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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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    In 2010, National rammed the Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Bill through Parliament. Paul Quinn’s Member’s Bill existed because Paul Quinn thought anyone who’d been imprisoned was a serious offender, and serious offenders had ‘forfeited’ their right to vote.… ...
    GreensBy David Clendon MP
    2 days ago
  • Mainfreight ‘appalled’ by Government’s rail madness
    The Government has been given a serve by New Zealand-based international trucking and logistics firm Mainfreight which says it lacks a national transport strategy, and has treated rail badly, Labour's Transport spokesperson Phil Twyford says. The company has told shareholders it… ...
    3 days ago
  • National’s Health and Safety Reform Bill: less safety and fewer rights at...
    The New Zealand Council of Trade Unions is embarking on a campaign to fight the changes that weaken the Health and Safety Reform bill. As part of the campaign the CTU has organised vigils with the display of 291 crosses… ...
    GreensBy Denise Roche MP
    3 days ago
  • All options need to be put on meat sector table
    Farmers must be given every assurance that all potential risks have been considered before Silver Fern Farms opens its door to foreign equity, Labour’s Primary Industries spokesperson Damien O’Connor says. “The ongoing saga involving the meat sector and amalgamation has… ...
    3 days ago
  • Flag the referendum if 50% or more don’t vote
    Labour has moved to have the second flag referendum canned if the first attracts fewer than half the eligible number of voters, Opposition Leader Andrew Little says. “John Key has already wasted more than $8 million on his vanity project… ...
    3 days ago
  • 90,000 cars reclassified in botched ACC ratings
    New figures obtained by Labour show the ACC Minister’s botched motor vehicle levy system has resulted in 90,000 vehicles having to be reclassified so far – at a cost of $6 million, Labour’s ACC spokesperson Sue Moroney says. “Nikki Kaye’s… ...
    3 days ago
  • Brutal health cuts confirmed, crucial services suffer
    Chronic under-funding by National has seen the health budget slashed by $1.7 billion in just five years, Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King says. A report by Infometrics, commissioned by Labour, shows health funding has been cut in four of the… ...
    4 days ago
  • Meth ring under Serco’s nose
    The news that two Serco inmates have been arrested for helping to run a methamphetamine ring from prison should be the final straw and see their contract cancelled, says Labour’s Corrections Spokesperson Kelvin Davis. “National has stood by Serco despite… ...
    4 days ago
  • Ministers failing women and their own targets
    New figures showing just five Ministers have met the Government’s own reduced targets for appointing women to state sector boards is evidence National is failing Kiwi women, Labour’s Women’s Affairs spokesperson Sue Moroney says. “The Ministry for Women’s 2015 Gender… ...
    4 days ago
  • Charges up for some as funding up for grabs
    A proposal being considered by the Government would see some people having to pay more for health care and district health boards forced to fight amongst themselves to fund regional health services, Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King says “Information leaked… ...
    4 days ago
  • Stop experimenting on kids
    The trouble with the Charter school model is that it is a publicly funded experiment on children. The National Government has consistently put its desire to open charter schools ahead of the safety of the children in them, ignoring repeated… ...
    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty MP
    5 days ago
  • Bank puts the squeeze on mid Canterbury farmers
    News that an unnamed bank in Ashburton has put a receiver on notice over financially vulnerable farmers will send a chill through rural New Zealand, says Labour’s Finance Spokesperson Grant Robertson. “The Government needs to work with  New Zealand’s banks… ...
    5 days ago
  • Key is trading away New Zealand land and homes
    John Key yesterday admitted what National dishonestly refused to confirm in Parliament last week – he is trading away New Zealand’s right to control who buys our homes and land, says Opposition leader Andrew Little. “The Prime Minister must now… ...
    5 days ago
  • Razor gang takes scalpel to health
    Plans by the Government to take a scalpel to democratically elected health boards are deceitful and underhand, coming just months after an election during which they were never signalled, Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King says “Leaked documents reveals a radical… ...
