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A solar future?

Written By: - Date published: 1:30 pm, September 18th, 2009 - 34 comments
Categories: climate change - Tags: ,

solar

You can read more about it here.

34 comments on “A solar future?”

  1. We better start building!

    For those wanting base load wind turbines can contribute and battery storage is a must.

    It is rare during the day for it to be dull and still.

    • jagilby 1.1

      “battery storage”

      Prey tell… what’s the electricity price path going to be once all this is said and done? Who’s going to pay? How are the poorest people ever going to afford the power generated by this fantastic scheme?

      For those wanting to read something devoid of any sense read this:

      “For those wanting base load wind turbines can contribute”

      Wind… base load???? Exactly how will that work?

  2. Lanthanide 2

    Right, so is this to completely replace all fossil fuel use universally, or just that used in current eletricity generation?

    Furthermore the additional land space required for the infrastructure to actually collect and distribute the power is probably at least a good 100% of what is listed here (roads and warehouse to carry spare parts for maintenance, etc).

    • Clarke 2.1

      So are you suggesting that these are insurmountable problems that can’t be addressed?

      • Lanthanide 2.1.1

        No, just that it’s extremely unlikely we could simply manufacture and install that many solar panels within 30 years, because you have to build all the roads and buildings to go with it, train all the people etc.

        Also, saying “zero carbon emissions” is rather a big gloss – what about all the carbon that goes into pouring all the concrete for the buildings, roads, and simply manufacturing and installing the panels themselves? 0 (or negligible) ongoing emissions possibly, but just stating it as “zero carbon emissions” is misleading.

        • Clarke 2.1.1.1

          No, just that it’s extremely unlikely we could simply manufacture and install that many solar panels within 30 years, because you have to build all the roads and buildings to go with it, train all the people etc

          Building all the infrastructure necessary to support this amount of solar in NZ would be a relatively trivial exercise – certainly smaller and less invasive than the effort needed to construct the chain of hydro dams and supporting roads, towns and electricity distribution in the Mackenzie Basin in Central Otago in a similar amount of time back in the 1960’s and 70’s. So scale certainly isn’t the problem.

          Also, saying “zero carbon emissions’ is rather a big gloss what about all the carbon that goes into pouring all the concrete for the buildings, roads, and simply manufacturing and installing the panels themselves? 0 (or negligible) ongoing emissions possibly, but just stating it as “zero carbon emissions’ is misleading.

          The same applies to any new electricity generation, so what’s your point? Unless we ration power consumption to the capacity of the current system, any new generation will require carbon emissions to construct. The difference is that solar PV has zero emissions in operation, in stark contrast to the expedient thermal generation that Contact et al have been so keen on over the last few years.

          • Lanthanide 2.1.1.1.1

            I was talking about globally building enough solar panels by 2030, rather than just New Zealand. If everyone rushes to build and install solar panels at once, the price will rise such that demand will meet supply. More supply will be brought on line to lower prices and increase demand, but I doubt the required area of solar panels could be built by 2030.

            “The same applies to any new electricity generation, so what’s your point?”
            My point is that while yes, it is of course true that any form of electricity generation will require CO2 output in order to initially construct, the statement cannot be taken at face value, which is precisely what the creator of that graphic is trying to get the reader to do.

            I’ve read various things about geothermal power, such as America being able to meet 5x it’s current total annual energy consumption purely from geothermal if they simply had the willpower to actually go and do it. NZ also has a great abundance of geothermal resource that we simply aren’t taking advantage of.

            captcha: timing

            • Clarke 2.1.1.1.1.1

              I was talking about globally building enough solar panels by 2030, rather than just New Zealand.

              Fair enough – although the reason I gave the NZ example is because it puts the required build-out in a local context. If we can terraform the entire Mackenzie Basin in the cause of hydro power, we can certainly put up enough aluminium framing to build a multi-megawatt solar facility.

              But the comparison is also a bit spurious – we could much more easily get to 100% renewables with geothermal (“welcome to the Shaky Isles!”), wind and tidal, probably at lower cost, and probably with lower embedded energy and carbon. Solar looks like a bit of an indulgence for little old Enzed, IMHO.

