Solar energy is not so hot


By CaptainShuddup   Follow   Tue, 29 Jan 2013, 9:25am   1,289 views   36 comments
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Welp! I've found all of the journalists, apparently they've all moved to Malaysia.

Solar energy is not so hot
Friday, January 25, 2013 - 12:13
by Geraldine Lim

HOW many houses have you come across that have photovoltaic (PV) panels installed on the rooftop to tap solar energy? Not many, despite the government’s implementation of the feed-in tariff mechanism in 2011.

The perception is that the solar power industry is stuttering along worldwide. It is true particularly in the United States, where many of the big companies involved in the solar business have not been profitable and demand for solar products has been low. Some companies are even in financial distress, according to media reports.

Managing editor of Energy & Capital Keith Kohl alleges in one of his articles that “green energy” in the US is “a scandalous rip off and a total failure”.
solar

WHERE ARE THEY? Houses installed with photovoltaic panels are still a rare sight locally

He wrote: “After countless big promises (and billions of taxpayer dollars), wind, solar and geothermal provide a mere 9% of America’s energy needs” and cited Solyndra LLC, a manufacturer of solar PV systems in Fremont, California, as an example which “sums up the whole green scam quite nicely”, claiming it “leached US$535 million (RM1.61 billion) in public funds before (going) belly-up”.

Reuters reported that solar stocks kicked off 2013 with a “sharp rally” following an announcement that a company controlled by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc paid up to US$2.5 billion (RM7.53 billion) for two SunPower solar projects in California. The stocks have since retreated.

Q-Cells Group SE, a PV cells manufacturer in Germany which has a production facility in Selangor Science Park II in Cyberjaya, filed for insolvency in April 2012 but then the once world’s biggest producer refinanced its debts to avoid bankruptcy.

“Even though we quickly cut our production of solar cells and modules in Germany and Malaysia, this was not enough to prevent Q-Cells from reporting extremely weak results in the first half of 2011. The market recovery in Q3 and Q4 of 2011 failed to improve the overall reporting results,” it said.

On production at the Malaysian plant, it said the efficiency and throughput improvements had increased production capacities from 600MW peak to 650MW peak as at the end-Q3 2011.

First Solar, on the other hand, announced a drastic move to cut operating expenses by US$30 million (RM90.41 million) to US$60 million (RM180.8 million) for 2012 and subsequently between US$100 million (RM301.4 million) and US$120 million (RM361.6 million) annually.

http://www.mmail.com.my/story/solar-energy-not-so-hot-44489

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  1. FortWayne


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    1   9:49am Tue 29 Jan 2013   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike (2)  

    I've inquired about getting solar panels, it isn't a very good deal at the moment.

    It costs over 20,000+ to buy, which is more than I'll pay for electricity in my lifetime. Our bill is about $60/month. Or we can "lease" them for 30 years and these panels would supposedly pay themselves off by pushing energy back into the grid, which sounds like a scam.

  2. New Renter


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    2   10:36am Tue 29 Jan 2013   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    Go Nuclear!

  3. leo707


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    3   11:00am Tue 29 Jan 2013   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    robertoaribas says

    how the hell is your bill only $60? no ac? I suppose if I wanted to live in the dark with no big tv etc...

    Winter is the only time my bill exceeds $40, and in the winter it rarely goes over $100. Yes, no AC, but I do have a big TV.

    robertoaribas says

    so... without ANY price increases in electricity, you only plan to live 27.8 more years?

    AND as a last note, solar has been improving in efficiency, lower price at between 15 and 30% per year, meanwhile elctricity rates increase every year. Taking into account the environmental benefit of NOT burning coal, the crossover point for solar is coming... a couple years, five years?

    Yeah, that is the big question--when will solar be cheaper than coal.

    Solar will continue to not be "worth it" as long as coal is much cheaper. Solar will have a floor in its price. Clearly it can not lower in price 15-30% a year forever. As long we continue to externalize the environmental costs of coal I am not sure that the "bottom" price of solar will be able to compete. At some point we have mined all the easy to get coal, and the cost of extraction will increase. That is when I see solar becoming the cheap energy alternative. 50years? 100years? This is of course assuming that we never choose to address the environmental costs of coal.

  4. CaptainShuddup


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    4   11:07am Tue 29 Jan 2013   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like (1)   Dislike (2)  

    leo707 says

    Solar will continue to not be "worth it" as long as coal is much cheaper.