    5 days ago
  • Spin lines show a department in chaos
    Corrections Spin Doctors sending their place holder lines to journalists instead of responding to serious allegations shows the scale of chaos at the department over the Serco scandal, says Labour’s Corrections Spokesperson Kelvin Davis. “As more and more serious allegations… ...
    1 week ago
  • Court ruling shows law should never have been passed
    A High Court ruling that a law banning prisoners from voting is inconsistent with a properly functioning democracy should be a wake-up call for the Government, Labour’s Justice spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says. In an unprecedented ruling Justice Paul Heath has… ...
    1 week ago
  • Judicial Review Gamble Pays Off for Problem Gambling Foundation
    Congratulations are due to the Problem Gambling Foundation (PGFNZ) who have won their legal case around how the Ministry of Health decided to award their contracts for problem gambling services to another service provider. Congratulations are due not just for… ...
    GreensBy Denise Roche MP
    1 week ago
  • Environmental Protection Agency appoints GE advocate as new CEO
    This week, the Environmental Protection Authority Amendment Bill passed its first reading in Parliament. The Bill puts protection of the environment into the core purpose of the Environmental Protection Authority. This month, Dr Allan Freeth, the former Chief Executive of… ...
    GreensBy Steffan Browning MP
    1 week ago
  • Charanpreet Dhaliwal death demands genuine health and safety reform
    The killing of a security guard on his first night on the job is exactly the kind of incident that National’s watered-down health and safety bill won’t prevent, says Te Atatu MP Phil Twyford. The coronial inquest into 22-year-old Charanpreet… ...
    1 week ago
  • Arbitrary sanctions hit children hardest
    Increasing numbers of single parents are being penalised under a regime that is overly focussed on sanctions rather than getting more people into work, Labour’s Social Development spokesperson Carmel Sepuloni says. “Figures, obtained through Parliamentary questions show 3000 more sanctions,… ...
    1 week ago
  • Hekia just won’t face the facts
    Hekia Parata’s decision to keep troubled Whangaruru Charter school open despite being presented with a catalogue of failure defies belief, goes against official advice and breaks a Government promise to close these schools if they were failing, says Labour’s Education… ...
    1 week ago
  • No more silent witnesses
    Yesterday I attended the launch of a new initiative developed by and for Asian, Middle eastern and African youth to support young people to name and get support if there is domestic violence at home. The impact on children of… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    1 week ago
  • Single Use Plastic Bags campaign – Some wins and some green-washing
    As we near the end of Plastic Free July I’m nearing the conclusion of my Say No To Plastic Bag tour when I will have completed all 30 of my public meetings. The campaign was designed to work with community… ...
    GreensBy Denise Roche MP
    1 week ago
  • Single Use Plastic Bags campaign – Some wins and some green-washing
    As we near the end of Plastic Free July I’m nearing the conclusion of my Say No To Plastic Bag tour when I will have completed all 30 of my public meetings. The campaign was designed to work with community… ...
    GreensBy Denise Roche MP
    1 week ago
  • Minister must take responsibility for problem gambling debacle
    The Government’s handling of the Problem Gambling Foundation’s axing in a cost-cutting exercise has been ham-fisted and harmful to some of the most vulnerable people in society, Associate Health Labour spokesperson David Clark says.“Today’s court ruling overturning the axing of… ...
    1 week ago
  • Labour will not support TPP if it undermines NZ sovereignty
    The Labour Party will not support the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement unless key protections for New Zealanders are met, Opposition leader Andrew Little says.“Labour supports free trade. However, we will not support a TPP agreement that undermines New Zealand’s sovereignty. ...
    1 week ago
  • Coleman can’t ignore latest warnings
    Resident doctors have advised that a severe staffing shortage at North Shore Hospital is putting patients’ lives at risk, Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King says. “They say a mismatch between staffing levels and patient workloads at North Shore has… ...
