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On Is solar energy a viable long-term alternative energy source?


Maddy Griffin 5 years, 3 months ago

If we subsidized it like we do oil, we would have been independent a long time ago. Germany is now using solar for 70% of their energy, why can't we?

LogicMan 5 years, 3 months ago

Their "energy"? Do you mean they have installed solar panels and wind mills that could, in perfect conditions, supply seventy percent of their electricity?

Most germans wouldn't be seen driving an electric car, so they use lots of conventional "energy".

Liberty275 5 years, 3 months ago

Germany is the same size as a US state.

Brian Laird 5 years, 3 months ago

What does that have to do with anything? It still has 80 million people so their energy needs are still substantial.

Liberty275 5 years, 3 months ago

The size of the grid, the differing demands of weather and the lifestyle between the two countries make a huge difference. How many cities like with the air conditioning needs of Dallas or Phoenix or LA does Germany have? None. I doubt their entire grid could handle the needs of just those three cities.

John Hamm 5 years, 3 months ago

Ummmmmmmm, From the article, "Germany has nearly as much installed solar power generation capacity as the rest of the world combined and gets about four percent of its overall annual electricity needs from the sun alone" http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/26/us-climate-germany-solar-idUSBRE84P0FI20120526

In_God_we_trust 5 years, 3 months ago

Solar only works during a sunny day. It does not work at all at night. It works poorly in cloudy conditions. It is unreliable for a continuous power source.

LogicMan 5 years, 3 months ago

Yes, solar energy can provide a portion of your energy. Not nearly 100% for the typical american. But 20% is a good goal.

Thomas Bryce Jr. 5 years, 3 months ago

Bingo! Thanks Agnostik.The Energy Storage Technology is Exploding. We can Make plenty of energy. Storing it efficiently is the Key.

Liberty275 5 years, 3 months ago

Batteries store electricity as potential DC. It has to be transformed to high voltage AC before it can be used on the grid. That is somewhat innefficient and expensive.

jafs 5 years, 3 months ago

Well, there are DC appliances. Some folks buy them, and set up solar systems with batteries and just produce DC electricity.

That probably couldn't be translated to a large power grid though.

Liberty275 5 years, 2 months ago

DC doesn't work very well for long spans. Something about the different way the electrons move through the conductor.

Jason Johnson 5 years, 3 months ago

Actually our maximum daylight hours is close to 15 hours.

Trumbull 5 years, 3 months ago

Not really. The sun burns continuously. The sun does not go off every twelve hours. It may only hit one side of the planet 12 hours a day.

blindrabbit 5 years, 3 months ago

Not Western Washington State in the Winter, but yes in Nevada, Texas, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico anytime.

Liberty275 5 years, 3 months ago

We've had solar energy for decades and it hasn't done very well. It's alright as part of the grid, but it isn't a technology we can count on. Wind is the same. Coal is dirty, but reliable. Nuclear is the only alternative to fossil fuels that actually works.

Liberty275 5 years, 3 months ago

Let me know when the oceans are empty.

Ken Lassman 5 years, 2 months ago

Oh, so you ARE advocating for solar power after all! It's certainly way more reliable than the human versions of fusion reactors.

UltimateGrownup 5 years, 3 months ago

This is scary, that 76% voted yes on this. Solar does not produce meaningful wattage. If it did, it would be widely adopted.

George_Braziller 5 years, 3 months ago

The only reason is because of the cost and limitations of the current technology. Forty years ago you could only capture enough to power a pocket calculator. Now there are portable solar panels capable of fully charging a laptop battery.

Chris Ogle 5 years, 3 months ago

I'm not as grumpy when the sun is shining.

Ron Holzwarth 5 years, 3 months ago

The question was "Is solar energy a viable long-term alternative energy source?"

A long time ago, the sun was shining on the earth, and algae and other plant tissues grew. Over a period of millions of years, geologic forces transformed them into coal, petroleum, and natural gas. That is the source of most of our energy needs today, although we don't consider them to be alternative.

So the answer is yes, solar energy in one form or another is a viable long term energy source, at least until more advanced technologies become more practical, which seems to be occurring rather quickly.

blindrabbit 5 years, 3 months ago

A concept that I have not heard much about: "Pumped Storage Hydroelectric Generation" This has limited possibility, but has worked where you can generate extra electricity that is produced beyond the current (haha) demand. Needed is a storage reservoir, and a good generation source, a pumping system and gravity. This system has worked at the King Mountain facility in Central Pennsylvania, there electricity from Three Mile Island and other generating facilities along the Susquehanna River pump water to the elevated storage reservoir in off-peak hours to allow peak hour hydro generation during high demand.

Maddy Griffin 5 years, 3 months ago

If everyone in America wanted peace instead of a bigger better flatscreen TV, we'd have peace.Priorities! Thanks Agnostick.

bendover61 5 years, 3 months ago

People say that nuclear power is not sustainable but solar and wind is. The devices/materials that convert wind and solar to electricity are not sustainable.

blindrabbit 5 years, 3 months ago

bendover61: ,Ditto Agnosticks comments! Tell me how any steam using generating faciilities (be they nuclear, coal, natural gas, petroleum) are sustaining based on you comments? All use turbines, condensers and generators, none of which are "truly" sustainable!

