DBD Group

Hi DBD Group. There has been a lot of information in the news lately about solar panels and other uses of solar energy. Once you get started, I'll make my comments in red.

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Discussion:

Dr. Gurian Orbital solar arrays are probably not feasible in the short or medium term due to the high cost and greater wear. I'll be looking into the cost to meet global energy demands with solar.
Professor Esser: Should we introduce our presentation with the whole range of solar energies (passive vs. active)?
Professor Esser: Necessity for gradual transition. I would say we should consider a fifty-year timeframe.
Dr. Gurian: People need to be incentivized. The technology is there, it is already possible to break even against nonrenewable energy. However, the initial cost is high. Perhaps an organization could provide low interest loans to help establishment.
Professor Esser: Who should do the powerpoint? The answer is Max.
Professor Esser: Who would subsidize solar operations though? There is a lot of retrofitting required.
Dr. Gurian; That's the issue. The government is the obvious choice, but the government is likely not be very amenable to the idea. My point is just that someone needs to. ‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍The utility companies won't adapt on a large scale until the price of coal and gas become untenably high.‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍ Even then the high up-front cost is a significant factor.
Sir Max Lock: That is what it might take for it to happen. The government does offer a tax rebate and also people could create a surplus of energy that they could sell back. If we focus on the long term cost it must be cheaper. What about spreading the cost over multiple years like the energy we purchase now?
Professor Esser: People are shortsighted and greedy.
Sir Max Lock: That is true. However, can we put a program in place to make the payment over a long period of time?
Professor Esser: I'll contact the lobbyists.
Dr. Gurian: @Esser also, poor.
Were better off approaching utilities than individuals. Economies of scale and what have you.
I'm not sure our lobbyists are up to the task of fighting big energy lobbyists.
Sir Max Lock: Couldn't we apply the same thing to that too?
Professor Esser: Great Scientific American article about heat storage; I have added some info to my research section.

Research:

Max-
‍So here are 10 benefits of solar energy.‍
1. Solar energy is not only sustainable, it is renewable and this means that we will never run out of it. It is about as natural a source of power as it is possible to generate. Not only are we able to refuel our vehicles with it we can heat our water and light our homes.
2. We can generate our own source of electricity via solar panels potentially enabling us to live off grid. In other words we need not be dependent on the public utility companies to supply our power and we also won’t be required to pay for out power.
3. The creation of solar energy requires little maintenance. Once the solar panels or troughs have been installed and they are brought up to maximum efficiency there is little else to do to ensure they are in working order.
4. They are a silent producer of energy. There is absolutely no noise made from photovoltaic panels as they convert sunlight into usable electricity.
5. The creation of solar power is unobtrusive, particularly the solar electricity that is generated from photovoltaic panels that sit on top of the roofs of buildings.
6. Many governments around the world and locally offer generous rebates and monetary incentives to install solar panels and solar hot water systems. The governments of various nations understand the importance of the creation of electricity from renewable sources is to the entire world and are receptive to making it as attractive a proposition as possible for individuals.
7.‍‍‍ If you produce enough solar electricity or if you don’t use all of the electricity that you produce you can sell it back to the utility company for electricity credits. This is a rare occurrence for the most part, unless you are away on vacation for a week or two, in which case your solar panels will go on producing electricity that you won’t be using.‍‍‍
8. Large solar energy facilities can produce electricity regardless of whether the sun is shining or not making them sustainable and reliable electricity producers. The solar power plants capable of achieving this feat are generally thermal solar power producers capable of storing the heat generated and using it when the sun is not shining.
9. The advancements in technology used to create solar energy are continuing to improve making it even more cost effective. As it becomes cheaper to install new solar energy generators the price of solar electricity will continue to drop bringing it more into line with traditional, fossil-fuel generated electricity.
10. Solar electricity power plants and personal solar panels produce zero emissions and make no adverse mark on the environment.

Pros:

  • No Pollution‍Solar power does not release carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide nor mercury into the atmosphere. It does not burn fuel and generates no emissions.
  • Saves you Money — Well, after the initial investment, since you’ll be using less energy, your utility bills will be much lower and often times there won’t be an amount due at all.
  • Less Consumption‍Because it requires no fuel, you will save money on the cost of gasoline.
  • Tax Breaks — The U.S. government offers a tax credit of up $2,000. (I don't know if this would apply to us because we are looking to have it on a larger scale)
  • ‍‍‍‍Yearly Maintenance Free — Manufacturers are offering warranties of 20 years and more.‍‍‍‍
  • Energy Credits — You can build a credit of energy if your solar system produces more energy than you use.
  • It’s Sustainable and Renewable — Fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas are non-renewable and dwindling. Solar energy will never run out.
  • The Noise Factor — They are silent and have no moving parts.

Cons:

  • ‍‍‍‍$$$ — The main disadvantage is the price. The panels and installation have high starting costs.‍‍‍‍
  • Climate Variability — Although solar energy can be used in most climates, the number of hours of sunlight will determine the number of panels you’ll need and what the wattage of power will be.
  • Aesthetics — Solar panels take up quite a bit of roof space and to some and aren’t pleasant to look at.
  • Not 24 Hours — They only work when the sun is shining. At night you will have to rely on stored energy from net metering or have an ‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍alternative system‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍.

