Cloudy Outlook For Solar Panels: Costs Substantially Eclipse Benefits, Study Shows

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AlienCraft

Lifer
Nov 23, 2002
10,539
0
0
Originally posted by: BrownTown
[

Man, AC being better is because of one thing: transformers, you could change the voltage of AC at 99% efficiency 100 years ago and that is incredible. It means that you can produce power at a low voltage, step it up very high to transmit if over long distances (for minimal losses) and then step it back down for residential applications. It isn't some evil coorperation that allowed AC to win or some giant conspiracy that it remains now its the fact that it is simply better than DC, and now that the entire world is set up for AC power it isn't just magically going to change to make solar panels more efficienct (while screwing over everything else).

STOP right there.
Until you've read about the feud between Edison and Tesla / Westinghouse, the tactics used to impose the current system upon us, that which is bolded above remains a false statement in historical fact.
Were it not for the influence of Robber Barons and their Industrialist Cronies leading to the Corporatism we currently enjoy, we might have actually been able to use the technology that Tesla was developing upon his demise.
Current Power Transmission over Air technologies are only scratching the surface of what Tesla had discovered and was working on at the time of his death.


Back to the topic at hand.
Given that CONVERSIONS of energy / power are the thieves of effiency we are attempting to keep at bay, it makes more sense to me to use DC as a source for lighting, et al and AC as a source for motor force as well as other frequency dependent / synchronous devices.
I do not think it's unreasonable to use different modes if they are more efficient. This could allow for PV to lighting circuits to be roof top mounted, heavy current demand machinery / manufacturing be supplied by more traditional means, and residential being served by a combination of Co-Gen Sources and roof-top or community generated lighting / Water heating / boiler operations.
De-centralizing makes thing more manageable in the event of an emergency or terrorist attack. Can't plunge the city into darkness if they generate their own lighting power within the various communities and neighborhoods.

edit:
The only thing screwed up by such a diversifying model is the current business model that allows Energy Companies to ignore new, more efficient technology by claiming poverty if change is "forced" on them.
Just as a drug company will not market the drug that cures over the drug that simply treats, power companies will not go willingly into new frontiers, despite the obvious benefits to human interests.
 

BrownTown

Diamond Member
Dec 1, 2005
5,314
1
0
Umm just FWIW AlienCraft given as this is AnandTech ALOT of people here have degrees in electrical engineering and such, so if you want to explain why a certralized electrical distribution grid is so crappy your going to need to do more than just write some BS about evil corperations and such. There is a reason things are done the way they are, you might not like it but at leat understand it. For one thing there is a reason big companies run electrical transmission, it is a "natural monopoly" meaning that it tends to favor only a single company in any given area (IE: it would be stupid to have 2 sets of tranmission lines from 2 different companies in the same areas, you only need 1 and whoever owns that one has a monopoly over your electricity). However the fact that electrical transmission and distribution are natural monopolies means that they are heavily regulated by the government and where people have attempted to degregulate them to far (See: California and Enron) it has gone quite poorly. As for electrical generation it is not as much a natural monoploy, but still you need at least a few Billion if you want to play that game because even the cheapest power plant is ~500 million and a coal or nuclear plant will be several Billion dollars. The reason they are so big is because of economies of scale it is simply cheaper to have a few large power plants than tons of little ones. Anyways, my point is that electirity is controlled by large corporations and the government because that is the CHEAPEST way for it to be produced. Talking about putting the power back in the hands of the "little guy" is great until you realise it means your paying twice as much for electricity

EDIT: as for using two sources of electricty one AC one DC, thats equally silly, running an entire second set of lines to every house to carry DC and installing an entire second set of substations to do HVDC voltage conversions isn't exactly a great idea (or cheap) either. Like I said, efficiency isn't as much the problem now for AC-DC conversions due to solid state components you can do >90% on these conversions but it is more expensive and that expense is associated only with DC power sources, so its just another problem solar panels have to overcome, trying to expand that fact into an attack on the entire electrical power industry is just silly.

