1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Solar Power

Discussion in 'Earth and Environmental Science' started by Shaun, 21 Feb 2012.

  1. Shaun

    Shaun Über Geek

    Apple has revealed new details about the operations of its huge data center in Maiden, North Carolina, including plans to build a 20-megawatt solar power facility to support its operations. Apple also plans to use a fuel cell powered by biogas that could generate up to 5 megawatts of power.

    The Apple facility would be the largest solar array dedicated to data center operations, surpassing a 14 megawatt array being built to support the McGraw-Hill data center in East Windsor, New Jersey. Apple disclosed its renewable energy ambitions in Maiden in the company’s latest environmental report.

    Although Apple’s solar plans are making headlines, the report also sheds light on many aspects of ...

    http://www.datacenterknowledge.com/...le-plans-20mw-of-solar-power-for-idatacenter/
     
  2. Shaun

    Shaun Über Geek

    The technology has been around for a number of decades now and it makes me wonder why we don't see more houses with panels on their roofs, taking advantage of the cheap electrical energy that can be gathered from one very large, natural, and (preumably) long-lasting source?

    Is it the cost or complication of installing the equipment? Is it very expensive to maintain or really unreliable? Is it simply that you cannot store what you cannot use?

    You would have thought, by now at least, that new homes would be built with such energy efficient add-ons, but it doesn't seem to be the case, and I wonder what the limitations are that stop this happening?
     
  3. Yellow Fang

    Yellow Fang Veteran Geek

    Location:
    Reading
    Before the Feed-In-Tariff it was rarely ever economic to install photovoltaic panels. It would cost something like ten grand to buy and have installed the panels plus inverter, while electricity only cost about 13p per kWh. You would never ever get your money back. The FIT however made it a good investment at 38p per kWh, plus an extra 3p if you export your electricity to the grid, or even better saving another 13p if you use your electricity yourself. The FIT ensured that the utilities had to pay you 38p per kWh for every kWh of electricity your panels generated, whether you exported it to the grid or used it yourself. But if you used it yourself, you also did not have to pay your utility for that electricity (I think that's right; it's was quite a confusing scheme). Eventually the more financially astute started to cotton on what a good deal it was, especially compared to what the interest on your bank was paying on your savings. Solar arrays were sprouting up quite a lot. Now the government has almost halved the FIT, so it's nowhere near as good a deal. I expect most new build houses do come with PV panels, or at least they will do by 2016. By 2016, Britain has stated that all new builds (houses) will be zero carbon. Everyone wondered what the government meant by this and how this could possibly be achieved. It's an almost impossible task, but one of the few technologies that could be used are solar panels.
     
    Shaun likes this.
  4. amusicsite

    amusicsite dn ʎɐʍ sᴉɥ┴ Staff Member

    Location:
    UK
    I was actually quite surprised how many solar panels I saw on houses last time I went by train to London.

    I would guess it still takes a while for them to pay for themselves. I agree though that new builds should be made to have solar, especially large supermarkets and the like. I guess that is down to government regulations. If they forced the construction companies to do it they would. I assume the government has not done this.
     
  5. Yellow Fang

    Yellow Fang Veteran Geek

    Location:
    Reading
    The government is constantly tightening up what are known as the LRegs, which govern energy efficiency in new and refurbished, domestic and non-domestic buildings. By 2016, all new builds should be carbon neutral, whatever that means. It's a massive headache for the construction industry.
     
  6. Shaun

    Shaun Über Geek

    So are solar panels fairly durable and simple (I'm thinking in terms of breakage and maintenance)?
     
  7. amusicsite

    amusicsite dn ʎɐʍ sᴉɥ┴ Staff Member

    Location:
    UK
    A typical 4kW system can cost as little £8000 (or 6K if you shop around) fully fitted with an Energy Performance Certificate meaning the system will pay for itself in 7 to 8 years.
    http://www.solaruk.com/solarpv/default.asp

    How they reckon you will make/save money with one.
    http://www.solaruk.com/solarpv/4kw example.asp

    Seems to show from that table there is a 1% drop off in performance every year or two.

    A lot of them come with a 5 year guarantee and expected life of 25 years+ so I would think they are quite durable.
     
    Shaun likes this.
  8. beanz

    beanz Staff Member Staff Member

    Ok - this is a sideways thought, but...

    How heavy is a full solar panel installation?

    When most houses were built, I assume they were not designed with the idea of having solar panels mounted on their roof! So, how does a roof structure cope with the additional weight - and weight on only one side of the roof at that? Does a surveyor have to confirm each particular house's design can tolerate the additional weight over 25 years (or more) of the building's life?
     
