Solar power

david52 Zone 6May 27, 2012

I listened a bit early this morning to radio program discussing clean energy - given that the fossil fuel industry is so adapt at controlling the discussion here, there were a couple of points of interest -

The US military is leading the shift to energy independence on their bases - sort of a competition between base commanders to see who can come up with the best solutions. Seems that everybody in the military is well aware that the wars in the middle east are resource wars. A huge number of returning vets are starting up clean energy companies as well.

Then this:

(Reuters) - German solar power plants produced a world record 22 gigawatts of electricity per hour - equal to 20 nuclear power stations at full capacity - through the midday hours on Friday and Saturday, the head of a renewable energy think tank said.

The German government decided to abandon nuclear power after the Fukushima nuclear disaster last year, closing eight plants immediately and shutting down the remaining nine by 2022.

They will be replaced by renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and bio-mass.

Norbert Allnoch, director of the Institute of the Renewable Energy Industry (IWR) in Muenster, said the 22 gigawatts of solar power per hour fed into the national grid on Saturday met nearly 50 percent of the nation's midday electricity needs.

"Never before anywhere has a country produced as much photovoltaic electricity," Allnoch told Reuters. "Germany came close to the 20 gigawatt (GW) mark a few times in recent weeks. But this was the first time we made it over."

The record-breaking amount of solar power shows one of the world's leading industrial nations was able to meet a third of its electricity needs on a work day, Friday, and nearly half on Saturday when factories and offices were closed.

and this:

FUENTES DE ANDALUCIA, Spain: A unique thermosolar power station in southern Spain can shrug off cloudy days: energy stored when the sun shines lets it produce electricity even during the night.

The Gemasolar station, up and running since last May, stands out in the plains of Andalusia.

From the road between Seville and Cordoba, one can see its central tower lit up like a beacon by 2,600 solar mirrors, each 120 square metres (1,290 square feet), that surround it in an immense 195-hectare (480-acre) circle.

"It is the first station in the world that works 24 hours a day, a solar power station that works day and night!" said Santago Arias, technical director of Torresol Energy, which runs the station.

The mechanism is "very easy to explain," he said: the panels reflect the suns rays on to the tower, transmitting energy at an intensity 1,000 times higher than that of the sun's rays reaching the earth.

Energy is stored in a vat filled with molten salts at a temperature of more than 500 degrees C (930 F). Those salts are used to produce steam to turn the turbines and produce electricity.

It is the station's capacity to store energy that makes Gemasolar so different because it allows the plant to transmit power during the night, relying on energy it has accumulated during the day.

"I use that energy as I see fit, and not as the sun dictates," Arias explained.

As a result, the plant produces 60 percent more energy than a station without storage capacity because it can work 6,400 hours a year compared to 1,200-2,000 hours for other solar power stations, he said.

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We could have been doing this all along... if it weren't for greed.

Yes, I know... it sounds like a broken record, but it's the truth. If the few weren't so wrapped up in greed, and the many weren't so oblivious to what's been happening, this nation, too, could be running on clean energy and a fair playing field.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2012 at 10:44AM
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"Norbert Allnoch, director of the Institute of the Renewable Energy Industry (IWR) in Muenster, said the 22 gigawatts of solar power per hour fed into the national grid on Saturday met nearly 50 percent of the nation's midday electricity needs."

It is a few weeks from the maximum solar incidence in the northern hemisphere. I wonder what percentage of the nation's mid-day electricity needs are fed into the grid from solar in early december?

I would like to know the following: what is the total embodied energy cost of Germany's to date solar installations, vs the year-round total average electricity production from those same installations? That would be much more useful than cherry-picked data.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2012 at 11:30AM
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A small, amazing step by my town with funds from the American Recovery Act.

  • Hempstead Town Blows Past 100,000 Kilowatt Hours; Wind Turbine Now Powers Towns Hydrogen Fuel Station

With a high-powered wind turbine at the Department of Conservation and Waterways, the Town of Hempstead has blown past the 100,000-kilowatt hour mark, generating over 128,000 kilowatt hours in just 24 weeks. The wind turbine, erected in December 2011, currently provides power to Long Islands only hydrogen fueling station.