As for power out of thin air, that is horribly inefficient (and very possibly dangerous to human health).
 

Jeff7

Lifer
Jan 4, 2001
41,599
18
81
Originally posted by: HardcoreRobot
i dont they they are factoring in the green-peen effect of the nutjobs that get stiffies when the slap on another panel or eek out another .13 mpg in their tin can prius. some people define themselves by this crap, that has to be worth something!
And then there are those who buy the Hummer HX for the iPenis + 5 bonus.

For AC vs DC, Browntown touched on why AC wins: transmission. We already lose about 10% of our power due to transmission losses. If we went to lower voltage DC, we'd need loads more aluminum or copper, because we'd need huge conductors to handle the accompanying increase in amperage. With AC, you can step it up with some coils of wire around iron. DC conversions need relatively complex circuits, and the components must easily accommodate enormous currents. The power grid in the US is already outdated enough. Using DC would add huge costs every step of the way.

Besides, new grid-tie inverters are about 90% efficient, hardly what I'd call an unacceptable loss.
 

SunnyD

Belgian Waffler
Jan 2, 2001
32,673
142
106
www.neftastic.com
I am by no means saying it would be easy or cheap, but as far as infrastructure goes, there is a hell of a lot more houses in the US than there is businesses with roof-space. You're talking a lot more surface area for generation than any business could possibly hope for (cities = vertical living, lots of shadows and less optimal exposure = less efficient generation - not saying it shouldn't still be done, but done last maybe). And as far as the technical support goes, once you have communities, towns, municipalities jumping on, you create a support team, just the same as the electric companies currently have.

The whole reason it's not going to happen has been answered though - cost. No one wants to look past the "net profit" column in their business ledger. Of course the electric companies aren't going to do it, because they would be eating into their profit margins. It's all the same as gasoline/oil etc, etc, etc. The world just needs to get it's head out of it's collective ass and just DO SOMETHING.
 

Eeezee

Diamond Member
Jul 23, 2005
9,923
0
0
WTF, I had read a research paper claiming that photovoltaic cells could product cheaper electricity per kWh than coal. Obviously that includes production. I can't seem to find the article right now though -_- I'm sure it was in one of those links on the first page of posts, I just don't feel like looking through them :p
 

BoomerD

No Lifer
Feb 26, 2006
60,268
8,413
136
I think that with the current technology, prices, and the length of time it takes to recoup your investment, adding solar panels is kind of like peeing your pants while wearing a dark suit...it gives you a warm feeling, but nobody notices.

Living in Kahleeforneeya's Central Valley, where temps can spike to well over 100 during the summer for several months (100+ is possible from early May through early October) the concept of solar SOUNDS good, but the costs outweigh the benefit...now. Hopefully that will change someday.
 

Eeezee

Diamond Member
Jul 23, 2005
9,923
0
0
Originally posted by: Jeff7
Originally posted by: HardcoreRobot
i dont they they are factoring in the green-peen effect of the nutjobs that get stiffies when the slap on another panel or eek out another .13 mpg in their tin can prius. some people define themselves by this crap, that has to be worth something!
And then there are those who buy the Hummer HX for the iPenis + 5 bonus.

For AC vs DC, Browntown touched on why AC wins: transmission. We already lose about 10% of our power due to transmission losses. If we went to lower voltage DC, we'd need loads more aluminum or copper, because we'd need huge conductors to handle the accompanying increase in amperage. With AC, you can step it up with some coils of wire around iron. DC conversions need relatively complex circuits, and the components must easily accommodate enormous currents. The power grid in the US is already outdated enough. Using DC would add huge costs every step of the way.

