Whilst the side-product that Keystone XL is dead from a commercial, never mind an environmental perspective is great, the central problem, as alan1tx above alludes to, is that low prices of energy are bad for a number of things. Amongst those is the renewable energy sector. High prices of oil are good for solar, because they make it more competitive now, never mind in 20 years when deployment costs of solar may have fallen further, even in absolute terms.
I think the main reason for the decline in prices is the appalling state of most of the world’s largest economies, now including China for the first time. The demand is very likely going off a cliff. It isn’t clear that this is going to lead to a desirable outcome of more renewable energy.
It takes 2 to tango if you both had been discussing you would have both seen that PW was using estimates for the average amount of sunny days in American and you were using numbers for the Netherlands.
Again, sorry TCU, but it doesn’t make any difference how sunny one place is relative to another. What matters is the cost efficiency of something independent of location. The cost of installing solar panels in a road is about 50 or 60 times greater than the cost of installing them on tilted frames, above ground, by the side of the same road. Due to being tilted, at any latitude within the continental US, those panels will be 20-30% more efficient than any lying flat in a road surface.
The economics of this are completely independent of location. Unless you can find a way of building a radically new type of solar collection system that can be somehow integrated into a “normal” road surface at pretty minimal cost, the option to build solar panels on frames along the side of the road will always be vastly more efficient. Now, there is a lot of merit to exactly such a scheme, but you will, if you explore it more, quickly realise the host of additional problems specific to large scale solar that haven’t even been discussed yet. Most critical is the additional infrastructure for transporting widely distributed solar energy from along a road to any potential end-users.
The huge advantage of solar PV on a roof, is that the energy flows directly into the house, and is, for the most part, directly consumed on site. Even in summer, we get through quite a lot of what we produce and relatively little flows back into the network. The transmission losses of what we do send back to electricity markets are quite high, but still acceptable if kept to short distances. But those are things you cannot get around if you start building ribbon like arrays along the side of roads in deserts where no one lives. This would have to be sorted out and it wouldn’t be easy or cheap. I suspect it’s possible but it needs thinking about and researching. It would still be vastly more sensible to put money into this than solar road surfaces as things currently stand.
I should also point out the best ever case study of the logical fallacy of energy production from renewables versus energy use. Al Gore famously had annual consumption in the 100,000 KWh range if my memory serves me. It was probably way worse than that. His home even if it was actually a mansion, must be appallingly inefficient. In a case like that, whilst it’s better than doing nothing at all, nevertheless, installing PV and wind turbines which I think he had, is rather missing the main issue, which should be to do something about your crappy, inefficient house. We will never get anywhere on issues relating to climate change, and energy provision without first addressing the central question of how much of the stuff we expend in our daily lives. Tomorrow, as every other weekday, I’ll climb on my bike and cycle to work. At lunch, I’ll cycle back, past the creche and pick one of them up and deliver them home. Then I’ll cycle back after lunch. Etc. etc. I don’t shop as much as I’d like by bike, but that too will change as we settle in here. I genuinely think in the States you are totally lost in the face of these challenges. You live in an alternate universe to the rest of us.
I’m sorry, but it isn’t about whether, or when the Netherlands solar project pays itself back (at those levels of cost, the answer is about 500 years – whereas standard roof mounted solar PV like ours takes 10-12 years – cell life is generally said to be 20 years, but they will often run 25 or more at reduced efficiency). Those limitations on the useful life of the cells are identical for cells built into a road. So you will have to change them every 25 years or so. Approximately 475 years before they pay for themselves.
Can you just think for one minute about the question, “why would you invest 3 million euros in a project 60 times less efficient than installing standard solar cells on roofs?”.
There are many, many aspects to energy sources, use and production. Again, Germany is a case in point. We spent vastly more money on building an ultra-efficient home than on solar pv. The second would make little sense without the first. The best way of dealing with energy, is to first and foremost, use as little as possible. And it’s amazing how far you can go with that.
But the efficiency of a location is fixed. IF you install solar PV on rooftops or on tilted frames in death valley, your return will still be 30% greater (energy alone) than if you install a road. Besides that, you will have a vastly cheaper install cost for the tilted, frame mounted PV than for the road. So the location is a constant to both systems. Moreover, the actual cells themselves currently work at more or less the same efficiency, wherever you get them from. They are generally 18-22% efficient if I remember rightly. There are new technologies coming that can improve this, but, again, these can be deployed either in roads at great cost or on tilted frames (next to roads even) at low cost. There is never going to be a technological advantage associated uniquely with roads. Whatever cells you can put in a road, you can put on a frame on a roof too.
