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Solar energy - Where art thou?

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posted on Nov, 2 2012 @ 10:40 AM
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Solar energy and EROI: Energy return on energy invested.



Solar energy has received a bit of attention in the forum lately and there are a couple misconceptions coming from all angles. A common myth that circulating is that solar energy will not net a positive amount of energy for the amount that is invested into the creation of photovoltaic cells.

However, that is not true based on today’s technology and the industry has seen an enormous amount of innovation since its initial birth.

Myth addressed here.

Birth of the solar panel.

The first solar cell made was 1% efficient, and for years improvements only brought it up a few percent. It was actually in the 70s and 80s during the oil crisis, where many advancements were made.

Probably surprisingly to most, it was Big Oil who were in on the action** - **:


Over the next few years, major oil companies started a number of solar firms, and were for decades the largest producers of solar panels. Exxon, ARCO, Shell, Amoco (later purchased by BP) and Mobil all had major solar divisions during the 1970s and 1980s. Technology companies also had some investment, including General Electric, Motorola, IBM, Tyco and RCA.[11]


Cue spooky music!

Chevron is even using solar to help extract some of their oil. The rationalization I take it based on the additional cost with the flexibility of oil and gas finished products will still net them a profitable return. Remember that solar competes with coal at 0.10kWh for home use, but gas and plastic products are sold higher because they have greater monetary value because of their stored energy.





Moving on...



I came across an article speaking about wind vs. solar, which I thought I would highlight to give some depth to the discussion.

Article source can be found here:

Link

The references used in the article were fairly recent (dated around 2008-9). This would greatly reflect some of the commercialized technologies being used today but I should note that newer more efficient methods and equipment are being developed everyday, and likely, we can expect better efficiencies in the future.



Energy in vs. energy out




Production of metallurgical grade silicon
1.5 kWh
Production of electronic grade silicon
7 kWh
Production of ingot
15 kWh
Cell Fabrication
81 kWh
Balance of System
473 kWh
Total energy used for the raw materials, manufacturing, transportation and the installation of one solar panel 577.5 kWh


We see here that 577.5 kWh(s) was the energy needed to create, manufacture, and get a solar panel into use. The system needs to produce this to yield a positive net energy return.



Total Energy Generated by a solar panel:
To calculate the energy generated by one solar panel over its lifetime, which is approximately twenty years, we multiplied the amount of energy the solar panel produces per year by twenty years.
Energy produced by one solar panel: 162 kWh/year (given)

162 kWh/ year * 20 years = 3240 kWh

Over its lifetime the solar panel produces approximately 3240 kWh


Here we have the calculations to determine how much the solar panel will net over its lifetime. 3240 kWh is obviously a lot more than the 577.5 kWh used to create it. So we see here that it also takes only about 3.5 years to net a positive energy return.


Energy Return on Investment = 3240 kWh :578 kWh

Energy Return on Investment = 1620:289



Everything after that 577.5 kWh is just gravy.
edit on 2-11-2012 by boncho because: (no reason given)




posted on Nov, 2 2012 @ 10:40 AM
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Conclusion:



Hey solar, y u no popular?

The article primarily focuses on "wind vs. solar" where wind is calculated on giving a 36:1 EROI. Solar on the other hand is netting about 5:1.

EROI charts are going to vary greatly depending the years the data is from, what projects the numbers were taken from, and the firms involved in the projects. In the case of solar and wind, new technologies have a great potential to produce much more attractive EROIs but some of this hasn't been commercialized yet.

In any case, EROI calculations are not going to have end-all say. I think they are a good indicator though to see what kind of levels a certain energy type is running in, regardless of their accuracy.

We should also take into account here that the study does not even address economics. Positioning for solar and wind are both restricted by suitable areas. Infrastructure is another key issue, and where a new industry takes an incredibly long time to sprout, once the economics change it can be accelerated quite quickly.

In an case, I also found a EROI chart for solar that cites a higher value, around 12:1. Source.

Compare that to the declining energy returns in the oil industry, and it appears that we are very close to a shift in energy production:



If you look at that graphic, you can see the energy returns on oil had a drastic decline, and has been steadily declining since 1970s. We are at a time now where oil sands developments are tearing the Earth apart to get a minuscule 3-5:1 return on energy. That's not good...