            • Ari 2.1.1.1.1.2

              This is why a mixed-renewable solution is crucial, as it spreads the resource-intensity and geographic loading of cleaner power. :)

        • Rob A 2.1.1.2

          Ever heard of the Manhatten project, or the Apollo project? Personally I have yet to give up all hope that humanity can pull our finger out of our arse when it matters

          • Clarke 2.1.1.2.1

            So where’s the equivalent Manhattan Project in fusion? Currently we’re building the experimental fusion reactor that will precede the prototype of the first commercial reactor. Even the most ardent advocates of fusion are predicting timelines measured in decades, not years – the ITER project is slated to cost around 10 billion euro and last for 35 years.

            I’m a big supporter of fusion. But believing it’s going to solve our climate change problems is akin to believing in fairies at the bottom of the garden.

            • lprent 2.1.1.2.1.1

              Besides widespread cheap fusion has an inherent problem as well – excessive waste heat would be a major cumulative problem within a relatively short time. Instead of trapping extra heat in the atmosphere, cheap fusion is effectively generating it. But that is probably a easier problem to solve.

              It is the hassle of being in a finite and rather small biosphere.

            • Rob A 2.1.1.2.1.2

              I was talking more of this solar panel idea, its technology we already largely have. Yes it has problems but nothing that would be impossible to overcome.

    • Con 2.2

      Right, so is this to completely replace all fossil fuel use universally, or just that used in current eletricity generation?

      In future, let me recommend clicking on the link that says “You can read more about it here.” – it works wonders!

      To save you the bother this time, the figure appears to include not just all fossil fuel, but the consumption of energy in all its forms.

      • Lanthanide 2.2.1

        Yeah, I didn’t have time to click it when I posted that comment, but I followed it and read it later.

        I was mainly skeptical based on another graphic I’ve seen around the net showing “1 cubic mile of oil =” and it has like 91,000,000 solar panels generating electricity for 50 years to be the equivalent. However that graphic has been debunked as being the energy value of the oil, but not what we actually manage to extract from it (because refining oil and cars etc are very inefficient).

  3. ieuan 3

    Ummm, what about the storage needed because solar cells, like, don’t work too well at night? The storage issue is probably a bigger problem (and cost) than building large arrays of solar cells.

    My personal 2c worth. I think the ‘solution’ is a lot more small scale power generation from various sources – solar, wind, small gas turbines etc rather than mega schemes.

    • lprent 3.1

      Yep it is an issue.

      The solution has been known for a while. Store it as potential mechanical energy. Use excess power during the day to pump water uphill. You get get a loss of energy converting back into electricity as hydro power at night but if the variable cost of the power was ‘free’, then this is a good way to store energy.

      The actual trick is to get so much power on the grid that it becomes worth while investing the infrastructure to take power off the grid during the day to do that.

      • snoozer 3.1.1

        It doesn’t even have to be water that you store the potential energy in, but that’s obviously the cheapest and most abundant fluid around. Not much water in the Sahara.

        You could use blocks from the pyramids instead – winch them up during the day, release the brake in the evening and turn the winch motor into a generator. :)

        captcha: simplest

        • Clarke 3.1.1.1

          The sodium-sulphur battery seems to be a good candidate for grid connection, as it’s large-scale, made from commonly available elements, and doesn’t seem to have the same memory issues as some other battery types. It’s being trialled for grid support in Japan.

  4. pentwig 4

    Nuclear is the only way to go!!

    • Lanthanide 4.2

      Fusion, yes. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polywell

      Fission probably can’t ramp up in time and has problems with waste disposal, and a limited amount of uranium – 100-200 years at current usage rates becomes 10-20 years if you build 10x as many nuke plants as there are today. Breeder reactors etc are feasible, but AFAIK no one has even started building one yet, let alone has them up and running.

      • Clarke 4.2.1

        I agree with your assessment of fission, but practical fusion has the minor problem of having been 10-20 years away for at least the last 40 years. So betting the farm on a technology that isn’t yet ready for prime time looks kinda risky.