Unfortunately, to my question “why should we invest 3 million euros in a project that gives us 1/60 th of the benefit of the same 3 million euros invested in rooftop solar PV?” I am told I have “no arguments”. Well, I seem to have an awful lot of concrete information on the relative costs of the solutions, as well as plenty of direct personal experience of using one of them.
So, if verbiage means writing down my arguments and asking a direct question, then I’m guilty. But otherwise, quite honestly, how can I, or anyone else for that matter, discuss rationally with someone like PW on a subject like this? This thread demonstrates clearly that there is no point even trying. Which is a shame. I’m not taking any share of blame here, because I’ve done absolutely nothing wrong. The wrong is entirely on the other side who refuse to answer logically constructed questions. Moreover, if they had a really functioning scheme with enormous benefits, they’dD have no problem whatsoever quickly disproving the point I raise. The fact they don’t speaks louder than their silence.
You know PW. Hawking “prove you’re smarter than a NASA engineer” is a very poor substitute for a real argument.
Now, as it happens, I work a lot with somebody who could, had he wanted at the time, have taken a seriously senior role at NASA. He’s smarter than me. But he’s also not at NASA, because he recognised the advantages of staying in the academic environment he already was, vastly outweighed the better money at NASA. That was all it was about. Money.
People talking about oil subsidies, fossil fuels, nuclear or other subsidised, non-renewables.
You are totally missing the point. The issue isn’t about those sources of energy. The issue is a straight comparison with how you deploy solar PV. As I’ve demonstrated abundantly clearly, the solar roadway is an abysmally inefficient way of doing so. On one level, the PV is substantially less efficient physically because of shading, inclination, dirt etc. But far worse than that are the absurdly high costs of putting solar in a road rather than covering the vast amounts of roof space currently suitable but without PV first.
Forget oil, gas or anything else. This is just about the relative cost of deploying solar PV by one means or another. Solar roads are a dreadful way of doing so. They could become the goose laying the golden egg for fossil fuels and nuclear if they take off because they will utterly destroy solar renewable energy if they are forced onto us.
I’ll put one more thing out there. In business, sophistry is a highly developed skill. Solar Roadways are, first and foremost, a business.
A second thing. There is nothing new under the sun. Solar PV technology has been around since the invention of the diode. It’s well-established. There is a lot of research going into the optimisation of solar technology. There is research of “blue skies” kind hoping to crack some of its biggest efficiency problems (“quantum” solar panels for instance). There is absolutely nothing whatsoever “transformative” or new about a solar roadway. It requires a hard, transparent, shell with reasonable friction properties over exactly the same technology I have on my roof. Because there simply is nothing else.
Here is the rub. If you have a radically brilliant idea, you will have a massive advantage over existing technologies. You will be able to demonstrate clearly, concisely what this advantage is, and you will be able to lay down clear figures how much of an economic advantage this provides. I’m not talking about relative to non-renewable energy sources. I’m talking about relative to existing, solar solutions, like putting pv on roofs or in solar farms.
Despite huge amounts of hype and publicity, no one, anywhere has ever produced any costing analysis that shows why this terrible idea is in any way worth the trouble.
So. Explain to me why you invest 3 million euros in solar cycle paths to get 1/60 th o the benefit of the same 3 million invested in solar pv on roofspace?
I must apologise. I got the dimensions of the road wrong. It’s 70m to be extended to 100m. So the actual distance you can cover on the bike is minimal, and the cost to replace 70m or 100m of solar bike path with conventional bike path is utterly negligible (I’d guess ~€20-€30K. So the energy numbers are right and dismal, but the cost situation is actually worse than I suggested (much worse).
Sorry for the delay. There are I think several million of us now in Germany with PV on our “private” roofs. I seriously doubt the economics and feasibility of solar PV are better understood by the populace anywhere else.
The link with the dismal numbers for the Netherlands project is here (a Guardian article).