There are some people who argue peak oil is a myth, but if that's the case, why not keep those nice, ultra profitable 100:1+ values of energy return they had in the past? Money talks, BS walks.

Given that the proven technology and infrastructure is readily in place, and readily available with oil, not to mention the lobbying efforts of the industry, it's no surprise they maintain their position in energy production. But things will eventually have to change, although economics (IMO) is the most contributing factor. As soon as commercialization and monetization of solar and other alternatives becomes easier, we may see projects sprouting up as fast as oil wells did at the turn of the century.

But to be honest, solar isn't looking that good in certain aspects.

I mention in another thread a huge project happening in Greece, Project Helios which is going to use up a dismal 200km2 size of land.



Total investment: up to 20 billion Euros
Estimated total revenue: up to 80 billion Euros
Surface of land required: 200 km2


It's impressive given that it should make a 60 Billion Euro profit.

So now we have profit, where's our solar??

Helios is rated at 10,000MW, and for arguments sake, lets say it runs full capacity 365 days of the (very sunny) year for 14 hours a day. (Not likely but lets just give it some boosted numbers...)

That would give us about 51 tWh a year. The US consumes about 28,714 tWh a year. *. This means, that even with the generous numbers given to Helios, we would need roughly 563 of them to power the states. Which would require about 100,000 km2 of land. To put that into perspective, the US only has 381,000 km2 of deserts (arid land) Source..

Mind you I was being pretty liberal with the numbers. Essentially, it could take either 1/3 or possibly all of the land in every desert in the US, to produce energy needs from a similar project to Helios. This isn't realistic in any sense, and my example is just to get and idea of the amount of space needed for the idea of, "Why can't we just get all our energy from solar?"

Another one that comes up a lot with solar is, "if solar powered my electric car I'd save so much money!"

It seems that way, because even at the extra cost of solar compared to nuclear, coal, etc, it is still a lot cheaper than gasoline. (But not cheaper than coal, hydroelectric or nuclear.)


The cost to consumers for coal generated electricity currently averages around $0.10/kWh. Due to the efficiencies and cost of commercial PV modules they remain uncompetitive with this cheap coal-powered electricity, averaging closer to $0.27/kWh.
*

Of course, it only seems cheaper until you factor in your battery costs:


How long will an electric car battery last? The lithium-ion battery pack in the Tesla Roadster is projected to have a lifespan of about 5 years or 100,000 miles.
*

Right now Gas is $3.50 gallon, average. If your car gets 30MPG the gas used to travel 100,000 Miles is around roughly $12,000.

A new battery for your EV? About the same. Don't forget to add in the "cheap" energy you are getting out of the socket, which is said to be around $500/year.


At the end of that time the pack will need to be replaced, at a cost of approximately $10,000.


But even if you still like those numbers, forget them because the grid is not even able to handle the extra loads. Power outages happen now without the added demand, and if you shifted the transportation industry's needs to electrical outlets, you would see the grid collapse.
edit on 2-11-2012 by boncho because: (no reason given)
edit on 2-11-2012 by boncho because: (no reason given)
edit on 2-11-2012 by boncho because: (no reason given)



posted on Nov, 2 2012 @ 10:40 AM
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----------

Considering the sources of the information in the analysis used by the article, there should be no reason to accuse an oil industry bias.

References include Princeton University and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

About the NREL:


The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is the U.S. Department of Energy's primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development.


Overview of the NREL

The NREL’s mandate is to advance and promote renewable energies and they are primary national lab for the DOE.
edit on 2-11-2012 by boncho because: (no reason given)



posted on Nov, 2 2012 @ 09:32 PM
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reply to post by boncho
 





Hey solar, y u no popular?


Sadly enough, there's no money in it, save for the initial investment. It's a renewable resource.

The energy companies haven't found a way to charge for solar power. Clean off the grid potential, that's not being heavily funded, because, well, you won't get a return.