Source:
"Benefits of Solar Energy | Renewable Energy Development." Renewable Energy Development |. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Feb. 2012. <http://renewableenergydev.com/benefits-of-solar-energy/>.
" Solar vs. Wind Energy." Green Forum | Green Community | Promoting Sustainable, Eco-friendly Living. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Feb. 2012. http://www.greenerpeople.com/forum/greener-energy/259-solar-vs-wind-energy.html. "Solar Energy Facts." Solar Energy Facts. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Feb. 2012. <http://www.thesolarenergyfacts.net/>.

Professor Esser-

Solar photovoltaics:
A system consisting of solar panels; conversion of sunlight into energy.
Function:
‍‍‍‍‍‍Silicon ‍‍‍‍‍‍produces an electric charge when exposed to sunlight, direction conversion of sunlight into electricity
Earth receives 174 petawatts, i.e. 174,000,000,000,000,000,000 watts, or joules per second. Approximately 30% is reflected into space, 70% absorbed. In comparision, human 56.7 exajoules per year, <.001% of Sun's energy 3,850,000 exajoules per year.
Polar regions have a "lower density of incident rays" than equatorial regions. Cloud cover also varies, measured by okta scale, 1-8.
Cloud_Cover.png
Average cloud cover in October 2009

Silicon experiences photoelectrc effect, valence electrons are removed from the atoms by exposure to visible light. The electrons (and electron holes) are moved by magnetism, and a current is produced. 10-20% efficiency

Also, "passive" solar power refers to the use of solar energy without turning it into electricity. For example,
houses, during the cold season, could have dark roots and transparent windows to allow as much heat in as possible, but during the hot season do the opposite: namely have a reflective roof (white) and shade windows.
Space-based Solar Power:
Advantages: Constant solar irradiation (24 hours a day, no weather influence, no atmospheric interference, etc.), therefore has greater potential energy
Disadvantages: Requires energy to launch equipment, secure orbit, may outweigh energy return, at least initially. Transmission of energy back to Earth would also be an obstacle. Also, though visible radiation is more intense in space, causing greater potential for energy gather, more dangerous radiation (X-rays, gamma rays) is also present, which would degrade functionality of solar equipment.
Currently there are investigations into SBSP, (by organizations such as NASA, ESA, Roscosmos, etc.) but no definite plans.
Notable Manufacturers: SunPower, Sanyo Electric; range from 15-17% efficiency. "Most Efficient Solar Panels." SrRoeCo Solar. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Feb. 2012.
Storage Methods:
Thermal Storage (Molten Salts): "Five cubic meters of molten salt can store one megawatt-hour of energy." More effective than molten oil, as it can be heated to 550 degrees Celsius, rather than 400 for oil. Heat is converted into steam.
Pumped Water: Extra energy used to pump water from a low reservoir to a higher facility (kinetic to potential). The potential energy, when needed, is converted back into kinetic by allowing the water to flow, with gravity, back to the lower reservoir. On the way, it would spin a turbine, generating energy. Efficiency in energy return: up to 80%.
Others: Hydrolysis; breakthroughs are needed to make hydrolysis cost efficient, but if it were to happen, units could be small-scale and used in individual homes. Such a scheme would complement hydrogen fuel in cars.
Sources:
"Solar Photovoltaic Technology." Learning about Renewable Energy. National Renewable Energy Laboratory, n.d. Web. 16 Feb. 2012. http://www.nrel.gov/learning/re_photovoltaics.html.>
Smil, V. 1991. General Energetics Energy in the Biosphere and Civilization. John Wiley, New York.

Dr. Gurian:
"Make solar energy economical." engineeringchallenges.org. National Academy of Engineering, n.d. Web. 16 Feb. 2012.
The cost with current technologies is extremely high, and largely upfront.
Current efficiency is 10-20%, but could reach 40% relatively soon.
Most of the cited sources are from 2007 or sooner, so efficiency is probably already slightly higher.‍‍‍‍external image solar-panel-diagram.gif‍‍‍‍


Dr. Gurian
This source may not be entirely unbiased, but seems to suggest that orbital solar arrays could be feasible in the fairly near future.
Mankins, John C. "Space-Based Solar Power." AD Astra 2008: 17-36. Web. 16 Feb. 2012.

"There is an enough flat, unproductive land in the U.S. to power the U.S. We just don't have the wires to get there. Eisenhower built the national highway system. Some president will build the national grid." -
Fred Morse

Good work so far Dr. Gurian, Professor Esser, and Sir Lock. You are focusing on the key criteria for solar energy and are looking at both the pros and cons to its use. What do you see as the potential implementation in the next 20 or so years? Do you see a possibility of combining this energy technology with other energy sources? Have you discussed your findings with the members of the other Blue Ribbon Panels?

The implementation of solar energy, by definition, must be gradual. The end goal is to subsidize, and not totally replace other forms of energy. So far, only grass roots approaches have been used to create infrastructure, with a major of solar facilities being fitted to individual buildings. This is likely to be the predominant trend for the next few decades, though if governments take an active role, the centralization of solar power could accelerate.
I have heard that solar energy is very expensive is this true? and if so are there any ways to make it cheaper