        • Lanthanide 4.2.1.1

          Have a read up on polywell, which is why I linked it.

          They just got an additional $8m in funding from the US Navy. If everything goes well with their next prototype which is 8x more powerful than the previous one and aimed at being energy-positive, they plan to have a commercial plant up and running by 2020. The rebuttal is, of course, “they’ve been saying that for years”, but polywell actually looks very promising and is orders of magnitude cheaper than tokamak reactors. Not the least because it can use boron as a fuel source and using boron gives a nuclear reaction which has no radioactive inputs -or- outputs.

    • lprent 4.3

      Not if you know anything about it. Which I suspect you don’t. Prove me wrong – explain why you think it is the only way to go. I’m sure there are people here who will pick apart your arguments to educate you why that is such a stupid attitude.

    • Draco T Bastard 4.4

      Nope

      The Future of Nuclear Energy: Facts and Fiction
      Part 1
      Part 2
      Part 3

      Nuclear power was always only a short term option and its short term has run out.

  5. SjS 5

    What about the transmission? Seems like a really good idea to build a giant solar panel in the Sahara to power all of europe and north africa, but how do you get that power to europe?

    Those massive power lines they want to build through the Waitako to help power auckland would be tiny and insignificant compared to what you would need to build to get the power to/through europe …

    Good idea though! Interesting seeing it relative to the world’s totaly land area.

    • snoozer 5.1

      of course, for a project like that, the scales make it viable to use better transmission equipment than the crappy cheap stuff we have.

      superconducting wires – one day, hopefully :)

  6. Strathen 6

    I remember one of my Teachers telling us about this concept all those years ago at school. Although he did say that with a big enough structure in the Sahara, you could power the whole world.

    The issue we discussed in class was around who would hold the ‘power’. Who would control each of these facilities, and in the modern world, how susceptible would they be to an attack?

    I can see the above approach has reduced the risk of our theoretical discussion by spreading the structures around the world which makes sense. However with an organised attack (yes, very Hollywood) you could take down the entire worlds power system.

    Ignoring the attack angle, it is still interesting to consider who would hold the governance over these power supplies, more for places like Africa etc where one station is providing power to many countries. Whilst this can be worked out, I forsee it taking many times longer than it will take to build it.

    I like the idea and would love to see it implemented in my lifetime.

  7. wtl 7

    Re all those comments about transmission and dangers of attack. I think the point of the graph isn’t that we would use specific areas of that size and thus centralise power generation in those areas, but that the area we would need is rather small compared to the area of the world.

  8. Quoth the Raven 8

    There’s another possibility: Space-based solar power.

  9. Zaphod Beeblebrox 9

    Would have thought best place to collect solar energy is your roof. No transmission infrastructure, low construction costs, don’t have to pay any money grubbing power company and their executive bonuses.
    Just a thought.