Besides, new grid-tie inverters are about 90% efficient, hardly what I'd call an unacceptable loss.
HVDC (high voltage DC) would lose less than 1% of power transmission. You don't need huge conductors, either (you certainly can't use the wires out of your clock radio, but they won't be much bigger than the AC wires we have now). Build a HVDC infrastructure (just for transporting power over large distances - from Arizona to New York, for instance). Build AC relay stations wherever you need power. Done
 

AlienCraft

Lifer
Nov 23, 2002
10,539
0
0
Originally posted by: BrownTown
Umm just FWIW AlienCraft given as this is AnandTech ALOT of people here have degrees in electrical engineering and such, so if you want to explain why a certralized electrical distribution grid is so crappy your going to need to do more than just write some BS about evil corperations and such. There is a reason things are done the way they are, you might not like it but at leat understand it. For one thing there is a reason big companies run electrical transmission, it is a "natural monopoly" meaning that it tends to favor only a single company in any given area (IE: it would be stupid to have 2 sets of tranmission lines from 2 different companies in the same areas, you only need 1 and whoever owns that one has a monopoly over your electricity). However the fact that electrical transmission and distribution are natural monopolies means that they are heavily regulated by the government and where people have attempted to degregulate them to far (See: California and Enron) it has gone quite poorly. As for electrical generation it is not as much a natural monoploy, but still you need at least a few Billion if you want to play that game because even the cheapest power plant is ~500 million and a coal or nuclear plant will be several Billion dollars. The reason they are so big is because of economies of scale it is simply cheaper to have a few large power plants than tons of little ones. Anyways, my point is that electirity is controlled by large corporations and the government because that is the CHEAPEST way for it to be produced. Talking about putting the power back in the hands of the "little guy" is great until you realise it means your paying twice as much for electricity
First off, technical degrees are no substitute for social vision. There may be evidence to suggest those sorts of interests are actually antithetical to anything remotely concerning SOCIAL Interaction and involvement.
Secondly, the Tesla / Edison Feud as it relates to the current politicization and privatization of our nation's"Energy Grid/ Policy" is historical fact.
Third, As to Enron vs California, let's not confuse Industry Lobbyist generated legislation with laws drafted by people, for people, if I may paraphrase that most eloquent of Declarations.

My point is that systemic change can be made, first at the individual level, and as it grows grass roots style, into a more "organic" model, it will be able to use the strengths of the various technologies as well as the impetus of social adoption to expand and grow even more.
Three years ago there were no homes (except high end/ custom) with PV panels as part of the new construction model, now they are in mid level single family homes and multi -family residential s being made by big developers. There's a condo development here in Sac. that is doing good business ( not dropping prices as much as other developers) with their units that feature PV panels Solar water heated floors, "green Technology". Right, not gonna work, never happen. :roll:
Network TV once said Cable would kill them, VCR's would kill the industry, blah blah blah.Cable said Satellite would kill them, The Land Line phone company says Cell phones BAD, ad infinitum, Detroit sez "no way" to Americans wanting to buy high MPG vehicles,as if gas were like 1983 again. Anyone besides me see anything similar with the noise generated from Big Energy as it pertains to the decentralization of Energy Production with the items listed previously?
If Solar / Nuclear is so damn bad, why are these same Multi-National
Energy consortium's up to their necks in the business in Europe and Asia?
In case it's escaped anyone, the parallels are very similar, except, we don't NEED TV as a society, yet we do need power, and lights and heat / cooling within our homes.
Finally, this mantra of "Cheapest is better" is the last fraud perpetrated on the public. What we really mean is We Want the BEST VALUE. Which is different from CHEAPEST COST.
Cheap pet food is OK until it kills Sparky or Mittens.
Cheap parts are OK until they fail while under stress.
Cheap construction labor is OK until that elevated walkway fails, the third story deck falls off, Ceiling panels fall onto commuter traffic, you get the picture.
Lower Cost is only good in the RETAIL market where HIGH PROFIT is the only end game. Intangibles such as Customer Satisfaction, Confidence are no longer valued under that status quo model favored by Corporations.

Unregulated Marketplace = (no laws restricting behaviors) = ANARCHY = GOOD
Unregulated People = (no laws regulating behaviors )= ANARCHY = BAD

Anyone want to try to explain that for me?