    That is the problem with this administration now. What does the price of one have to do with the other. By that logic there should not be any cars on the road because bicycles are so much cheaper. You just want to inflict misery on others to realize your utopian fantasy.

    When China dumped those solar panels last year, Liberals had their chance to show their sincerity about Solar, going green and all that. Unfortunately a Greedy pitch fork wielding rabble was all they could muster. When it should have been met with exuberance and optimism that the day that solar would be affordable was finally upon us.
    China or Japan has always been first to lower the floor on every product the West has ever invented. If not for them, we would still have $4500 desktop computers, and $1200 cell phones, and $500 a month cell phone bills.

    "As long as coal is afordable..." What a load of SHIT!!!!
    At least be honest to us, if you can't be honest to your self.

  5. leo707


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    5   11:13am Tue 29 Jan 2013   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    CaptainShuddup says

    "As long as coal is afordable..." What a load of SHIT!!!!

    At least be honest to us, if you can't be honest to your self.

    Other than a vague reference to it being Obama's and liberals fault that solar is not cheaper I have no idea what you intended to say in your post.

    Feel free to elaborate.

    For instance who are you quoting when you said, "'As long as coal is afordable...'"?

  6. FortWayne


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    6   11:14am Tue 29 Jan 2013   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike (2)  

    robertoaribas says

    how the hell is your bill only $60? no ac? I suppose if I wanted to live in the dark with no big tv etc...

    so... without ANY price increases in electricity, you only plan to live 27.8 more years?

    AND as a last note, solar has been improving in efficiency, lower price at between 15 and 30% per year, meanwhile elctricity rates increase every year. Taking into account the environmental benefit of NOT burning coal, the crossover point for solar is coming... a couple years, five years? we'll see. but all evidence points to solar taking over in the future. We need incentives to keep the research going to make that a reality.

    We don't run much electricity. And for us it doesn't make sense to pay up front cost for the next 30 years of electricity, that money is better at earning interest now or used for emergencies, nor I know if we'll keep this place for that long either, might end up selling and moving. It's too much commitment to unknown.

    If it gets more efficient might be worth it, right now it's a new thing out here and prohibitively expensive.

  7. edvard2


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    7   11:29am Tue 29 Jan 2013   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    Solar panels are getting cheaper and cheaper every year. I recall seeing a magazine add in an old Nat. Geographic I have from the early 80's: A VCR cost around $1,200 in 1980 dollars. Now? You can buy a DVD/VCR combo for under $50. The same will happen with solar: The cost will come down to a point where they are affordable and practical.

    I see a LOT of houses around where Iive that have solar panels, but about half are actually solar water heaters simply because the sun is out for a good part of the year here. As for me, at the moment solar doesn't make sense. It doesn't get hot or cold enough to need AC and I use very little heat. My electric bill is seldom over $40. ( Another advantage to living in a Mediterranean climate)

  8. CaptainShuddup


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    8   11:31am Tue 29 Jan 2013   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike (2)  

    China dumped solar panels in the US last year, if you remember.
    And it was met with a legal fight, and we refused shipment. Less than a month later Solendra folded. Of course we didn't know Solyndra was going bust, but I bet some in Washington and Wallstreet circles did. It would seem wise to me, for the green movement to have seized that opportunity to set the price point for solar panels. i.e. "OK We'll take this batch, but you can't send us any more solar panels that cost over a certain percent more than that batch we refused.

    On second thought, nevermind it's pointless to argue with a Liberal fan club greenie you're watching the game from behind the bleachers, I'm climbing the flag pole to get the whole picture. You're just seeing what you want to see. Even Asia knows the American greenies are conjob scam.

  9. edvard2


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    9   1:08pm Tue 29 Jan 2013   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like (1)   Dislike  

    CaptainShuddup says

    On second thought, nevermind it's pointless to argue with a Liberal fan club greenie you're watching the game from behind the bleachers

    I think there needs to be a serious discussion about separating technology from politics. Interesting how things like cars, light bulbs, appliances, electrical generating equipment, fossil fuels, and so on are all these days stuck under a political filter.