Sitting behind the wheel of a hydrogen fuel cell-powered town vehicle the fuel created as the result of the wind turbine powering the towns water-to-hydrogen conversion process Murray drove through a "finish line" banner marking the passing of 125,000 kilowatt hours.

Joining the Town at the ceremony to mark this green accomplishment were representatives from the wind turbines manufacturer, Northern Power Systems; and installer, Aegis Wind. The town also welcomed the United States Department of Energy, Long Island Power Authority (LIPA), Renewable Energy LI, EmPower Solar, Wilke Engineering, the Greater Long Island Clean Cities Coalition, the Lido Beach and Point Lookout Civic Associations and the Point Lookout-Lido Fire Department.

"I am proud to announce that the Town of Hempsteads wind turbine has generated over 100,000 kilowatt hours since December, helping to power Long Islands only hydrogen fueling station," stated Murray. "Powered by the winds off Point Lookout, this wind turbine provides an almost constant supply of clean, renewable energy for the town."

To date, the wind turbine has provided an estimated 128,000 kilowatt hours. To put this in perspective, the amount of energy generated could power 14 Long Island homes (based on the average homes electricity demand) for an entire year! Whats more, according to LIPA, the wind turbine is well on its way to generating between 180,000 and 240,000 kilowatt hours annually.

At the town Department of Conservation and Waterways, the wind turbine is used to power a water-to-hydrogen conversion process that results in the creation of hydrogen fuel. This fuel is then stored on location at the towns hydrogen fueling station, utilized by the towns fleet of Toyota fuel-cell vehicles, which include a hydrogen/natural gas bus.

Energy experts estimate that the United States produces over 2,200 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually to create electric power. In fact, if the town had produced these 128,000 kilowatt hours of energy using standard fossil fuels, over 171,000 pounds of carbon dioxide would have been created. Instead, utilizing the wind turbine, the town has generated these 128,000 kilowatt hours without creating a single pound of carbon dioxide.

"We are very excited to have the Town of Hempstead included in our growing global 100kW wind turbine fleet," said Trevor Atkinson, of Northern Power Systems. "Their vision, leadership and commitment to demonstrating 21st century energy sustainability is extraordinary. This clean energy project sets the bar for all others to follow in their footsteps."

The wind turbine, which cost an estimated $615,000, was funded through a $4.6- million United States Department of Energy grant secured by the Town of Hempstead. The town has also utilized this grant to finance the construction of a 60K solar field, two solar trackers (solar panels which follow the path of the sun), a solar-powered carport and a geothermal energy project that will address heating and cooling needs at the towns Conservation and Waterways facility.

So much more potential.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2012 at 11:50AM
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david52 Zone 6

Pat, at the link is the full article on the German shift from nuclear/coal to renewables. Pretty impressive.

Given that the sunlight is now near the max - sure. Maybe in the winter the part of the answer is more wind, and far more efficient use of passive solar to heat stuff, as well as far better insulation and efficiency in electricity use.

With the later, all the incentives now are upside down, industry pays less per KWH the more they consume, not the opposite. I think it safe to say that a whole lot more efficient motors would come into use if the KWH cost went up with consumption.

Here is a link that might be useful: link

    Bookmark   May 27, 2012 at 12:00PM
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Were I very young and not college degree material, assembling, repairing/maintaining wind turbines is what I would want to look into. I think it's the smart wave of the future for many areas of the country (certainly my own) and though some think them ugly, I find in them a kind of clean lined, art-like beauty.

If the 1 percent which needs us to continue to enthusiastically embrace oil/gas energy.

If they were as enthusiastic to be on the cutting edge of future profits from alternative renewable natural energy sources, just think of what point in this quest we could be.

I find it sad that the country I was told as a child was #1
in everything, a world leader in knowledge, education, medicine, science and applied science is no longer in the top five or probably ten in any of those areas.

Our focus shifted somewhere along the way, we lost our edge.

