Can anyone explain why Solar is "expensive"?

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bobbo_the_Pragmatist
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Can anyone explain why Solar is "expensive"?

Postby bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Thu Sep 14, 2017 9:48 pm

The question arises in articles like this one:

https://phys.org/news/2017-09-hydrogen- ... loser.html

What I don't "get" is that if the "power" that drives the production of hydrogen is FREEEEEEEEEEE Sunlight....how can the resulting hydrogen be all that expensive? The link is typical in saying the new tech is not cost effective.... but as always, never explaining "why." Seems to me "efficiency" is almost irrelevant since the power is the sun.

I advocate a hydrogen economy. Don't know what we aren't pushing for it.
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Re: Can anyone explain why Solar is "expensive"?

Postby supervitor » Fri Sep 15, 2017 12:41 pm

What the article is saying is that there are no technology available and that needs to be invented AND (implicitly) that research and development IS expensive.

That's the reason why.

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Re: Can anyone explain why Solar is "expensive"?

Postby bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Fri Sep 15, 2017 5:50 pm

Well super....my understanding is that solar cost is on a very steep declining curve making it more competitive than all other sources of power in some locations. competitive in all others.... and then the argument shifts to what kinds of costs and supports are in play but left out of the calculations.

My favorite "cost" example regarding the OP is that the cost of solar panels is amortized over its "useful life" but that life almost always is 50% or more of the real life and is rather the tax allowed amortization schedule. Not the real life at all which I've read is unlimited.... after bout 30-40 years the panels just start to degrade at some minimum % every year. So...oversize to begin with and solar should be good for the life of a 100 year home...cost near free.

The technology is here NOW.... so the article is just flat wrong.
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Re: Can anyone explain why Solar is "expensive"?

Postby OlegTheBatty » Fri Sep 15, 2017 9:16 pm

Sunshine is free. Technology isn't. Without the technology you get radishes.
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Lance Kennedy
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Re: Can anyone explain why Solar is "expensive"?

Postby Lance Kennedy » Sat Sep 16, 2017 2:58 am

Hydrogen is a tricky fuel. It leaks out of storage containers and out of any pipes used to convey it. Truly difficult to handle. At this point in time, it is better to convert it to a more easily handled fuel like methanol and use that as fuel.

Solar power has its drawbacks, too. The biggest one is that the sun does not shine at night, and so the power is available for only half the time. Storing power for use later on adds very substantially to the cost and wastes a lot of that power.

Of course, that does not mean solar cannot be used. It has a place, and that place is developing. I doubt it will ever dominate, though. More likely that a mixture of power generation options will always be used.

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Re: Can anyone explain why Solar is "expensive"?

Postby bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Sat Sep 16, 2017 5:56 am

Lance Kennedy wrote:Hydrogen is a tricky fuel. It leaks out of storage containers and out of any pipes used to convey it. Truly difficult to handle. At this point in time, it is better to convert it to a more easily handled fuel like methanol and use that as fuel.
Problem AND solution in one quick post? Well done. Unusual, but well done.

Lance Kennedy wrote: Solar power has its drawbacks, too. The biggest one is that the sun does not shine at night, and so the power is available for only half the time. Storing power for use later on adds very substantially to the cost and wastes a lot of that power.
This highlights the OP that you don't address at all: while the sun shines, the power generation is fuel cost freeeeeeeeeee. Every energy source has "drawbacks". Posting as if a drawback nullifies the power source with nothing more is an irrelevant and ineffective dodge. I look forward to the day you stop doing this.

Lance Kennedy wrote: Of course, that does not mean solar cannot be used. It has a place, and that place is developing. I doubt it will ever dominate, though. More likely that a mixture of power generation options will always be used.
Ah....its good to note that something being used "can" be used. A baby step towards reality. Say Lance: why won't Solar dominate?
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Re: Can anyone explain why Solar is "expensive"?

Postby KevinLevites » Sat Sep 16, 2017 3:16 pm

Everyone seems to think that solar is all about silicon panels...and this isn't exactly true.

If you watched the remake of Cosmos (narrated and partly written by Neil deGrasse Tyson), he discusses a solar energy generating system invented before WWI that was very efficient.

Basically, you take a metal trough with a parabolic cross-section, mirror the inner surface, and run a black pipe at the focal point.

The sunlight concentrates on the pipe, and water flowing down the pipe becomes superheated steam and can be made to crank a generator.

Using modern manufacturing techniques and materials, this idea could be made more efficient today and used to make tons of electricity.

Even if it doesn't seem as efficient as silicon panels...it is still cheaper than silicon because it is low-tech...so the price for electricity would be cheaper.

Being so low tech, it would seem (at least for me) that it would be a practical way for the Third World to pull itself out of poverty and attain a heathy standard of living...but what do I know.

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Re: Can anyone explain why Solar is "expensive"?

Postby bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Sat Sep 16, 2017 4:46 pm

A steam generator is not low tech and requires many customers to make cheap enough to afford.

Each application has its best and most appropriate use.
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Re: Can anyone explain why Solar is "expensive"?

Postby Lance Kennedy » Sat Sep 16, 2017 7:45 pm

What Kevin is talking about is solar thermal energy.

A lot of research work has been done on that, and the electricity so generated is still about three times the cost of coal power and double that of solar panel electricity. There are a range of reasons. One that seems impossible to overcome is the cost of keeping reflective surfaces clean.

Imagine a solar thermal steam plant in the Sahara Desert, turning water to steam to generate electricity. There might be a square kilometer of mirrors to reflect heat onto a heat exchanger. Once every couple of weeks there is a dust storm that covers all those mirrors, and requires them to be cleaned. A Herculean task !


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