Wednesday, September 26, 2007

More Solar In The News

I really appreciate all the insightful comments on the previous post about a new method for producing solar cells that AVA Solar is claiming. Here are some of the highlights from the comments:

anonymous: Cadmium telluride is toxic.
The toxicity is not just because of the cadmium. Cadmium telluride triggers extensive reactive oxygen damage to the cell membrane, mitochondria, and cell nucleus.

maryyugo: Solar power is lovely and very necessary but the proper loading and control of the output is essential, costs money and wastes some energy. The equipment takes a lot of room and has a limited life time and a high replacement cost, both in money and in energy use. Finally, the sun doesn't shine a lot of the time in most places and solar energy deposition in most places is at a low rate per amount of area.

Solar power is nice-- but it's no panacea nor is it ever likely to supply the majority of the world's energy needs.

vardan1899: A lot of the cost is not in the cells but the frame, manufacturing, shipping, overhead, etc. too... In many cases there are tax breaks (US) that "really" pay for them. One must wonder if the cells themselves were "free" hAow much the panel would still end up costing.
...
Making solar cells cheaper is always cool, but I don't think it is going to be a giant impact anymore no matter what they do...
These points suggest that photovoltaics won't be the main solution to our energy problems, and I agree. To keep the conversation going, here are a couple of other recent news items related to solar energy that caught my attention, and should catch yours too:

Splitting Water with Sunlight - " Researchers from the German Max Planck Institute have now developed a catalyst that may do just that..."

Solar Nation: Can the Sun Power the US? - David Mills, Chairmen and Chief Scientific Officer of Asura, a venture backed startup in Silicon Valley, presented on his approach to solving America's energy needs with Solar Energy. I came across this article while reading SciGuy.

30 comments:

Vardan1899 said...

Some comments...

"anonymous: Cadmium telluride (ToHellYouRide, per the old movie ;-)) is toxic."

Agreed!!! But the RoHS stuff and all seems to have "set up the ability" to control these toxics. Don't toss it in the trash, but send it "somewhere" when and "if" it wears out...

You will "always need" a "back up" gas generator of the "Honda" variety for "bad days" :-)) to keep your satellite cable TV going ;-)

Don't waste money on panel holders that direct them to the sun... Cheaper just to buy a few extra panels and not worry with the "perfect aiming" devices... Adjusting every month or so for elevation is simple and cheap though...

Here "I see" solar and wind being very nice for isolated homes that can't get grid electricity. But "in town" it is "zero"...

Wind power "out east" is big, but they kill lot of birds on the big machines which is a big deal...

Chances are, when you move into a house here, the "typical" power supply is probably the "best"...

Some ideas and minor improvements, but no big deal...

I do note that the solar fields I helped set up as a young lad 20 years ago are still going though :D But sad that not much has "really changed" since...

Vardan1899

Anonymous said...

"Solar Nation: Can the Sun Power the U.S.?"
"That would mean replacing the current AC grid with a DC grid to get solar electricity from sunny states to the rest of the country with minimal transmission losses -"

Why would they even consider building a DC-power-grid?
Why not convert the DC to AC at a considerable less cost than rebuilding the grid ?

Anonymous said...

I see lots of office building that are pretty much nothing but windows. Has anybody tried making the windows or some of them out of solar panels?

Anonymous said...

"I see lots of office building that are pretty much nothing but windows. Has anybody tried making the windows or some of them out of solar panels?"

"Building Integrated Photovoltaics" (BIPV) in the form of semi-transparent solar cells which can be applied as window glazing is what you are looking for.

bc said...

One thing people really need to appreciate, when it comes to replacing fossil fuels, is that there is no silver bullet. FF are millions of years of ancient sunlight in an easy use dense form, there is no single source that can replace them. The nearest is nuclear fission, but that is really limited to central electric generation.

After this marvellous windfall of fossil fuels, we will have to go back to getting energy the slow way - solar, wind, tidal, biofuel. We will need a blend of solutions, each addressing niches and compensating for disadvantages.

Energy will be forever more expensive, and we will have to deal
with the consequences of that.

http://www.theoildrum.com/ covers many of these issues, although they are somewhat obsessed with Peak oil. They are good at looking at the big picture and analysing the claims of so-called "wonder solutions".

eresrch said...

But if you have enough energy you can reformulate oil from other materials. Convert plastic back into oil, convert CO2 and H2O back into long chain hydrocarbons, etc. A centralized energy source with enough energy density can create gasoline.

We can breath poisoned air forever!

:-)

maryyugo said...