    It no longer Compact Fluorescent bulbs. Instead its "greenie" bulbs.
    Its no longer a Prius. Its a "Hippy car"
    Its no longer just a solar panel. Instead its something to be avoided because "them thar' libs, like that stuff"

    We're talking about machines and devices. At some point gas powered cars, incandescent lights, and even steam engines and telegraph lines were all "Alternative" or " more environmentally sound". At some point NYC was literally buried in horse shit. Ever wonder why there are so many brownstone houses in that city? Because the horse shit got piled high on the sidewalks and the brown color of the houses prevented the stains from showing. Hence came the car and the elimination of a major form of pollution of the day.

    Somehow I doubt people back then claimed that gasoline powered cars were liberal machines.

  10. FortWayne


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    10   1:19pm Tue 29 Jan 2013   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike (2)  

    edvard2 says

    Its no longer just a solar panel. Instead its something to be avoided because "them thar' libs, like that stuff"

    Not a lot of folks can drop 20,000+ to put up solar panels just to reduce their electricity bill in half. That doesn't even make sense financially even if you had the money.

    Has nothing to do with "them libs".

  11. FortWayne


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    11   1:44pm Tue 29 Jan 2013   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike (2)  

    robertoaribas says

    the cost has been dropping, and with continued investment, will very likely continue to drop

    Hope so. I figured any technology gets better over time as long as there is money. So in next 10 years it has got to get way better.

  12. Call it Crazy


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    12   2:24pm Tue 29 Jan 2013   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like (1)   Dislike (2)  

    FortWayne says

    It costs over 20,000+ to buy, which is more than I'll pay for electricity in my lifetime. Our bill is about $60/month. Or we can "lease" them for 30 years and these panels would supposedly pay themselves off by pushing energy back into the grid, which sounds like a scam.

    Actually, that's how it works. In essence, you're selling electricity back to the power company and getting credit for it. The power companies are mandated to accept a certain level of solar power. If your bill is around $60 a month, you should do some more research and gets some quotes.

    There are different ways to pay for the system: leases, PPA's and regular financing. You can also get SREC's, which are a payment back to you at the end of the year based on how much you sell back to the power company.

    If you have decent roof space available and a small electric bill now, I would check it out. Just don't sign up until you listen to a couple of different proposals because some of the solar salesman are real "used car" type salesman working on commission only.

  13. APOCALYPSEFUCKisShostikovitch


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    13   2:28pm Tue 29 Jan 2013   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like (2)   Dislike  

    I saw the documentary about a guy who travels through time in a car powered by a thing called Mr. Fusion. I don't think it would be a very big engineering deal to use one of these devices to power a house. Worth a trip to Home Depot to check out.

  14. EBGuy


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    14   4:35pm Tue 29 Jan 2013   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    My electric bill is seldom over $40. ( Another advantage to living in a Mediterranean climate)
    Same here. (and hear, hear on the Med. climate). A $40 electric bill is mostly baseline usage (and a worst case for a solar install). In my situation I spent ~$10k after tax credits (two years ago) for ~1.6kW CEC of solar panels (10x 190 watt panels). This produces $300+ of electricity per year. Not great but a 3% return is better than the money sitting in a bank collecting less than 0.1%. Fort Wayne who is your electric provider? At the very least install enough panels to trim your usage over baseline as this is the low hanging fruit.

  15. New Renter


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    15   5:22pm Tue 29 Jan 2013   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like (1)   Dislike  

    I'd like to see panels that don't make a house look like crap. Ideally they'd integrate seamlessly with the rest of the roof shingles or tiles to appear as if they didn't exist at all.

    I attended a seminar last year at SLAC given by one of the Stanford researchers in solar. I did not see any great improvements in efficiency on the horizon We are stuck with maybe 23% at best. What IS improving are production costs and panel lifetimes.

    In other news solar will continue to not work at night or on cloudy days. One also needs to clean the panels to keep them working efficiency. Solar only works at peak output maybe 20% of the time. I don't know how panels handle heavy snow.

    robertoaribas says

    Hard to say. Nature does it pretty cheaply in leaves!

    True that Roberto! Leaves are made cheaply by Nature and are FAR more impressive structurally than man made panels. To be fair Nature has had a few billion years head start.

    The efficiency with leaves isn't quite as good, with only 0.25-8% of the energy being stored as sugar:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photosynthetic_efficiency

    Of course carbohydrates are a nice way to store the energy. Leaves look better than manmade panels too.

  16. leo707


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    16   5:25pm Tue 29 Jan 2013   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    New Renter says

    I'd like to see panels that don't make a house look like crap. Ideally they'd integrate seamlessly with the rest of the roof shingles or tiles to appear as if they didn't exist at all.