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    National has hit the panic button for its 7th Budget in a desperate attempt to look like they’re taking action to reduce our shameful child poverty rates, but they are giving with one hand and taking with the other, Opposition… ...
    2 days ago
  • Panic and back-flips can’t hide twin deficits
    National’s token measures to fight fires they have left burning for seven long years can’t hide a Budget that is long on broken promises, short on vision and fails to reach surplus, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson. “After being… ...
    3 days ago
  • Auckland land measure seven years too late
    National are so desperate to look like they are doing something about the Auckland housing crisis they have dusted off Labour’s 2008 inventory of government land available for housing and re-announced it, says Labour’s housing spokesperson Phil Twyford. “Despite National… ...
    3 days ago
  • Access to gender reassignment surgery essential
    I was frankly disgusted to hear the Minister for Health say that funding gender reassignment surgeries is a “nutty idea”. A recent study found that in New Zealand 1% of young people identified themselves as transgender, and 3% were unsure… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    4 days ago
  • Global milk prices now lowest in 6 years
    The latest fall in the global dairy price has brought it to the lowest level in six years and shows there must be meaningful action in tomorrow’s Budget to diversify the economy, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson. “Dairy prices… ...
    4 days ago
  • Big risks as CYF checks stopped
    Revelations that Child, Youth and Family is no longer assisting home-based early childhood educators by vetting potential employees should set alarm bells ringing, Labour Children’s spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says. “Doing away with an extra mechanism for checking potential new employees… ...
    4 days ago
  • Housing crisis about real people not numbers
    The Government’s continued failure to tackle the housing crisis is seeing thousands of vulnerable Kiwis being kept off social housing waiting lists, while others, who are on the list, are being forced to live in cars and garages, says Labour’s… ...
    4 days ago
  • Housing crisis about real people not numbers
    The Government’s continued failure to tackle the housing crisis is seeing thousands of vulnerable Kiwis being kept off social housing waiting lists, while others, who are on the list, are being forced to live in cars and garages, says Labour’s… ...
    4 days ago
  • State of origin
    Kiwis are increasingly concerned about the food they give their families. New Zealand consumers have the right to know where their food has come from, particularly when it involves animals, and should be able to expect our Government to label… ...
    GreensBy Steffan Browning MP
    4 days ago
  • Relationships Aotearoa
    It is disturbing that Relationships Aotearoa, a voluntary organisation set up in 1949 to help couples struggling with their relationships following the upheavals of World War II, may be forced to close, says Acting Spokesperson for the Voluntary and Community… ...
    5 days ago
  • An economy that is just working for some is an economy that is not working
    The National Party presents itself as a great manager of the economy, but if the economy is only working for some we really need to question that assertion. Alongside the perpetually elusive surplus, the levels of risk in our economy are… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    5 days ago
  • An economy that is just working for some is an economy that is not working
    The National Party presents itself as a great manager of the economy, but if the economy is only working for some we really need to question that assertion. Alongside the perpetually elusive surplus, the levels of risk in our economy are… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    5 days ago
  • House prices to a crack $1 million in 17 months
    The average Auckland home is on track to cost $1 million in 17 months’ time if nothing substantial is done to rein in soaring price rises, Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford says. “Auckland’s house prices have skyrocketed 63 per cent… ...
    5 days ago
  • Vital support services can’t be left in lurch
    The National Government has big questions to answer about how a provider of services to thousands of vulnerable New Zealanders is set to fold, Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson says. Relationships Aotearoa which provides support and counselling to families, individuals… ...
    5 days ago
  • Treasury and IRD on a capital gains tax
    Both the Treasury and IRD have been advising the National Government on the benefits of a capital gains tax. Documents released to the Green Party under an Official Information Act request show that John Key has been selective with the… ...
    GreensBy Russel Norman MP
    6 days ago
  • Charity legislation needs review
    It is unacceptable that the big corporate based charities claim  millions in annual income tax exemptions, while small community based and operated non-profit organisations  struggle to gain official charity status, Labour’s acting spokesperson for the Voluntary and Community Sector Louisa… ...
    6 days ago
  • John’s panic-Key response to housing crisis
    John Key needs to tell New Zealanders what caused his sudden change of heart that led to the Government’s scrambled and last-minute housing measures, Opposition Leader Andrew Little says. “The Prime Minister’s sudden rush of blood to his head followed… ...
    6 days ago
  • Keep our Assets Christchurch Campaign: An update
    I recently presented my submission to keep Christchurch Council assets at the Christchurch City Council’s public hearings on its 10 year plan on 13 May. The hearings are live-streamed and recorded so you can watch them on www.ccc.govt.nz. The Council’s… ...
    GreensBy Eugenie Sage MP
    6 days ago