  9. amusicsite

    amusicsite dn ʎɐʍ sᴉɥ┴ Staff Member

    Location:
    UK
    I would have thought you took the tiles off and install it on the frame. I would also guess it weighs much less than tiles.
     
  10. Yellow Fang

    Yellow Fang Veteran Geek

    Location:
    Reading
    The panels are pretty maintenance free. They have no moving parts. The inverters may need replacing every ten years or so.
     
  11. Yellow Fang

    Yellow Fang Veteran Geek

    Location:
    Reading
    The panels are not that heavy. Two people could lift them easily. I believe a team of people arrive and put up some scaffolding. Then another team of people lay some rails across your tiles. I think they just screw the rails into your tiles, but they may also use some bracket arrangement that slides under the tiles. Either way, it does not require removing any tiles. Then they just lay the panels on the rails and wire them up.
     
  12. Yellow Fang

    Yellow Fang Veteran Geek

    Location:
    Reading
    Usually someone comes along to survey your house before giving you a quote. I think usually they look to see if there is anything shading your roof and whether your roof is facing south. If the company has integrity, they will tell you if a massive tree will make your installation unworthwhile. I knew a woman who wanted to have PV panels installed but didn't because the surveyor told her precisely this. However, I suspect a lot of people have been piling into the business and I wouldn't like to swear they were all as honest. I don't think the surveyors are primarily concerned about your roof being able to hold the weight. I studied an MSc in Renewable Energy and never heard about roof strength being a concern, although that doesn't mean it isn't.
     
    amusicsite and Shaun like this.
  13. amusicsite

    amusicsite dn ʎɐʍ sᴉɥ┴ Staff Member

    Location:
    UK
    http://www.rt.com/news/solar-energy-record-break-332/

    That's equivalent to the output of 20 nuclear plants, delivered to the national grid 50% of the nation’s energy quota.

    I went through Germany last year and you did see them everywhere. All along the motorways any bank facing the right direction had solar panels. Ranging from a few to 100's of meters of them.

    They are obviously having good solar weather too.

    Comes at a price though... "German tax payers currently shell out around $5 billion annually for solar energy"

    It will be interesting to see how they perform over time, how much they generate as a yearly percentage and how cheap the electricity becomes once they have paid for the initial costs and only have a maintenance cost.
     
    beanz likes this.
  14. beanz

    beanz Staff Member Staff Member

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/may/28/renewable-energy-investors-dash-gas?newsfeed=true

    Why is it that when times were good, we didn't seize the opportunity to develop long-term, large-scale solar power schemes like this?

    If we are to avoid the looming chasm of fossil fuel dependence and the problems our children and their children face in obtaining and paying for cheap energy, we have to get serious about enacting legislation and getting on with developing infrastructure.

    I would far rather think my tax was being used for this than for some of the other 'initiatives' it seems to go towards.
     
  15. amusicsite

    amusicsite dn ʎɐʍ sᴉɥ┴ Staff Member

    Location:
    UK
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/may/28/energy-policy-up-in-smoke

    The UK government (sponsored by BP, UK coal and British Gas) have decided the best way to reduce carbon is to drill more oil wells, put a handkerchief over the coal plants and get gas plants to fart into a jar.

    On the plus side though we are getting an off shore wind farm down here that will generate up to 200Mw, though they are talking about ruining the local national park when they put the cables in to link up to the grid.

    It just seems like out governments can't think long term, this current one can't seem to even think short term...
     
  16. beanz

    beanz Staff Member Staff Member

    Some aspects of essential infrastructure development - like sustainable energy - should be managed by an independent body for the long-term benefit of the nation rather than influenced by changes of government. The Bank of England was given some independence in monetary policy decisions. Why can't this principle be applied to energy generation?

    If it made sense 30 years ago to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels as a whole, why haven't we yet seen the need to prevent long-term provision of solar power etc being swayed by the crippling, stultifying effect of point-scoring, combative party politics? Some things are just too important to the future of the nation to be left to become manifesto-fodder.

    It saddens me to think we don't seem to be able to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.
     
  17. amusicsite

    amusicsite dn ʎɐʍ sᴉɥ┴ Staff Member

    Location:
    UK
    Well a lot of people say the current economic crisis was aided by the fact the BoE was made independent. It just made it easier for big corporations to get what the wanted.

    Unfortunately it seem that not learning from our mistakes is something we excel at.