In_God_we_trust 5 years, 3 months ago

There is hope using generators for a long term solution, driven by electric motors. The technology is cutting edge and not perfected yet, but the principle appears to work. Specially built near all permanent magnet motors also have potential, but due to the cost and number of magnets to develop meaningful power output, it does not seem as viable or affordable except for smaller applications.

In_God_we_trust 5 years, 3 months ago

Your article does not apply in this case.

Ron Holzwarth 5 years, 3 months ago

Until and unless the Hand of G-d intervenes, there is no hope for a perpetual motion machine.

The idea comes up from time to time, and in every case there is a commonality - the writer never studied physics in college, or maybe didn't understand the subject.

In_God_we_trust 5 years, 3 months ago

The devices that I speak of have been seen by a physics major, and he took it quite seriously. As I said before, the cute little picture of gears doesn't apply in this case.

Ron Holzwarth 5 years, 2 months ago

Show it to the world, then.

But I did notice that you said major, and not graduate. Or was he an undergraduate? I studied enough physics, a LOT of it is required for an Electrical Engineering degree (but, I failed to complete by 15 semester hours), to know that a perpetual motion machine is simply not possible due to entropy.

Dr. Daniel Ling devoted an entire lecture to the subject of the fantasy of perpetual motion machines, part of it was about how the idea of one has continually come up time and time again over the centuries.

I am sorry to say, this one cannot be any different. Don't show it to a major, show it to a professor. And don't just show him just the plans, show a him a working model. That's the tough part, a complete working model, not one that needs "just a little bit of work."

Currahee 5 years, 3 months ago

Umm wow a majority of people chose yes... efficiency already drops when the light hits our atmosphere. The most power that photovoltaic cells can generate is 15% with the average being 10%. Also, what happens when the sun goes down or its cloudy? Thats right, NEXT!

Ken Lassman 5 years, 2 months ago

Um hmm; photosynthesis converts solar energy to chemical energy at an efficiency of only 3-6%; therefore by your reasoning, life is not viable, either, right?

Richard Heckler 5 years, 3 months ago

How Geothermal Energy Works - Introduction

Heat from the earth can be used as an energy source in many ways, from large and complex power stations to small and relatively simple pumping systems. This heat energy, known as geothermal energy, can be found almost anywhere—as far away as remote deep wells in Indonesia and as close as the dirt in our backyards.

Many regions of the world are already tapping geothermal energy as an affordable and sustainable solution to reducing dependence on fossil fuels, and the global warming and public health risks that result from their use. For example, more than 8,900 megawatts (MW) of large, utility-scale geothermal capacity in 24 countries now produce enough electricity to meet the annual needs of nearly 12 million typical U.S. households (GEA 2008a). Geothermal plants produce 25 percent or more of electricity in the Philippines, Iceland, and El Salvador.

The United States has more geothermal capacity than any other country, with more than 3,000 megawatts in eight states. Eighty percent of this capacity is in California, where more than 40 geothermal plants provide nearly 5 percent of the state’s electricity.1 In thousands of homes and buildings across the United States, geothermal heat pumps also use the steady temperatures just underground to heat and cool buildings, cleanly and inexpensively.

The Geothermal Resource Below the Earth's crust, there is a layer of hot and molten rock called magma. Heat is continually produced there, mostly from the decay of naturally radioactive materials such as uranium and potassium. The amount of heat within 10,000 meters (about 33,000 feet) of the Earth's surface contains 50,000 times more energy than all the oil and natural gas resources in the world. http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/renewable_energy_basics/offmen-how-geothermal-energy-works.html

Richard Heckler 5 years, 3 months ago

The Real Dirt on "Clean" Nuclear Energy

The mining, milling and enrichment of uranium into nuclear fuel are extremely energy-intensive and result in the emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels.

Estimated "energy recovery time" for a nuclear power plant is about 10 to 18 years, depending on the richness of uranium ores mined for fuel. This means that a nuclear power plant must operate for at least a decade before all the energy consumed to build and fuel the plant has been earned back and the power station begins to produce net energy. By comparison, wind power takes less than a year to yield net energy, and solar or photovoltaic power nets energy in less than three years.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has calculated that collective radiation doses amounting to 12 cancer deaths can be expected for each 20-year term a reactor operates, as a result of radioactive emissions from the nuclear fuel cycle and routine reactor operations. This calculation assumes no unplanned accidents and does not consider radiation releases from high-level nuclear waste "disposal" activities. Nor are nonfatal health impacts related to radiation exposure counted in this tally.

Thermal pollution from nuclear power plants adversely affects marine ecosystems. "Once-through" cooling systems in use at half the U.S. nuclear reactors discharge billions of gallons of water per day at temperatures up to 25 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than the water into which it flows.

The Waste Problem A typical reactor will generate 20 to 30 tons of high-level nuclear waste annually. There is no known way to safely dispose of this waste, which remains dangerously radioactive for a quarter of a million years.