  • John Key finally admits there’s a housing crisis
    John Key’s weak measures to rein in the astronomical profits property speculators are making are an admission – finally – that there is a housing crisis, Labour Leader Andrew Little says. “But yet again National is tinkering with the housing… ...
    7 days ago
  • Government stifles voices in CYFs review
    The Government’s exclusion of the Māori Women’s Welfare League in a panel on the future of CYFs is a cynical ploy to stifle views, says Labour’s Māori Development Spokesperson Nanaia Mahuta. “It's unbelievable that a significant review on the future… ...
    1 week ago
  • Speech to the Otago Chamber of Commerce
    Thank you very much for the opportunity to be here today. It’s a pleasure as always to be back in the town that raised me. Growing up in St Kilda meant that there was one thing that was a big… ...
    1 week ago
  • Key can’t just be Prime Minister for Parnell
    John Key must show New Zealanders in next week’s Budget that he is more than the Prime Minister for Parnell, and is also the Prime Minister for Pine Hill, Putararu and Palmerston North, Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson says. In… ...
    1 week ago
  • Stop the conversions
    This week, some Waikato locals took me and intrepid photographer Amanda Rogers on a tour of some  lakes and waterways in their region, and up to the massive dairy conversions in the upper catchment of the Waikato River. It… ...
    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty MP
    1 week ago
  • More regional jobs go in Corrections reshape
    News that 194 Corrections staff are to lose their jobs will have ramifications not only for them and their families but for the wider community, Labour’s Corrections spokesperson Kelvin Davis says. Prison units at Waikeria, Tongariro and Rimutaka face closure… ...
    1 week ago
  • Government’s climate meetings off to a bumpy start
    On Wednesday, I attended a hui and an evening meeting that the Government had organised in Nelson as part of its climate change consultation tour, to support the Nelson community telling the Government to take meaningful action on climate change.… ...
    GreensBy Steffan Browning MP
    1 week ago
  • Taxpayers the only ones left feeling blue
    Ministry of Social Development bosses could have saved themselves thousands of dollars in consultants’ fees by providing staff with rose-tinted spectacles, Labour’s State Services spokesperson Kris Faafoi says. A report out today reveals the Ministry is spending over half a… ...
    1 week ago
  • Why are the regions still facing restrictions?
    Labour's Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford is questioning why the regions should continue to be saddled with LVR lending restrictions announced by the Reserve Bank today. “Labour has been calling for the regions to be exempted from LVRs for the best… ...
    1 week ago
  • The high costs of weak environmental regulation
    Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere is described on the Department of Conservation website as “Canterbury’s largest and New Zealand’s fifth largest [lake], and an internationally important wildlife area.” But the lake is also polluted by nutrients leaching from farms in the catchment.… ...
    GreensBy Eugenie Sage MP
    2 weeks ago
  • Submissions to Wellington City Council on their Gambling Venues Policy
    Every three years Councils across the country are required to check that their gambling venue policies are still fit for purpose and they can choose to consult on their policy if they are thinking of making changes. Councils don’t have… ...
    GreensBy Denise Roche MP
    2 weeks ago
  • Reserve Bank action shows Govt out of touch and out of ideas
    The Reserve Bank’s unprecedented measures today show it understands the serious risks of the overheating housing market – in complete contrast to John Key’s refusal to acknowledge the crisis, Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson says. “The Bank is right to… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Send us your snaps: 25 Years of the Green Party
    This year we've hit a milestone. We're turning 25.To help celebrate a quarter of a century, please send us your photos from the last 25 years of the Green Party Aotearoa New Zealand! Note: Photos must be jpg, gif or… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • 25 Years of the Green Party
    This year the Green Party sends 25. To help us celebrate a quarter of a century please send us you photos of 25 years of the Green Party!Photos must be jpg,gif or png and smaller than 2MB. If you are… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Bay growth plan too little too late
    Today’s Bay of Plenty growth study from MBIE is another example of Government spin - lots of talk but little action, says Labour’s Regional Development spokesperson David Cunliffe.  “This is a region that desperately needs to develop the downstream processing… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Government bows to ACC pressure
     The Government has finally buckled to pressure from Labour and the New Zealand public in making a half billion dollar cut to ACC levies, but the full benefits are two years away,” says Opposition Leader Andrew Little.  “$500 million over… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • False figures cloud Auckland transport facts
    The Prime Minister should apologise and issue a correction after both he and Transport Minister Simon Bridges have been caught out misrepresenting facts on Auckland’s transport spending, Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford says. "Both John Key and Simon Bridges have… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Govt books confirm National can’t post surplus
    The last publication of the Government’s books before the budget shows National will break its promise of seven years and two election campaigns and fail to get the books in order, says Labour’s Finance Spokesperson Grant Robertson. “The Government is… ...
    2 weeks ago

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