Why do we allow a Company or Corporation's desire to maximize benefits (profits) to usurp Society's stated goal to maximize the benefits of that Society to it's citizens?


<---Sits down, straightens tinfoil beanie with attached flame suit (from ACME Inc., btw, none finer) waist binds on my middle aged belly...



PS... I see a system with DC being generated sub-locally (rooftop PV panels, Neighborhood shopping center area lighting power needs derived from rooftop PV panels. This requires NO further infrasturcture investment, simply a Building Code adjustment that corresponds to an industry shift to DC based lighting products.

If we used 24-32v DC for lighting, we could continue to use #12 wire to connect theses controls and devices. The only change needed would be to color code the external jacket, like we do with various other pipings, and cable conventions to differentiate it from the "normal"120vAC system.
Workers learn DC as a beginning for Electrical studies, and thus learning DC device wiring methods has already been done.

Manufacturers will be able to make more money as LED lites will no longer need a rectifier on them (a source of device failure) in order to be run. OOPs, can't sell replace ments that way...hmmm back to the accounting board. The drawing board has been modified so that any drawings on them is automatically routed through accounting for cost checking/ price control/ profit maximization. <actually not a bad idea, just one I don't want to have to use.

Furthermore, my understanding of the electrical transmission system aka The Grid comes from a familial association with The Grid and it's related uses going back into the early part of the 20th century as our nation wired it's factories then it's rural communities to my involvement in the electrical contracting field as well as being a repair technician in my earlier career.

You may not like it, but at least try to understand it, your own condescending self. ;)
 

AlienCraft

Lifer
Nov 23, 2002
10,539
0
0
Originally posted by: BoomerD
I think that with the current technology, prices, and the length of time it takes to recoup your investment, adding solar panels is kind of like peeing your pants while wearing a dark suit...it gives you a warm feeling, but nobody notices.

Living in Kahleeforneeya's Central Valley, where temps can spike to well over 100 during the summer for several months (100+ is possible from early May through early October) the concept of solar SOUNDS good, but the costs outweigh the benefit...now. Hopefully that will change someday.
Tell that to Fred, my buddy in Rocklin.
His 44 panels crossed into the black this past fall. New constructed in 2003.
I guess the mantra "Your mileage may vary" is key.
 

BrownTown

Diamond Member
Dec 1, 2005
5,314
1
0
Oh great I see, we have another MoonBeam, thats just what we need...

All I will say is that just because you WANT something to be the case does not mean it will be, the technology and economics are not behind your position, only your "social vision" which imo is decidedly flawed on this issue.
 

BoomerD

No Lifer
Feb 26, 2006
60,268
8,413
136
Originally posted by: AlienCraft
Originally posted by: BoomerD
I think that with the current technology, prices, and the length of time it takes to recoup your investment, adding solar panels is kind of like peeing your pants while wearing a dark suit...it gives you a warm feeling, but nobody notices.

Living in Kahleeforneeya's Central Valley, where temps can spike to well over 100 during the summer for several months (100+ is possible from early May through early October) the concept of solar SOUNDS good, but the costs outweigh the benefit...now. Hopefully that will change someday.
Tell that to Fred, my buddy in Rocklin.
His 44 panels crossed into the black this past fall. New constructed in 2003.
I guess the mantra "Your mileage may vary" is key.
Maybe YMMV is the case...

Several people in the local reef aquarium club looked into solar a couple of years ago, and (some being engineers) broke it down very accurately. The final conclusion was that it just didn't pay over the long haul...
Glad to hear it has for your friend Fred.
 

Fritzo

Lifer
Jan 3, 2001
41,746
1,941
126
A new solar company in Toledo OH is getting pumped with state funding for breakthrough solar research as well. I would say the report is more from nay-sayers than people that hold hope.
 

AlienCraft

Lifer
Nov 23, 2002
10,539
0
0
Originally posted by: BrownTown
Oh great I see, we have another MoonBeam, thats just what we need...

