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


Liberty275 1 year, 2 months ago

Today is a good day to talk about solar energy.


Chris Golledge 1 year, 2 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.


Trumbull 1 year, 2 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.


jayhawklawrence 1 year, 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."


gccs14r 1 year, 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.


streetman 1 year, 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.


Water 1 year, 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.


thuja 1 year, 3 months ago

Is coal a viable long-term energy source?


1julie1 1 year, 3 months ago

Interesting article published last week on new record efficiency for solar cells:


James Minor 1 year, 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!!


Richard Heckler 1 year, 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.


Richard Heckler 1 year, 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 1 year, 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.


Currahee 1 year, 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!


lawrenceguy40 1 year, 3 months ago

The need for renewable energy is a lie put forward by the liberal elite so that they can milk the hard working taxpayers for more handouts. There is gas and oil left in the Earth to last for at least 500 years and after that we have technology today that could satisfy our energy needs in the form of nuclear energy.

The millsteins could do more for the environment by moving into town. But If they want to use our tax dollars to satisfy their ecological ego, then my dollars will go nowhere near their businesses again. I urge all other thinking people to do the same.


In_God_we_trust 1 year, 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.


blindrabbit 1 year, 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!


bendover61 1 year, 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.


Agnostick 1 year, 3 months ago

This is one of those threads that makes it very easy to differentiate between the long-time, thoughtful, logical contributors to this forum... and the newcomers and retreads who are here just to stir the pot.

No one single energy source will fulfill all our needs. It's as stupid to run a motorcycle on nuclear energy as it is to run an aircraft carrier on solar cells. The proper energy source and technology for the proper application.

I'm reminded of something our fertility doctor told my wife and I many years ago, when we were on the verge of trying in vitro fertilization. The doctor promoted recent advances that had raised the success rate of the procedure from @ 30% to near 55%. He said that while the process itself hadn't changed, there had been many improvements in the pre-procedure and post-procedure regimens that accounted for the increased success rate.

"Solar does not produce meaningful wattage?" Meaningful for what? Current solar cells may not be "meaningful" for old-fashioned filament light bulbs and nickel-cadmium batteries--but what about LED lighting and lithium ion batteries?

Solar energy would never power the engines of an aircraft carrier--but could a few well-placed panels load up batteries that could be used to help power interior lighting, computers, communications, etc.?

I think grammaddy hit the nail on the head--we've never prioritized it and valued it like we have the oil industry. Petroleum has its place, but does that mean it has to be everyplace?

In less than 75 years, we went from gliders on the shores of Kitty Hawk, to walking on the surface of the moon. If Americans want something bad enough... if we put the brains and the brawn behind something... we make it happen.

When we looked at the moon, we threw down the gauntlet.

When we looked at the sun, we threw up our hands. Shame.


blindrabbit 1 year, 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.


Ron Holzwarth 1 year, 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.


Chris Ogle 1 year, 3 months ago

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


prospector 1 year, 3 months ago

This is a popularity contest, not a poll.

Yes, when the price of gasoline is $10/gallon.


UltimateGrownup 1 year, 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.


BABBOY 1 year, 3 months ago

Yes. Problems are political --- not mechanical.

Those currently selling the energy do not want competition. They have substantial lobbying power in place including help from folks like AFP and Chamber that try to portray solar power as something weird. Of course, calling something weird is an affective argument to far too many Americans whose analysis is only skin deep…..


Liberty275 1 year, 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.


CWGOKU 1 year, 3 months ago

I see a cloudy future for solar energy


blindrabbit 1 year, 3 months ago

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


thuja 1 year, 3 months ago

Only if humans can control their energy appetite in the future.


autie 1 year, 3 months ago

When all the other stuff has been burned up the sun will still be shining. On a daily basis.


LogicMan 1 year, 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.


grammaddy 1 year, 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?


Gandalf 1 year, 3 months ago

Like most fledgling industries, it will only get better.


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