That’s where the “power for 3 houses” comes from. Even if you double my already generous estimate, the road is doing terribly. Some people in the comments argue that there are “research costs” hidden in the 3 million. I don’t see that anywhere, I’m afraid. Finally, the costs of actually installing normal cycle paths? It isn’t that much. We’ve just had our roads built on the housing development where we built our house. As almost always in Germany, we bought a plot of land along with ~35 other families and built our own places. The company selling the land is responsible for the “Erschließung” (building all access roads, pavements, drainage, lighting etc. etc.) There’s a lot of infrastructure went in when you look around. At least as much as the 1km of cycle path, and then some. Take an average price of €100K per plot (generous). Multiply by 35. You get 3.5 million. From that, you have to pay the landowner whose land this was in the first place (they’ll have got at least 1 million). You then have to pay for the infrastructure. You then need profit for the town hall who ran this as well as the semi-private company that dealt with sales, marketing, planning etc. etc. The roads didn’t cost more than €250K including materials, manpower etc. etc. and they installed a great deal more than would be required for a standard cycle path. So there is no room for big overlap costs in this scheme either.
A final argument is that TNO are dealing with this and they are serious people. TNO are serious people. I know a few of them personally though no one working on this project. I have no idea why they’re pursuing this, but even very smart people sometimes do things that defy rational explanation and I can only assume this is one such example.
Installation cost 3.5 KWh peak of solar PV +inverter etc. etc. €7000
West Southwest facing aspect at ~38° inclination.
Approximate annual yield per KWh peak ~ 1 MWh = total of 3.5 MWh/yr for cost of €7000 =
€2000 per MWh/yr
Approximate amount of energy required to power and heat a German KfW 55 energy efficiency house – 5000 KWH/yr
Claimed power from Netherlands solar cycle path “enough for 3 houses” (being generous, let’s say 25000 KWh/yr (or 25 MWh/yr)
Cost of solar cycle path – €3million. = total of 25 MWh/yr for cost of €3 million. = €120000 per MWh/yr
The numbers for the private house are actually for our private house.
I’m really sorry, but under no circumstances ever, do solar roadways make any economic sense at all.
kbki202 commented on the diary post Democrats Crushed in Ohio: What It Means, and What It Could Mean by Ohio Barbarian.
Thanks for all the answers there Mr Barbarian. Viewing everything in the, from the start, ludicrous context of US presidential competitions, Kasich looks like an extremely strong candidate. I get the impression he also doesn’t do personal sleaze? No way of knowing for sure of course (apart from the stench of having worked for Lehman). [...]
kbki202 commented on the blog post A 2014 Midterm Election Post-Mortem: The Democratic Party Will Not Solve Our Problems
But it’s different nowadays and even the Ferguson and Snowden cases show it. Snowden is in exile in Russia, possibly for the rest of his life. Ferguson showed a fully militarised response to civilian disobedience. No pretence – it was the military versus civilians.
Civil disobedience nowadays results in 83 year old nuns getting 3 1/2 year prison sentencing for daubing some paint on a building, a sentence the judge was quite proud of as he found it lenient. Let’s be honest, this puts Putin in the shade.
Civil disobedience on any meaningful scale today will provoke a Pinochet-like crackdown, and all the things he did will be done again, including the torture and murder. All the evidence is there already. Civil disobedience if it starts, either goes “critical” and overwhelms the oppression or thousands, possibly 10′s of thousands will be killed or incarcerated, and the country will lurch into pure authoritarianism.
kbki202 commented on the diary post Democrats Crushed in Ohio: What It Means, and What It Could Mean by Ohio Barbarian.
As the resident Ohio expert. How much of a corporate shill or independently minded politician is Kasich? What, if any, are his positions on mass surveillance? Endless global war? Universal healthcare? Is he a long way to the left of Obama (hardly difficult, but a start)? Is he a long way to the left of [...]
The donkey is facing the wrong way, and its hind quarters should be very clearly in contact with the elephant’s underside. Oh, and by the way, it is by mutual consent.
Yay! A democrat from the hellspawn caucus. Yep. That’s what we need. More hellspawn democrats in the Senate.
kbki202 commented on the blog post People of Kentucky Apparently Just Realized They’ve Been Voting Republican for Decades
Should a large number of 99% USians do a Hong Kong to WashingtonDC demanding actual democracy and not what Jon Walker describes above what would likely happen?
A very, very, very, large number of civilian activist casualties, followed by a media-lapdog propaganda blitz that Goebbels would have admired.
kbki202 commented on the blog post Elizabeth Warren Says Obama Administration ‘Protected Wall Street Not Families’
Ahhhh! Elizabeth Warren is all steamed up about something team D did? And people are…. Just this. Nothing more.
kbki202 commented on the blog post Late Night: SolaRoad, The Dutch Answer to Solar Roadways
Having said all that, you still have to weigh whether such a diffuse generation scheme really makes more sense than large, concentrated solar power plants in optimal, tropical locations, together with HVDC transmission lines. This option may very well make greater economic sense.
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