All I will say is that just because you WANT something to be the case does not mean it will be, the technology and economics are not behind your position, only your "social vision" which imo is decidedly flawed on this issue.
What we actually see is someone who responds to a difference in opinion not by further parsing of the issues and language, but by character attacks with name calling, favorite tactic of Neo-Con revisionists and more suited to Faux News segment than our esteemed forum.
As if your opinion carries more weight.
It is precisely this 'stuck in the mud' mentality that shackles up to the oppressive yoke of Corporate dependence while masquerading as benevolence.
It does no good for Society to trumpet the benefits of a technologically based economy and refuse to use them for the good of the people simply so an outdated business model can remain monolithic.

 

Born2bwire

Diamond Member
Oct 28, 2005
9,840
6
71
Going with Browntown here. AC is superior over DC for power transmission and that's why it's won out over DC in every country in the world.
 

AlienCraft

Lifer
Nov 23, 2002
10,539
0
0
Originally posted by: BoomerD
[

Maybe YMMV is the case...

Several people in the local reef aquarium club looked into solar a couple of years ago, and (some being engineers) broke it down very accurately. The final conclusion was that it just didn't pay over the long haul...
Glad to hear it has for your friend Fred.
I would be interested in seeing how they broke down requirements. This is what lead me to envision the dual mode system I was talking about. I think everyone gets on the wrong boat by thinking in terms of 2 parallel system being deployed overhead via wired distribution.
I'm seeing more of a DC Load Centric based conversion system, and reducing the number of conversions the power generated has to make before being used.
I'm thinking that end use , actual real time load considerations have to factored in to designing this new Energy Generation / Conversion & Distribution model under discussion.
Furthermore, no one ever factors in the "hidden tax" element of Governmental subsidies on Energy Costs until they calculate Solar (ignoring subsides paid/ taxes deferred to Energy Companies currently), nor the fact that in simply converting sunlight to electricity, we're ignoring the massive thermal component of Sunlight Energy and that by utilizing heat recovery / conversion technologies, we can derive even more energy than we get by simply converting to electricity via PV.

Also, given all the interest in this arena, technology is going to improve at the pace postulated by Moore. So given that remains true, the technology specified for a project two years ago, is now woefully antique, not from a personal use POV, but from a business POV.
No business wants to invest in technology that has an ROI in years, but is obsolete in months.

It's the same mentality that keeps the company I work for from subsidizing Hybrid vehicles
for it's use in it's courier business. they'll subsidize a less efficient vehicle because it LOOKS like the type of vehicle they want to be associated with (Scion XB), despite the fact that the internal cargo volume is insignificant in it's difference from the Prius.
yay style over substance, ftl.

 

AlienCraft

Lifer
Nov 23, 2002
10,539
0
0
Originally posted by: Born2bwire
Going with Browntown here. AC is superior over DC for power transmission and that's why it's won out over DC in every country in the world.
You are also missing the distinction being made as to the divergent modes of Gen-Conversion and Distribution.
It's this "all or None"approach that fails.
 

Born2bwire

Diamond Member
Oct 28, 2005
9,840
6
71
Originally posted by: AlienCraft
Originally posted by: Born2bwire
Going with Browntown here. AC is superior over DC for power transmission and that's why it's won out over DC in every country in the world.
You are also missing the distinction being made as to the divergent modes of Gen-Conversion and Distribution.
It's this "all or None"approach that fails.
No actually it's been succeeding for over a century.
 

Safeway

Lifer
Jun 22, 2004
12,081
9
81
I thought that current solar panel installations cost roughly $18,000. A 9-panel setup in Austin that I am studying cost $17,000 and will (theoretically) be able to produce $17,000 x 4 = $68,000 worth of electricity.
 

AlienCraft

Lifer
Nov 23, 2002
10,539
0
0
Originally posted by: Born2bwire
Originally posted by: AlienCraft
Originally posted by: Born2bwire
Going with Browntown here. AC is superior over DC for power transmission and that's why it's won out over DC in every country in the world.
You are also missing the distinction being made as to the divergent modes of Gen-Conversion and Distribution.
It's this "all or None"approach that fails.
No actually it's been succeding for over a century.
Welllllll, ok if all you do is look backwards.
I'll take a forward looking social vision for the win.