Good for Germany, they can now lead us, guide us to new ideas, all by example - the best teaching tool there is.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2012 at 12:22PM
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I find them to be artistic in form, too, Mylab... even more so because I know they're providing energy from a clean, self-renewing source... the wind! One rather small turbine can power an entire farm, household, or business. Some counties here allow them, and I see smaller units being used by farms and businesses. Imagine how much power those giant windmills put out... Europe has used windmills for centuries... perhaps not for the same purpose, but the concept has been with us for a long time.

And, we've come a long way from yesterday's storage batteries. The concept keeps evolving as new ideas come to fruition.

I don't think they're ugly, at all... nor do I think they ruin the landscape. Think of how ugly the landscape is left by mining, fracking, piping and pumping, leaving behind deforested mountains and piles of useless, poisoned rock... and empty mine shafts that spill poisoned water into our rivers and streams... killing wildlife... oil wells and pipes that leak, spilling and killing... that's ugly.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2012 at 1:06PM
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nancy_in_venice_ca Sunset 24 z10

The Republicans are attacking the Pentagon's plan (meaning President Obama) for alternative energy for the Pentagon

Republicans Order Navy to Quit Buying Biofuels On Monday, the U.S. Navy will officially announce the ships for its demonstration of the "Great Green Fleet" -- an entire aircraft carrier strike group powered by biofuels and other eco-friendly energy sources. If a powerful congressional panel has its way, it could be the last time the Navy ever uses biofuels to run its ships and jets.

In its report on next year's Pentagon budget, the House Armed Services Committee banned the Defense Department from making or buying an alternative fuel that costs more than a "traditional fossil fuel." It's a standard that may be almost impossible to meet, energy experts believe; there's almost no way the tiny, experimental biofuel industry can hope to compete on price with the massive, century-old fossil fuels business...

"We'd be years behind if it wasn't for the military," said Tom Todaro, a leading biofuel entrepreneur whose companies have supplied the military with tens of thousands of gallons of fuel made from mustard seeds.

When Mabus took over as Navy Secretary, he declared that the service would get half of its energy from sources other than oil by 2020. The two-day Great Green Fleet demo, scheduled for the end of June in Hawaii, is supposed to be the biggest step yet towards that beyond-ambitious goal...

Committee Republicans -- unhappy about shrinking defense budgets and skeptical about the White House's green initiatives -- used the biofuel buy as a way to go after the administration.

"I understand that alternative fuels may help our guys in the field, but wouldn't you agree that the thing they'd be more concerned about is having more ships, more planes, more prepositioned stocks," Rep. Randy Forbes said during a February hearing with Mabus. "Shouldn't we refocus our priorities and make those things our priorities instead of advancing a biofuels market?" Then he told Mabus: "You're not the secretary of the energy. You're the secretary of the Navy."

And here's bipartisan idiocy - better to keep funding budget-busting fighter jets that are prone to asphixating the pilots than develop alternative energy technology: Senate Panel Cuts Off Navy's Biofuel Buys The Navy's ambitious renewable-energy plans aren't sunk quite yet. But they took a major hit Thursday, when the Senate Armed Services Committee voted to all-but-ban the military from buying alternative fuels.

The House Armed Services Committee passed a similar measure earlier this month. But the House is controlled by Republicans, who are generally skeptical of alternative energy efforts. Democrats are in charge of the Senate Armed Services Committee. And if anything, the Senate's alt-fuel prohibition goes even further than the House's. If it becomes law, if would not only sink the Navy's attempt to sail a "Great Green Fleet," powered largely by biofuels. It would also sabotage a half-billion-dollar program to shore up a tottering biofuels industry...

The measures -- amendments to the Pentagon's budget for next year -- were pushed by two Republicans. Sen. James Inhofe has long been one of the Republican's fiercest critics of renewable energy efforts; Sen. John McCain has in recent years turned away from long-held eco-friendly positions.

"Adopting a 'green agenda' for national defense of course is a terrible misplacement of priorities," McCain told National Journal Daily on Tuesday, calling it "a clear indication that the president doesn't understand national security."

