology, look at Pakistan.
BTW, you have to laugh at 100% efficiency headline because that is impossible. Anything approaching 50% efficiency would already be amazing. And different solar techs are suitable for different lighting conditions.
That’s a good point regarding li-ion batteries losing efficiency, otherwise we’d all be driving electric cars by now, let’s hope they work thru the problems faster.
You wouldn’t use Li-Ion but rather VRLA batteries unless you need something light-weight, i.e. for being mobile. Or C-LiFePO4 (made in Taiwan!) which are considered low-toxic batteries and don’t mind heat, in fact they like it up to around 60 degree or so. They also have a much higher cycle life. However their energy density is lower than Li-Ion but again that wouldn’t be a big problem if they are installed somewhere in the basement.
Agree. Poor people that bought a Tesla Roadster, they have a lot of money and probably won’t mind the expense but you are not being green if you prevent direct emissions while producing a lot of toxic waste.