If you regard a system that is generally considered (by those that consider such things) to be strained in terms of distribution integrity, at it's maximum capacity in terms of Generation, sorely in need of refurbishment from the ground up in terms of physical equipment to be a success, one needs to know what it would take for you to consider a more efficient way of doing things ? or more succinctly "When is good enough, not?"

 

Born2bwire

Diamond Member
Oct 28, 2005
9,840
6
71
Originally posted by: AlienCraft
Originally posted by: Born2bwire
Originally posted by: AlienCraft
Originally posted by: Born2bwire
Going with Browntown here. AC is superior over DC for power transmission and that's why it's won out over DC in every country in the world.
You are also missing the distinction being made as to the divergent modes of Gen-Conversion and Distribution.
It's this "all or None"approach that fails.
No actually it's been succeding for over a century.
Welllllll, ok if all you do is look backwards.
I'll take a forward looking social vision for the win.


If you regard a system that is generally considered (by those that consider such things) to be strained in terms of distribution integrity, at it's maximum capacity in terms of Generation, sorely in need of refurbishment from the ground up in terms of physical equipment to be a success, one needs to know what it would take for you to consider a more efficient way of doing things ? or more succinctly "When is good enough, not?"
AC/DC isn't going to solve those kinds of problems (but they do know how to rock).
 

WHAMPOM

Diamond Member
Feb 28, 2006
7,628
182
106
AC for transmission, DC for in house. Industry gets the 3-phase high voltage service they need.
 

AlienCraft

Lifer
Nov 23, 2002
10,539
0
0
Originally posted by: Born2bwire

AC/DC isn't going to solve those kinds of problems (but they do know how to rock).
OK, I lol'd.


edit: While a Multi-Mode system doesn't address ALL of the issues I listed, it would alleviate some of them. Which may buy us some time to get these alternative, less centralized generating systems into the field to take up the excess demand, divert public loads to a system at less risk for attack or collapse due to private malfeasance (Enron?), are among the benefits that come immediately to mind.
If we can improve efficiencies all along the system, the system is under less strain, and less prone to a catastrophic total system failure.
The Great New York Blackout of '76 (?) comes to mind.
 

Ticky

Senior member
Feb 7, 2008
436
0
0
Originally posted by: dug777
Originally posted by: Ticky
Originally posted by: dug777
But Borenstein noted that policymakers are considering a far lower price ? $20 per ton of greenhouse gases ? as the maximum that industry could be charged in proposed tradable emissions permit programs


That's not even close to any realistic modelling I've seen :laugh:
$20 per ton? How about $20 per kton!

The other way, batman ;)
You assume I want to actually pay for the cost of carbon-cleanup. I don't. I want a token cost that won't actually harm industry.
 

BoomerD

No Lifer
Feb 26, 2006
60,268
8,413
136
Originally posted by: AlienCraft
Originally posted by: BoomerD
[

Maybe YMMV is the case...

Several people in the local reef aquarium club looked into solar a couple of years ago, and (some being engineers) broke it down very accurately. The final conclusion was that it just didn't pay over the long haul...
Glad to hear it has for your friend Fred.
I would be interested in seeing how they broke down requirements. This is what lead me to envision the dual mode system I was talking about.
I went back and re-read some of the threads. Apparently, with the newer rebates Ah-Nold signed into law, the break-even point is now a matter of a few years (depending, of course, on your usage) and that with the high electrical demand of many saltwater reef tanks, many of them are looking at it again, with the thought that it MIGHT be a worthwhile investment. Of course, these folks are all in the highest-tier of PG&E's usage schedules...many have PG&E electric bills approaching $1000/month...so spending $20K or more isn't a bad investment for them. More normal users however wouldn't see nearly as much return for their investment except over a much longer period of time.
 

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