    Bookmark   May 27, 2012 at 4:01PM
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david52 Zone 6

(CNN) -- In 2010 alone, there were roughly 1,100 attacks on U.S. fuel convoys. This has cost the men and women of our armed forces dearly.
Military officials recently reported that more than 3,000 uniformed soldiers and contractors died while protecting such missions in Iraq from 2003 to 2007. But new Pentagon initiatives could dramatically reduce our battlefield fuel demand through the use of new clean energy technologies, helping save lives and stretch ever-scarce defense dollars.
The U.S. Department of Defense is one of the world's largest institutional energy consumers. Using more than 300,000 barrels of oil daily, the U.S. military consumes more petroleum products than three-quarters of the countries in the world.
In fiscal year 2008, energy cost the department about $17.9 billion. Leaders in the Pentagon, though, are up to the challenge.

The Defense Department played a key role in the development of the Internet, semiconductors and modern satellite-based navigation, used by virtually anyone with a smartphone. Now, as detailed in a recent report by the Pew Charitable Trusts, its efforts to improve vehicle efficiency and use advanced biofuels could similarly lead the way for countless U.S. businesses seeking a foothold in the burgeoning global clean energy economy.

Building on the work of an expert panel convened by the Defense Science Board, the Pentagon has called for a new technology development strategy aimed at reducing risk to soldiers and enhancing our nation's overall long-term energy security. The department considers this one of its top strategic imperatives. snip -

So, lets put a screahing halt to this so the oil companies retain their big lock on the military and economy.

Here is a link that might be useful: link

    Bookmark   May 27, 2012 at 4:18PM
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The two extremes on the energy debate are both myopic, IMO.

To think that we can just continue as per usual with fossil fuels, even with massive efficiency increases, is unrealistic. Equally unrealistic is the idea that we can continue consuming energy as per usual but from 'renewable' sources.

So the criticisms cited in that link, mentioned as "complaints", are entirely viable. No industrial nation will get remotely close to business as usual based on renewable energy. The gap from Germany's current 4% from solar to 100% of current electrical usage from renewables, to say nothing of other energy uses, will not be closed. And that is in Germany, where per-capita energy usage is much lower than US/Canada.

The rosy picture of renewable energy in the fantastic future is very similar to the 1950's space-age futuristic fantasy, IMO. Electricity did not in fact turn out to so cheap as not worth the metering, robots don't do our housework nor much else, we don't live on the moon and shuttle-commute to manhattan and the office. We don't travel with personal jet-packs on earth. Those didn't happen because they are absurd and come pretty close to violating physics if not common sense, yet many people believed such nonsense.

The idea that 3 billion people can continue in their current energy consumption with another 3 billion rapidly increasing theirs while the world switches from the densest forms of energy extant (which made all that population possible in the first place) to the diffused renewable energies which never supported more than one billion people (back when there was a much larger stock of biological riches) is of course an absurdity. That's why getting excited about a super-rich region of the world sinking a lot of fossil-fuel resource into renewable energy gathering hardware is a distraction from what really has to happen.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2012 at 4:23PM
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Many believe that nuclear fusion is the way to go. They are right but they forgot to look up.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2012 at 5:24PM
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david52 Zone 6

Well, given that Germany and Japan have both stopped using nuclear power following the recent quake and tsunami, what - a year ago? And have now largely recouped the lost capacity through renewables, its still pretty impressive.

Anyway, whats the alternative? I share your bleak outlook on continued consumption of fossil fuels - just that I see that the sooner the world develops non-centralized, diverse energy sources, the better.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2012 at 6:36PM
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Germany has been investing in solar for a lot longer than one year. The last time I was there-4 or 5 years ago you saw solar installations on the roofs of most the large barns and big buildings all over the country side. I dont believe they think solar is the answer-it is just part of the solution.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2012 at 7:22PM
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Dave is saying that germany has made up for some 6 or 7 nuclear power generation plants with pv panels in one year, not that they have installed all their pv in one year. Did that article actually make that claim, Dave? Seems incredible.