    1 week ago
  • ACC must remove barriers to appeals
    The Government must prioritise removing barriers to justice for ACC claimants following a damning report by Acclaim Otago, Labour’s ACC spokesperson Sue Moroney says. “ACC Minister Nikki Kaye must urgently scrap her flawed plan to remove claimant’s right to redress… ...
    1 week ago
  • Six months’ paid parental leave back on the agenda
    Six months’ paid parental leave is back on the agenda and a step closer to reality for Kiwi parents after Labour’s new Member’s Bill was pulled from today’s ballot, the Bill’s sponsor and Labour MP Sue Moroney says. “My Bill… ...
    1 week ago
  • Sole parents at risk of having no income
    New requirements for sole parents to undertake a reapplication process after a year is likely to mean a large number will face benefit cancellations, but not because they have obtained work, Labour’s Social Development spokesperson Carmel Sepuloni says. “Increasing numbers… ...
    1 week ago
  • Juking the Welfare Stats Again
    Last week the government’s major initiative to combat child poverty (a paltry $25 increase) was exposed for what it is, a lie. The Government, through the Budget this year, claims to be engaging in the child poverty debate, but instead,… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    1 week ago
  • OCR rate cut a result of flagging economy
    The Reserve Bank's decision to cut the Official Cash Rate to 3 per cent shows there is no encore for the so-called 'rock star' economy, says Labour's Finance Spokesperson Grant Robertson.   "Today's interest rate cut comes off the back… ...
    1 week ago
  • Reboot to an innovation economy, an Internet economy and a clean economy
    In my short 33 years on this planet we’ve seen phenomenal technological, economic and social change, and it’s realistic to expect the next 33 will see even more, even faster change. You can see it in the non-descript warehouse near… ...
    GreensBy Gareth Hughes MP
    1 week ago
  • Bill that puts the environment into the EPA passes first hurdle
    A Bill that puts the environment squarely into legislation governing the Environmental Protection Authority passed its first reading today, says Meka Whaitiri.  “I introduced this member’s bill as the current law doesn’t actually make protecting the environment a goal of… ...
    1 week ago
  • Key’s KiwiSaver deception exposed
    KiwiSaver statistics released today expose John Key's claim that the cutting of the kickstart payment "will not make a blind bit of difference to the number of people who join KiwiSaver” to be duplicitous, says Labour Finance Spokesperson Grant Robertson.  “Official… ...
    1 week ago
  • Minimum Wage Amendment Bill to protect contractors
    All New Zealanders should be treated fairly at work. Currently, the law allows non-employment relationships to be used to get around the minimum wage. This is unfair, says Labour MP David Parker. “The Minimum Wage (Contractor Remuneration) Amendment Bill, a… ...
    1 week ago
  • Bill raises bar to protect Kiwi farmland
    The Government’s rubber-stamping of every one of the nearly 400 applications from overseas investors to buy New Zealand farm land over the last three years proves tougher laws are needed, Labour MP Phil Goff says. “In the last term of… ...
    1 week ago
  • Costly flag referendum should be dumped
    John Key must ditch the flag referendum before any more taxpayer money is wasted, Opposition Leader Andrew Little says. “Millions of dollars could be saved if the Prime Minister called a halt to this hugely expensive, and highly unpopular, vanity… ...
    1 week ago
  • Nats letting Serco off scot free
    Government members have prevented Parliament’s Law and Order select committee from getting answers out of a senior Serco director about the fight clubs being run at Mt Eden prisons, says Labour’s Corrections Spokesperson Kelvin Davis. “At today’s Law and Order… ...
    1 week ago
  • Charter school experiment turns into shambles
    The National Government’s charter school experiment has descended into chaos and it’s time for Hekia Parata to stop trying to cover up the full extent of the problems, Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins says. “The Education Minister must release all… ...
    1 week ago

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