    Austerity (aka keeping the rich rich) is the only priority at the moment so all long term planning is going out the window, with the exception of building a slightly faster rail service between London and Birmingham. Even though that should probably be a mag-lift bullet train type thing if it's to be really future proof.

    The biggest asset we have IMO is tidal power, which does 2 good things. 1) It produces power. 2) it cuts down on coastal erosion. So to start with you could install either the snakes or ducks...

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    These take out most of the force of the waves and would help protect the coastline. Rather than spend millions a year repairing the damage we could spend millions turning the sea energy into electricity and save money on future coastal defences, possible with a double saving.

    Now this is probably never going to make enough electricity to power the whole country. But it will generate some and save money and provide cheap electricity, along with probably helping us to be a world leader and maybe even export the tech to the outside world.

    All new building or at least all new commercial building (e.g. supermarkets and factories) should be forced to add solar panels to their roofs covering at least 90% or as close as is practical, also should apply to refurbishments.

    http://www.business-sale.com/news/article/oil-refinery-to-close-36352.html From a rough measure on google maps that site looks like a few km squared. Why not level it and put in solar/wind/tidal generation there? Surely can't be any complaints about being unsightly as there used to be a petrol processing centre there...

    See it's not hard to come up with a few simple solutions if you put your mind to it. Who the hell have the government been listening to???
     
  18. beanz

    beanz Staff Member Staff Member

    Well they aren't listening to common sense, that's for sure! I first studied economics 40 years ago and even then, the energy crisis was predicatable!

    This is why I said taking the energy generating function out of politics is necessary.

    Politicians are interested in votes, in what they can 'sell' to the electorate. There are votes to be won for dealing with the everyday concerns of people living in the here and now - tax, employment, education, health etc - concerns of the present rather than the future.

    Serious investment in renewable energy isn't about the world today - it's about that future world, making life increasingly better for people in 20, 50 or 100 years time.

    There's no political capital in it that is going to pay off in terms of votes during the lifetime of a government, even over 2 or 3 full terms, so the major parties instead look for short-term solutions to the energy crunch which only postpone the inevitable. One day, we will have to turn to renewables because the fossil fuels will be so scarce as to be unaffordable without bankrupting the nations that have no natural resource of them to call on. It seems that though everyone is smart enough to know this day will come - and have known it for decades - still no government in this country has begun the shift to renewables in earnest.

    Politics naturally descends into adversorial contests between opposing views - as a result, the real issue becomes secondary to posturing and point scoring.

    Let the politicians squabble over pastie tax. Energy policy is too important to be left to party political games.
     
    Shaun likes this.
  19. amusicsite

    amusicsite dn ʎɐʍ sᴉɥ┴ Staff Member

    Location:
    UK
    Unfortunately moving the decision away from the government has been proven not to work out much better. The same pressure groups instead corrupt the new group rather than the government and typically there is even less transparency.

    The only real solution is a more open government where you get to see what the people lobbying the people in charge are actually after and can see what their motives are. Maybe like the parliament channel where you can watch the idiots we choose laugh and cheer at each other. Maybe we should have the lobby channel where you get to see what BP, Shell, UK Coal and the like say to politicians to argue their case. Maybe the government can explain more why drilling for more oil is better and how it helps their seemingly opposing press release about reducing carbon. Maybe they can be more honest about the true cost of nuclear including building and decommissioning the buildings and storing the waste, along with mentioning they will use some of the by products to make nuclear bombs. Maybe they can talk more about the potential energy you would get from installing solar on all new buildings and ho much extra it would put on the cost of the buildings alongside how much it would save you.

    The other problem is the two (or maybe three) party system where the government in power will suddenly over night switch to opposing their previous ideas as soon as they get out of power. Along with the fact that most of the MP are millionaires with their nice little business interests who will do speeches to business for £10,000's - £1,000,000's when they leave office.

    The government are there for big business mainly and not the misunderstood idea that there are there for the people. They have about as much interest in long term planning as big business does. They look at the last 3 months and the next 3 months.

    Fortunately, and despite their best efforts, renewable energy is slowly being rolled out and I think all they are doing is massively slowing it down. The only sliver lining might be that by the time they intend to heavily invest in it, the prices might have dropped because of the economy of scale of production for places like China, USA and Morocco.
     
  20. Yellow Fang

    Yellow Fang Veteran Geek

    Location:
    Reading
    I suppose it's 22 GW peak of solar electricity that the Germans have installed. That's not quite the same as a consistent 22 GW. I still thinks it's a good thing overall, but I doubt it allows any coal or gas power stations to be closed down because peak demand is usually in the evening. Solar PV is still relatively expensive too.