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  • solar energy to supply the world

    a friend sent me this, and there are always energy usage threads on here, so i thought i'd post it. i am no solar energy expert, but i can't believe the ENTIRE world's energy supply could be generated by the sun by building solar power stations in these eight locations.

    anyone have any idea if this is true, or are they playing fast and loose with the numbers?

    andy b.
    The danger is not that computers will come to think like men - but that men will come to think like computers. - some guy on another forum not dedicated to machining

  • #2
    First, and most obvious, is that the collection spots are well spread out. Almost as if this idea is being presented to deal with political realities. One per populated continent, in fact.

    Second, the one spot in the US should be able to power perhaps 1/2 of the US, assuming we're pigs. Which we are. So, even without the other solar collectors being built, anyone building the US collector would be filthy rich. AFAIK, no one is building it. Pretty much all the proof I need.

    Third, the amount of solar cells isn't listed. Last I heard, it takes a fair amount of cells to generate reasonable amounts of electricity. This things are expensive. Without saying how many cells are needed, the entire premise is unverifiable.

    Fourth, collecting solar power isn't the same as delivering the power. If you did collect all the power the US needed, you might not be able to get it from Death Valley (or wherever) to Maine.

    I call shenanigans, due to #2 and #3.


    • #3
      I was looking at solar panels just awhile back. Seems like I remember a hundred dollar panel producing 13 watts.



      • #4
        Simply put it amounts to watts per meter squared. Surely there are enough square meters in the US to put up this stuff and it will work until the sun sets then you need plan B - the second power source to carry you over the nighttime hours. Then you need a plan for weak solar periods owing to bad weather.

        Then you need massive security to protect the distribution network from terror attack. All those eggs in one basket, so to speak. And not to put too fine a point on it, but you're going to need a disaster recovery strategy. No adequate DR policy I've been a part of in the last 15 years has permitted the DR site to remain in the same geological area as the primary - there's earthquakes, asteroids, global cooling, etc. that could disrupt the primary and the secondary. Depending on the disaster you're contemplating, of course. In this case I'd plan for a low altitude EMP nuke strike from over the pole. And since redundancy is important to success, I'd plan on there being more than one EMP nuke.

        But let's say it does work and these locations power it all. No need for all that oil, tankers, pipelines, wells, refineries, etc., so they're scrapped because the economies of scale are gone. Whoopsie - Hawaii just went off the grid because they can't afford bunker fuel for the oil tankers, nor the cost to fill the tanks on those ships. Ok - we'll subsidize Hawaii and Alaska - we have to help Alaska because it's dark there a lot. We have big hearts. Oh, and Puerto Rico. And Samoa. And Madagascar and iceland. Oh, Greenland! Don't forget Cuber. Can't leave them out. In fact, we'll make all the island nations wards of the UN and they'll take what we give them. Same with Antarctica. Our hearts are big but not that big.

        So now we're going to have to figure out where all the people at these places are going to migrate to after they've decided they don't like the deal they got from the UN.

        Another way of putting it is this is such a bad idea it is still-born and will go no further than wikipedia.

        Possible, yes. Practical? No.


        • #5
          Possible? Not a chance. Those "proposing" this don't think so either, I am sure. Look at the computed numbers for required area of solar cells. For the US alone it's 170,000 sq kilometers (!!!!). Using that number even if the cells are sparsely distributed (concentrators etc) that is more cells than all the silicon foundries can produce before they need replacement. Some four function math: Using concentrators 1 cell per sq meter gives 1 million cells per sq km or 170 BILLION cells for the installation. If each cell unit weighs only 100 grams ( 3 oz) then that is 17 MILLION TONNES of solar cells. Another 100 grams of infrastructure per cell (reflector/lens/wiring/stand/) and that's another 17 megatonnes of material.

          If I were to second guess a motive for this "proposal" I would say it is an attempt to quash any ridiculous speculation by the green fringe that solar can replace every other energy source.

          BTW, would somone check my math? It's so ridiculous it doesn't seem right.

          Also, just in case someone thinks that we could just build a few more silicon foundries the startup cost for one runs about $500 million to $1 billion each.
          Free software for calculating bolt circles and similar: Click Here


          • #6
            In addition to all the solar electricity potentially generated there's also lot of collectable heat there, and it's also quite windy in that particular spot. Using every possible form of solar energy available it would be possible to power the US. But it will also require a massive reduction in the power requirement and would have to be enforced by rolling blackouts. But it's not going to happen. We need to start replacing the refinery capacity we've lost and pull the oil out of the ground. It's doing nobody any good where it is and the misery index caused by high energy costs is going to create political change.


            • #7
              There is already a viable source of cheap, near pollution free energy. Nuclear.

              If we could just get the eco-freaks off our backs...


              • #8
                Startup cost is the real issue with solar power. Anything you might save in the next lifetime is given to the guy who makes the panels. How much of todays energy does he have to burn to make the panels is another issue. In our effort to leave what oil there is to the Chinese and other countries, we forget that a basic belief to many in physics is that you can never get ahead of the game or, put another way, there is no free lunch.
                - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
                Thank you to our families of soldiers, many of whom have given so much more then the rest of us for the Freedom we enjoy.