What BC said. And worse yet, when petroleum is gone, all the wonderful plastics, chemicals and medicines we synthesize from it will have to be made in much more costly, difficult, and resource-hogging ways.

Vardan1899 said...

Two things I know of that really have helped here...

1. Get those fluorescent energy saver bulbs. I know they work because the house is noticeably colder with them :) Gas heat is 5X more cost effective than electric though.

2. I got a really good smart battery charger and loaded up on NiMH batteries. Instead of buying 100 throw away batteries every year, I have not bought a battery in four years now :)

I try and drive "smart" and plane trips, but that plan has so far been pretty dismal...

There has been a lot of thought about home natural gas to electricity conversion (high efficiency) that would be really nice, but I don't think anyone has one that has "proven" to work well yet... I lost track of GE's...

As far as energy miracles... Fusion is the best bet and that is still decades out and not something you play with at home. The cold fusion and Farnsworth fuser guys try, but fusion will be big and it will be a big company thing.

As far as little over unity devices... HAHAHAHAA! :D

eresrch said...

@vardan

We'll see about fusion. I've got some ideas on how to build a fusion reactor in my basement. Check out www.polywell-talk.org for lots of other ideas. Maybe one decade. Maybe.... :-)

drmike said...

OOPS!

This thing grabbed my email instead of my nick. eresrch == drmike

Anonymous said...

This is idiotic. OBVIOUSLY, solar is the energy source that will eventually power everything.

Solar powers all hydroelectric dams, solar powers all wind farms, solar powers all bioenergy of every form, solar does NOT power tidal energy sources (that's the rotational momentum of the Earth that does that).

Solar is an immense power source, it is more powerful than everything else in the solar system and there is NO shutdown to the energy pouring off the sun. If anything there are times when it is too much, i.e. solar flares (that is a bit of an issue, to say the least).

The future of Earth's energy is space-based solar collection. Take a look again at that post which described recent research from Japan in amplifying laser beams reflected off a plate that is exposed to sunlight. Efficiency is up to a massive 40% and was said to amplify a 0.5W laser to 180W. Lasers will be generated in space, amplified with solar collection plates, then directed to receiving stations on the Earth which shall convert the power to all the electricity that will ever be needed no matter where on Earth you are. YES it is expensive, but with proper scaling there really is no need for any other power source, period. In fact there is so much solar power that we may as well reconstitute all the burned-up petroleum from CO2 and pump oil BACK underground, thereby rehabilitating the atmosphere.

Duh! Grab a brain people.

bc said...

Space solar is not feasible, and never will be. The maths is completely against it. Putting stuff into space is simply too expensive, about $5000/kg. A space collector gets 6 times more sunlight, but will cost 10,000 times more to build. So just build more solar collectors on the ground.

If you can't make solar power economic on the ground, you sure as hell can't do it in space. The Ausra solar thermal proposal is actually one of the best ideas going, if they can get cost-effective solutions for the storage and grid requirements.

Anonymous said...

Oh, okay, 'perpetual motion' fool.
I guess I'll go tell the fine folks around the globe working on such projects, 'um yeah sorry, bc has crunched the numbers and already figured out its impossible. You may as well just go home, then'.
Yeah we're sure gonna listen to you, for sure. What's your credential anyway, you invent something like oh, perpetual motion maybe?

Vardan1899 said...

So...

Dr. Mike thinks "basement fusion" is possible??

I think "my old pal" Richard Hull is all over it and I am sure he will tell us when it is finally all up and working...

I must think that there is "some hope" with such "very great" people working on it :)

But the "pure physics" is very damning!!!

Write us all a letter when you "actually" get it working...

The Sun's energy is real cool and it will be super cool once we get it here on Earth too... But all my money is on very BIG installations to make it and really "no hope" for "small scale" fusion stuff :(

Maybe you will prove us wrong! But till that time... Yawn...

Coal, gas, fission... It totally rules the day... Sun and wind has fun on the side... But you have to "take" the energy giants at their own game to win... And they are not strong because they don't know how to supply giant power needs...

Energy, if you can "beat it", "just do it"!!

Vardan1899

Anonymous said...

"Ausra solar thermal proposal is actually one of the best ideas going, if they can get cost-effective solutions for the storage and grid requirements"

Why would they build a DC-grid ? How do you build a DC-grid ?
In order to transport electric energy over great distances you want to use high voltage and small currents to minimize energy loss.
How do you transform the DC into a transportation voltage? How do you transform the DC into distribution volgtages. How do you transform the DC into the useful voltage for home use ? How do you transform the DC into useful AC? To me a DC-grid sounds like a lot of energy loss!!! Thomas Edison has already tried this and he lost, the other company with the AC-system won the competition. An AC system can easily be transformed to any useful voltage with transformes. The transformes can run for several decades. A DC-grid would be dependent on a lot of electronic components that would need service and replacement.