Anyhoo, yes, northern europe generally has been impressive with their progress on pv generation and wind harvesting. Since they never got anywhere close to the per-capita consumption of NA generating a large percentage of total usage from those has been much more feasible. We hogs over here are going to have to kiss the pumpkin at midnight and turn into shoats right quick to be able to do something similar, and then at that Europeans also are going to have to reduce per-capita consumption sharply.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2012 at 8:52PM
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The German government has provided huge incentives for the development of renewable energy sources. Startng in 1991 with the Electricity Feed Act and then in 2000 with the Renewable Energy Sources Act, a massive focus, again with incentives, has been placed on developing alternative energy sources. Nothing that's occurred in Germany has happened in just the last year, it's been 20+ yrs in the making.

patriciae, you're is just part of the German solution.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2012 at 9:38PM
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I also remember hearing that private property owners (like those who own the barns Patriciae wrote about) can sell their unused energy (solar or wind) to energy companies - they don't necessarily use all they produce for themselves.

Having been to Germany a few times, it was almost always cloudy - in the summer, no less. I just wonder how they can generate much solar energy at all.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2012 at 12:34AM
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That is the point of grid-tie, Dock. It eliminates the battery storage, but a grid can only handle so much pv before it becomes pointless.

PV-generated electric is DC. There is significant loss inverting to AC so that it can travel in a grid, but that loss is less than the massive cost of large battery banks at every point (not to mention converting households to DC appliances). The problem with an all pv-grid however is fairly obvious: households in non AC climates use most of their power as the sun goes down and at night. That means that a grid would have to span a huge east-west axis and pv-generated power has to be sent many, many miles. Not only does the power have to be inverted to AC but it has to be ramped up from 12 volts to about 10,000 volts. Line losses in the grid average about 30%. PV can't afford that.

And thus we run smack up against a good example of the essential difference between dense and diffused energy sources. Diffused sources are a terrible fit for our dense-energy infrastructure. Sure, combining wind with solar helps smooth it out, but its still very far from being anything like as effective and reliable as fossil fuel generated energy. Winter nights can be quite calm.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2012 at 6:32AM
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I know everyone wants to profit in some form from fossil fuels and the ever increasing defense budget, but what do we tell our children and grandchildren about the world we're leaving to them? Or doesn't it matter?

    Bookmark   May 28, 2012 at 8:18AM
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david52 Zone 6

When I look at a nationwide grid, I see vulnerability and waste - witness the blackouts in the North East and brown outs in CA. There are plenty of dire warnings of how that entire infrastructure of power lines, transformers, etc is aged and needs replacement - at great cost.

I don't know what the power loss is on a transmission line of, say, 300 miles - but I do know that if the disgusting, polluting coal fired power plant is that far away from the point of consumption, the consumers don't give a rip - where they might well the plant was just down the block.

And as Pat has repeatedly pointed out, who controls the power controls the wealth. So there is a subtle, but huge effort, not to decentralize and diversify unless that can be controlled by the existing brokers.

I know I'm repeating myself, but I've a long experience living off the grid, using our own generators, and when forced to be efficient, its pretty easy. Where I live now, some 5-10 percent of the county population lives off the power grid, more off the water mains.

Theoretically, one could design smaller, localized power networks using regional resources and strengths - less vulnerable to a wind storm knocking down transmission lines from 300 miles away.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2012 at 10:24AM
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And as Pat has repeatedly pointed out, who controls the power controls the wealth. So there is a subtle, but huge effort, not to decentralize and diversify unless that can be controlled by the existing brokers.


Pat has it right there also--you can't replace fossil with renewable energy in a nation that makes up 5% of the planet's population yet consumes 25% of the planet's energy.

Germany's nuclear energy industry's net output was 12 odd percent, vs. the wind energy's net output of slightly more than 12%. And that was before Fukushima. Just wind, not even counting solar.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2012 at 1:55PM
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An excellent point, Dave. If I lived near an accursed coal-fired plant, well, I wouldn't. I'd hope I could leave. Of course, it's easy to say, living very far from any power plants. Though Cape Wind looks like it will finally happen.

A very apropos article in today's times below. Even so far south as the keys it is tough to run AC and other uses concurrently despite large arrays. A good example of how modern western lifestyles do not fit with the renewable paradigm.

Here is a link that might be useful: summer in Canada, or grin and bear it.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2012 at 5:27PM
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Permanent residents often move to remote places to get away from the trappings of modern society... while others just want a comfy vacation spot. Some people prefer living off the grid, while others can't.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2012 at 8:12AM
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