    I shall grant your wish!

    https://www.google.com/search?q=solar+panel+shingles&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a

    ta-da!

  17. HEY YOU


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    17   5:40pm Tue 29 Jan 2013   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    Watch: 42:25-47:50

    "Raise your hand if you can't solve this problem."

  18. Bigsby


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    18   5:42pm Tue 29 Jan 2013   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    Could see the value if I had a couple of electric cars to charge. I presume that might be a push for many people when they finally create batteries with any kind of decent range. As for now, I spend so little on electricity ($30 or so) it just isn't worth it.

  19. everything


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    19   6:14pm Tue 29 Jan 2013   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    My idea for solar is to be able to grow your solar system incrementally.

    Also, cheap systems, a few lights, etc. in different price ranges that get people using solar right away.

    Solar is marketed cheap, like yard lights, and when the battery fails in the device, into the garbage it goes.

    On the other hand solar is going to eventually go ballistic where the sun almost always shines. Hybrid energy plants.

    It's the whole throwaway plastic society that promulgates the kind of thinking that solar is not a good renewable. Just because the sun did all it's work for our coal and black gooey stuff over millions of years does not make it a permanent solution, it's dirty and kills everything in it's path, albeit very slowly.

    Go get a hairtest done and you'll find out that your mercury levels in your body are rather steady, enough so that you've got some stored, and also you can only get rid of it so fast. Doctors don't care, you have to live near a factory, work in one, be more directly exposed or it's not acute, they'll tell you that your levels are at the safe level.

  20. thomaswong.1986


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    20   7:25pm Tue 29 Jan 2013   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike (2)  

    CaptainShuddup says

    China dumped solar panels in the US last year, if you remember.

    mentioned several times.. very often the dumping (well below their own cost to mfg including labor costs and materials) is ignored by Liberals.. to them.. it doesnt happen.

  21. New Renter


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    21   7:32pm Tue 29 Jan 2013   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    leo707 says

    New Renter says

    I'd like to see panels that don't make a house look like crap. Ideally they'd integrate seamlessly with the rest of the roof shingles or tiles to appear as if they didn't exist at all.

    I shall grant your wish!

    https://www.google.com/search?q=solar+panel+shingles&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a

    ta-da!

    Well its about time! I had to wait a whole 3 minutes!

  22. CaptainShuddup


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    22   12:34pm Wed 30 Jan 2013   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    In India there's a car called the Tata, and it is the world's cheapest production car.

    In the US that same car is marketed by Merceded Benz and is the worlds most expensive micro car.

  23. edvard2


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    23   12:38pm Wed 30 Jan 2013   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like (1)   Dislike  

    CaptainShuddup says

    In India there's a car called the Tata, and it is the world's cheapest production car.

    In the US that same car is marketed by Merceded Benz and is the worlds most expensive micro car.

    Believe you're confusing cars. You're talking about the Smart, which is a division of Daimler and was developed for the European market.

    Tata does makes the world's cheapest car, called the Nano, but it isn't sold in the US at this time. It does, however own both Jaguar and Land Rover, which are sold in the US.

  24. edvard2


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    24   12:40pm Wed 30 Jan 2013   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    IDDQD says

    Nobody called gasoline powered cars "liberal machines" or incandescent lights "liberal bulbs" because government then didn't get involved in which technology should win and when this should happen. Nowadays we have ban on 100w incandescent bulbs and $7500 tax kickback for electric cars. Hence the name-calling.

    The government was just as heavily involved in whatever technologies happened to carry the day back then just as much as they are now. There is zero difference.

  25. CaptainShuddup


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    25   1:08pm Wed 30 Jan 2013   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    Yeah I don't know what I was thinking.
    This car...

    Looks nothing like this car...

    why the other car has 4 doors, therefore should cost more.

  26. edvard2


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    26   1:12pm Wed 30 Jan 2013   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    From what I've seen the Nano is little more than a go-cart. The Smart on the other hand is pretty much a full-on typical car in a smaller package. These are very popular in the EU for their small size which makes them easy to park.

  27. CaptainShuddup


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    27   1:52pm Wed 30 Jan 2013   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like (1)   Dislike  

    Well one cost 2700 while the other starts at 17,000(Three years ago when I checked).

    I don't see 14K difference in the size of tires alone.