The talk about the DC-grid make me think that Ausra is just another scam.

bc said...

Anonymous: "What's your credential anyway, you invent something like oh, perpetual motion maybe?"

It gives me a headache thinking down at your level, but I'll try one more time.

Perpetual motion is impossible. Unfortunately, just because something is a waste of time, it doesn't mean you can't attract investment money from suckers or fat government grants.

I have read numerous reports on Space Solar, and they all rely on launch costs being much cheaper. Those are their words, not mine. One study found that even if launch costs were zero, it still wouldn't break even. Building a system with 10km square radio antennas to receive microwaves sent from GEO satellites is not cheap, and it can never be more than 6 times better than ground collection.

Vardan: I don't hold out much hope for large scale fusion. There are no materials that can withstand neutron bombardment for the life of the reactor. The reactor walls would need replacing every 4 years or so, via robot arms operating through a hatch. I doubt large fusion will ever be operationally practical.

ben said...

(hairykrishna)
I built a farnsworth fusor a few years ago. I was allowed to propose my own second year lab project so I proposed it! It was very rough and ready, cobbled together from 'obsolete' equipment I found lying around the department. Even so, I got a neutron count out of it (using a balloon full of deuterium I begged from the cyclotron group). They’re fun devices and teach all kinds of things about high voltage and vacuum tech. If you can lay your hands on a cheap chamber that’ll hold a vacuum (I used a bell jar) you can build one for a few hundred pounds. I’ll try and dig out some photos and put them up if people are interested.

Fusion’s easy! It’s the extracting the power and/or getting over breakeven that’s the tricky bit. Bussard’s polywell design is very interesting but I would really like to see a proper paper describing it before I get too excited.

Kent said...

I think the future resolution of our energy plans lies in diverse and widespread areas.

Solar where the sun shines, tidal where there is a coast, wind where winds blow.

I think the most promising step away from oil is towards biodiesel and there is very promising research in using algae for biodiesel with yields theoretically hundreds of times more abundant than from corn.

Anonymous said...

BC, you've convinced me, I have got to be a complete blithering idiot. Here's my level: space travel is like what, 60 years old? Yet you are absolutely right, now that it has achieved the "be-all, end-all" stage what possible opportunity remains to improve any aspect whatsoever of space exploitation? That rhetorical question pretty much nails 'er down solid, I guess.

Furthermore you do make an irrefutable point, I now clearly understand your reasoning that 10 sq. km is much too big for the solar system to sustain, next time I guess I'll just "think" a little before I mention what "respected" (pfft!) "research" groups are clearly wasting their time on, gosh! it is SO embarrassing to be caught in such an obvious delusional mistake, what kind of moron would look at the puny size of the solar system and even IMAGINE it had room for 10 sq. km of anything at all, I have to THANK YOU, for teaching me, yes that's right, THANK YOU for teaching me the eternal lesson, the utter futility of casting pearls before swine.

Very clearly now we see, nobody will ever get far in capturing any significant proportion of the 4x10^26 Watts continuously streaming off the sun, furthermore what buffoon would even consider that of any commercial significance in the first place, yep, thanks once again, lesson most FIRMLY learned. I'll just bow my head before your invincible reasoning and mighty intellect and be on my way.

Anonymous said...

Hey, It's been three friggin months! Don't they have that demo unit fixed yet?

I mean, sheeze, it's was just a few lousy ball bearings, right? Or was it the camera lights? (Something about heat? Dang, its been so long, I can't really remember the reason.)

Maybe they forgot?

I know: could someone call them? You know, something like: "Hey... Steorn... Sorry to bother you, but ... remember that demo attempt last summer that had "technical difficulties"? And you said you were going to fix them and get back to us? Just wondering what's up? I mean, it's not like there appears to be anything else going on there (not like it was before the demo attempt when the reports/rumors/updates on the devices and the marketing plans and the testing and the actual estimated performance you believed you were getting were flying out of your place (man, you guys had such bravado back then {sigh})). Anyway, I digress. Could you take a break from your poetry appreciation sessions and get that "demo" item off your to-do list? There's some thirsty people in Africa that are waiting on that motor, and a demo would go a long way in keeping their hopes alive."

Anonymous said...

most people here seem to piss vinegar. They'll bend over backwards to dismiss any new way of capturing/creating energy. Please, try to keep a positive attitude so other people won't be too disharted to try something new

Anonymous said...