Good thread boncho, well-researched, and informative.



posted on Nov, 2 2012 @ 10:01 PM
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the major problems currently facing the industry are as follows imo:

no longer able to import good panels from china. suntech for example is way more efficient and cost effective compaired to ge. ge is chasing thin film which is far from ready.

panel warrenty expires in 20 to 25 years.

payoff takes 20 years

power companies are screwing the homeowner, whom is in fact relaxing the weak grid durring peak usage with solar energy, by charging the homeowner much more for using energy than they pay back for co-gen.

lastly, unfortunatly, most of the us is so far from the equater that generation becomes less feasable as you move north. think about how low the high noon sun hangs in winter. these panels need expensive tilt systems to get much less energy in winter.

storage is currently not the fad, so battery tech will help this someday, but people did not care for the room of batterys charging in the basement, with the acid and fire hazard and all.


i sure think it has its place tho. big ass farms charging our car batterys would help the grid as these electro cars gain momentum and really start loading our crappy grid.

if people where not so greedy, we would be installing complete solor roofs. no sub roof a kw meter would connect each house to a mini hood grid connected to one higher efficiency inverter. people would partner up a coop to buy and install there own little power companies. hell i could go to sleep when the sun went down!

sorry..no caps today......i lost my baseball cap.

gotta include wind and hydro too.



posted on Nov, 2 2012 @ 11:19 PM
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Originally posted by assspeaker

power companies are screwing the homeowner, whom is in fact relaxing the weak grid durring peak usage with solar energy, by charging the homeowner much more for using energy than they pay back for co-gen.



That part is definitely pretty true. Have you considered the fact that there is also a lot less line loss on a KW produced a yard from where it is used, than a KW produced dozens of miles away? Half of all electricity produced in this country is waste - a lot of that is line loss.



posted on Nov, 2 2012 @ 11:27 PM
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I didn't know big oil had a big hand in solar energy development.

Of course they will say at the end of the day it isn't worth it. The amount of money used to create the technology is a fraction of what those companies make in a short amount of time.

Debunking the gains/losses of your own invention. Doesn't sound far fetched at all when you have a nice safety net to fall back on
edit on 2-11-2012 by cconn487 because: (no reason given)



posted on Nov, 2 2012 @ 11:32 PM
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Some people in the New England area came up with a Solar Shingle that was Self-Heating to melt snow and was priced at a reasonable $14.50 for a 12 inch by 8 inch shingle. These shingles were capable of generating electricity almost equal or in some cases greater than the total amount of electrical usage of a home.

The company was bought out and now the shingle price is $55 per shingle. I do not know the name of the company that bought them out but the company was reported to be owned by a Major Oil Company. GO FIGURE!

We have efficient Solar Power Generation Tech...it is being HELD BACK! Split Infinity



posted on Nov, 3 2012 @ 03:08 AM
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reply to post by SplitInfinity


The company was bought out and now the shingle price is $55 per shingle. I do not know the name of the company that bought them out but the company was reported to be owned by a Major Oil Company. GO FIGURE!

 


Source?



posted on Nov, 3 2012 @ 04:11 PM
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nanu nanu

when people change their habits on electricity usage the math gets different hm?
why throw in "VS on solar and wind when you can use both?

I only see articles that are written in a way it serves the right "company/master" 'evry freaking time!


its simple, learn to use less electricity, change and adapt to the change..



posted on Nov, 3 2012 @ 05:35 PM
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Originally posted by Caffeineforge

Originally posted by assspeaker

power companies are screwing the homeowner, whom is in fact relaxing the weak grid durring peak usage with solar energy, by charging the homeowner much more for using energy than they pay back for co-gen.



That part is definitely pretty true. Have you considered the fact that there is also a lot less line loss on a KW produced a yard from where it is used, than a KW produced dozens of miles away? Half of all electricity produced in this country is waste - a lot of that is line loss.


6-8% Actually, and does play a factor, but is not the major contributing one in solar's inefficiency.

Source



posted on Nov, 3 2012 @ 08:09 PM
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reply to post by boncho
 

I will have to search as this was First Hand information and was also located in MY area and was reported in the local newspapers. I have never looked it up online. I will see what I can find.

This is not the first time I had been told about a type of Solar Shingle and if you think about it...it makes sense to have a shingle that is self heating as well as being able to generate electricity from an even cloud covered sky as it can use UV Light as well. Split Infinity





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