The nuclear power industry has amassed hundreds of thousands of tons of "low-level" radioactive waste (or, in industry and regulatory parlance, "slightly radioactive solid materials"), which has created an enormous disposition problem. The industry hopes to absolve itself from liability for this waste through the insane practice of "releasing" it from regulatory control, whereupon it could be sent to recycling facilities and ultimately end up in common consumer products!

Isolating nuclear waste from people and the environment requires significant energy and resources.

Public Citizen

Richard Heckler 5 years, 3 months ago

A Chevrolet Volt allows for about 40 miles per charge. If one can maintain that level each day then no fossil fuels are consumed. I learned this from David Milstein about their Volt. Living in the Lawrence area driving 40 miles or less a day is achievable.

WE drivers spend thousands of dollars a year on gasoline.

LogicMan 5 years, 3 months ago

"no fossil fuels are consumed"

Um ... I guess all the electricity generated at the Lawrence Energy Center comes from magic?

Ron Holzwarth 5 years, 3 months ago

Maybe they have a special electric meter, and all of their electricity comes from the Wolf Creek Nuclear Power Plant.

But on a more serious note, automobiles run on crude oil, a lot of which is imported, and the Westar electric generating plant runs on coal. We do not import coal, because here in the USA we have enough coal to last at least 500 years, and that's if no more proven reserves are discovered.

Liberty275 5 years, 3 months ago

A Chevrolet Volt... in Lawrence, runs on coal.

jafs 5 years, 3 months ago

It's certainly possible to generate clean electricity from solar and other technologies to power electric cars.

But, he's quite correct in pointing out that an electric car that's charged by the current power grid isn't clean, since the electricity generated isn't clean. Some on the left seem to forget or ignore that fact - I'm not sure why.

James Minor 5 years, 3 months ago

I have used solar energy for years and it has paid for it self many times over. Using solar energy has helped the indoor plants grow profitable for sales. With the new legislation in other states hopefully sales will increase and still keep the revenuers away!!

Jason Johnson 5 years, 3 months ago

Solar energy in our area has an ROI of about 15 years at best. So I'm wondering how long ago you had it installed to have it pay for itself many times over? 45 years ago? 60? Still maintaining its efficiency?

Ron Holzwarth 5 years, 3 months ago

No. We are going to run out of proven reserves in about 500 years, although some sources say as few as not much more than something over 100 years for the cleanest burning coal. Then, we'll be down to the dirty, high sulfur stuff.

Trumbull 5 years, 3 months ago

Even oil is a better option than coal. No such thing as clean coal. It pollutes when you burn in, pollutes when you dig it up. Coal no good.

Water 5 years, 3 months ago

The answer is yes.

The sun's rays are used to produce electricity via photovoltaic cells. The sun's rays are used to heat water for home and commercial use. The sun's rays are used to heat air in a trombe wall to warm a building. The sun's rays allow plants to produce energy via photosynthesis so they can grow providing us with food and wood to burn. We know when the sun is going to rise and when it goes down.
The sun is THE MOST sustainable energy source as it's been there in the sky for a long time.

streetman 5 years, 3 months ago

I propose that the only logical, full-time, clean, and unlimited potential energy source for creating electricity to power virtually everything humans need is to develop controlled nuclear fusion technology. We should have started on this seriously long ago.

In_God_we_trust 5 years, 3 months ago

If it is nuclear based, it is a destructive process and is not "unlimited". It may last a long time, but is not forever. I would think that it would be hard to place one of these in a car safely. There is a safer and cleaner way than this, but not as energy dense.

gccs14r 5 years, 3 months ago

All of the energy on the planet is solar energy. We've used up several hundred million years of stored solar over the last couple of hundred years and will soon have to make do with real-time solar. There is nothing else.

jayhawklawrence 5 years, 3 months ago

Watson, Thomas (Founder of IBM) (1914–1993) b. Campbell, New York

"I think there's a world market for about five computers."

jafs 5 years, 3 months ago


I think it was Decca who passed on the Beatles, saying guitar music was on the way out, and they weren't very good.

And a screen test for Fred Astaire concluded he was balding, couldn't sing, and could dance a little.

Trumbull 5 years, 3 months ago

Yep. Though under the most ideal conditions, the mojave desert solar plant is on 1980's technology using mirror reflection to create steam, and it is approximately equivalent to the megawatts of a mid-sized coal plant. It is very promising considering the newer solar panel technology.

Hopefully in our lifetime we will begin to see some substantial renewable energy shift.

Chris Golledge 5 years, 3 months ago

Depends on what you mean by solar. As Ron has pointed out, the energy we get from fossil fuels is just solar energy stored as chemical potential energy. Over the life of a PV cell, more energy comes out that was put into making it; so, viable 'yes' - most cost effective in isolation, probably not. That doesn't mean it isn't cost effective when paired with other technologies. Solar thermal yields an entirely different level of efficiency.

So, maybe the asker can clarify the question.

Liberty275 5 years, 2 months ago

Today is a good day to talk about solar energy.

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