                It is true, there is nothing free about freedom, don't be so quick to give it away.


                • #9
                  I dont think this was touted as any kind of a "plan", I think its just an interesting graph that is actually showing just how much energy we are being bombarded with, thats how im seeing it anyway's, I mean --- check out the little black dots compared to all the rest of the globe, want a reality check? now shrink the dots down to 1/12th the size and thats the solar energy it takes to run all our needs, heating/fossil fuels everything, The energy is there -- we just dont know how to utilize it very well, The dots you see are at an 8% conversion efficiency rate, Thats total Crap -- But one does have to ask, what about 20 or 30%?, What it speaks to me is maybe it wont be "on the grid" for the masses, but on an individual basis it may become more viable, (esp, where i live) --- I know its fed my brothers face for years out here installing photo-voltaic systems for people who live up in the mountains, Some get there system in cheaper that what it would cost just to bring power to thier houses, I forget what a telephone pole cost nowadays but you dont want to know if you have to run a bunch of them, underground cable you say ---- yeah, I can tell you what we charge to dig through granite in colorado...

                  I dont think the answer is going to be one thing, I think it will be many combined.


                  • #10
                    Another real problem is the efficiency of the collector.

                    The PV panel is very inefficient, and the general run of PV cell may be worse than a heat collector used to generate steam and power a turbine.

                    An improvement in efficiency is still possible within the bounds of the 2nd law, so that is an area to concentrate on.

                    However, there is another fatal flaw to that plan. The environmental damage to the area being overbuilt with this power plant would be so severe and devastating that it would get an instant court injunction to stop it, as soon as the eco-fringe could dash into court. And they would.

                    I refer to the folks who hate people and oppose ALL power plants.

                    Nukes are of course off the table.

                    Coal/oil likewise, both are obviously evil.

                    Hydro power destroys the ecosystem and chews up fish, so that is out, along with tidal power etc.

                    Wind power bats spotted owls out of the air and slaughters migratory birds... a non-starter of course, even without the ground vibrations that travel for miles and drive away animals.

                    Collected solar heat for turbines will cover up and destroy desert ecosystems.

                    Finally, photovoltaic is truly evil, since making the panels is possibly the most ecologically damaging process ever, with the number of toxic chemicals used. Not only that, but it would have to cover up far more area than even solar heat collectors.


                    Keep eye on ball.
                    Hashim Khan


                    • #11
                      I wont count future tech. out on this one, weve already achieved 26.5% conversion efficiency (although its not somthing you would want on your roof unless you were a billionaire -- and then youd still be worried about the hail storms)

                      And Honda has produced a thin film that is equal to the efficiency ratings of a regular panel that cuts the manufacture polutants in half, there are tons of companies on this, there is much progress and much effort going into it and it is far from over and done with, its actually still in its infancy...


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by A.K. Boomer
                        I wont count future tech. out on this one, weve already achieved 26.5% conversion efficiency (although its not somthing you would want on your roof unless you were a billionaire -- and then youd still be worried about the hail storms)

                        And Honda has produced a thin film that is equal to the efficiency ratings of a regular panel that cuts the manufacture polutants in half, there are tons of companies on this, there is much progress and much effort going into it and it is far from over and done with, its actually still in its infancy...
                        Who's counting out future tech? I mentioned the efficiency can be still improved.

                        The real issue is avoiding being blocked by a few invoking the law on their side to prevent all progress for their own purposes.

                        And, of course, looking ahead to see what real problems will occur from doing as suggested. There WILL be some.

                        Taking desert heat and "moving" it in bulk to other areas would seem to have some fairly severe effects..... and the more efficiently that is done, the worse it will be.

                        Keep eye on ball.
                        Hashim Khan


                        • #13


                          • #14
                            Brain fade.........Can't remember which but just within the past 2 weeks one of the tech oriented TV channels had a "green" show on depicting a graphic of how much land an array would cover to supply the US with it's total energy demand.

                            It was about 1/2 of Arizona or New Mexico or some-such state.

                            Seems to me a construction project of that size would have it's own set of ecological problems, eh?

                            Maybe split it among several states?

                            However, the technology that has captured my interest is CHP or cogeneration.

                            When/if I get my stand-alone shop built I'd like to pursue CHP for the shop's needs at least and even sell a bit back to the grid.

                            We'll see where SOTA has gotten to.


                            • #15
                              I've been waiting on this for 8 or 10 years now and no luck so far.The day that I can call up somebody like McMaster-Carr and order a 100 square foot roll of solar film and clad the roof with it,sadly it STILL hasn't happened.


                              These folks I just found out about,if it's for real and all evidence says it is,then it will be a big help on many fronts.Reclaiming fossil fuel from trash and high viscus oil fields will be a significant achievement.


                              This final one is pretty impressive and several companies and municipalites are buying them.Trash into electricity with zero stack emissons-

                              I just need one more tool,just one!