Looks like Steorn trademarked the term "Steornlab" in September 2007. Anyone catch that before? Doesn't one of the forum members have a site called Steornlab?

drmike said...

Ben said: "Bussard’s polywell design is very interesting but I would really like to see a proper paper describing it before I get too excited."

May not be a "proper" paper, but a "virtual polywell" is definitly something I'm working on. If it don't work on paper, there's no point in pursuing it.

Vardan1899 said...

SteornLab - "Providing test methods, namely, hardware and software to measure characteristics of mechanical systems, namely the torque and energy associated with mechanical systems and magnetic properties of materials"

Sounds like they are selling off their "fine" test equipment they used to determine that Orbo ran at 400% over unity :D They also have a site but they paid so little for it it is just place holder adds (steornlabs.com)... I thought they paid like $500 for their "own" server computers so "why" go anywhere else... Even "I" could host them for free without having to sell random web links. :P

"I" suspect they are onto something really BIG now :D Selling test equipment to labs... I wonder how long it will take the labs to figure out that...

@anonymous
"Hey, It's been three friggin months! Don't they have that demo unit fixed yet?"

No...

@anonymous
"Please, try to keep a positive attitude so other people won't be too disharted to try something new"

I think were are positive, but we really hate to see folks wasting their time and effort on things that will never work. Not everyone really understands the physics and laws behind nature, so they think think those laws are like speed signs that can be easily broken. But there are no physics cops or over unity fines to worry about... Simply because there never have been any violators :D

Vardan1899

Vardan1899 said...

The high voltage AC grid or a very high voltage DC grid does not matter. They both are capable. The AC grid is far easier and "in place" now. DC was pretty impractical until recently when solid state devices made control and conversion possible.

But both do just the same thing... Since 99+% is AC and in place now, there is no great harm at all in just using it "as is". If you have a big DC solar field, it can be converted to AC easily for the grid, so just don't worry about it. Converting 170VDC to 1.5MVDC is not easy either...

I am going to guess that the "DC grid" is some goofy "hyped up" thing...

I looked at the Ausra thing but they just want to make a pretty conventional solar thing "really big"... Turning big AC generators with steam just like we have been doing for 100 years.

BTW - I will give the Bussard’s polywell design fusion thing far more "hope" than Steorn's Orbo, but that is not much... But maybe there is at least a little ray of hope there :)

Vardan1899

Anonymous said...

Vardan1899: "SteornLab - "Providing test methods, namely, hardware and software to measure characteristics of mechanical systems, namely the torque and energy associated with mechanical systems and magnetic properties of materials" "

They need to change their name, because that pig won't fly. Who's gonna trust the methods and equipment from this outfit?

You generally try to market something you have demonstrated expertise in, or at the very least, something that you *don't* have demonstrated incompetence in.

(speaking of "demonstrated" ... :)

Anonymous said...

"Hey, It's been three friggin months! Don't they have that demo unit fixed yet?"

Forget about the demonstration! There will never be a real demonstration, there might come some new nondemonstrations later on.

The free energy scammers usually arrange some demonstration to put pressure on some potential investors. They offer the investors to buy a lot of shares on the days before the demonstration, the demonstration always fail or is totally useless.

If Steorn was successful in getting money from investors before the july nondemonstration, they should by now have filed
some "allotment statements" to the CRO. Since they seemed not to have filed any "allotment statements" they probably didnt get any money from investors in july. Steorn are now probably taking a pause until they find som new investors.
I dont think they will use a demonstration to put pressure on the investors the next time. I think they will use the "jury result" to put some pressure on investors: "Buy shares before we publish the jury result and you will earn a lot of money."

Most free energy scammers sell books and videos/DVDs. Another way of putting pressure on potential investors would be :
"Buy shares before we start selling the DVD and you will earn a lot of money."

Anonymous said...

http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?colID=7&articleID=00034DF5-683F-1D7E-90FB809EC5880000


http://www.sciam.com/print_version.cfm?articleID=0000A167-1A25-1D9A-815A809EC5880000

ben said...

@drmike

That should be interesting. I'd like to see a good theorectical treatment of the design.

By 'proper paper' I meant one discussing their experimental results - the discussion of them and the hints given in the conference proceedings paper they released seem very promising. It's frustrating not seing the details!

Anonymous said...

DC power distribution vs AC power distribution has nothing to do wth solid stae control and everything to do with the resistance of the transmission lines. Until someone invents superconducting wires, you can forget long distance transmission or large distribution grid for DC.

AC pushes all the electrons in the wire back and forth over a tiny distance.

DC pushes all the electrons all the way from point A to point B and back again. DC line loss is the issue.