  28. Rin


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    28   1:54pm Wed 30 Jan 2013   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    Did the solar folks get it wrong? Photovoltaic cells require a great deal of surface area to extend the photoelectric effect to enough silicon wafers, to get anything.

    In place of that, Fresnel lens, aimed at any non-reflective metallic surface (like cooper), will heat that surface from 80F to 400F, wherever it's daylight, with peak temperatures around mid-day. Then, thermocouples, attached to the metallic surface (the side not facing the sun), can generate power, without much adieu. An array of car batteries can then storage this power for future use.

  29. Vicente


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    29   2:03pm Wed 30 Jan 2013   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    The problem with solar for the home user, is most people's usage is greatest when it produces least or not at all. Late afternoon and early evening.

    Batteries add a whole bunch more complexity on top of that, and replacement costs as the batteries degrade faster than the panels.

    Grid-tied sort of solves the problem, but is just a trick to avoid the batteries and it sill leaves you dependent on power plants and huge power infrastructure.

    If solar cells get cheaper by half, double their efficiency, and batteries get cheaper and longer-lived it'll be obvious win. Until then, you suffer through first-adopter problems.

  30. edvard2


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    30   2:04pm Wed 30 Jan 2013   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    thermocouples are extremely inefficient. As in you would need a huge array of them to generate a small amount of power. That and the cost would be many magnitudes more than a solar panel.

  31. Rin


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    31   2:15pm Wed 30 Jan 2013   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    edvard2 says

    thermocouples are extremely inefficient. As in you would need a huge array of them to generate a small amount of power. That and the cost would be many magnitudes more than a solar panel.

    That brings back the original observation about the photovoltaic cells, surface area, but now, it's more an internal surface area issue than a solar one.

    The Fresnel lens will in effect, heat up that copper plate in no time. That copper can be encased in ceramic, more or less a heat insulator, and then, spokes of metal can come out of this heat source, touching many layers of thermocouples in various directions from the originating heat source. As long as the heat gradient is maintained, and if you've ever burnt a piece of paper w/ an ordinary magnifying lens, well... Fresnel ones concentrate light 500:1. That copper plate or cylinder will stay warm & serve as a heat generator.

  32. edvard2


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    32   2:25pm Wed 30 Jan 2013   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    The idea of using thermocouples as a power source has been around for over 100 years. Look up "Kerosene thermocouple". In Soviet Russia, various companies made kerosene heaters and lamps that used complex arrays of thermocouples for people who lived in rural areas to power small radios and lights. But these at most put out only a few watts and were incapable of powering anything more than very basic, very low power devices. The radios in question used 1-3 volt tubes. The lights were little more than flashlight bulbs.

    Where they are useful is in special applications- as in for instance the Mars Curiosity Rover uses one. So too do a lot of satellites that are used for space exploration where they are out of reach of the sun. Since there are no moving parts involved, they are ideal for more reliability as well when it comes to operating spacecraft with no chance of repair. But these use a heat source from the decay of plutonium, which puts out an enormous amount of heat for its size. Obviously that's not something remotely feasible for consumer use.

    So do thermocouples work? Yes. But the problem is that it takes an enormous amount of heat to produce a fraction of the electrical power that any number of other devices-including solar panels- can produce using far less input.

  33. Rin


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    33   2:37pm Wed 30 Jan 2013   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    edvard2 says

    So do thermocouples work? Yes. But the problem is that it takes an enormous amount of heat to produce a fraction of the electrical power that any number of other devices-including solar panels- can produce using far less input.

    This place makes thermal generators, in pretty much the manner you're describing ...

    http://tegpower.com/index.html

    However, what's missing in the presentation is the heat source.

    As far as solar goes, the usage of heat is missing in the Photovoltaic cell. And also, too much concentrated heat on a Photovoltaic Solar Panel, is damaging to the materials inside. As for copper as a heat source, you can heat it up, all you want, as long as you're below the melting point.

    Some solar stations, use reflective heat for their power generator but instead of thermocouples, they directly generate steam. For that, you need a bigger facility.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_Two

    But I think downsizing to a magnifying Fresnel lens is useful for the smaller user.

  34. edvard2


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    34   2:57pm Wed 30 Jan 2013   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    If using thermocouples was a remotely close competitive option over solar panels that option would have been used a long time ago.

  35. curious2


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    35   4:02pm Wed 30 Jan 2013   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    Without subsidies, current solar panel technology can't compete with grid prices, but that might change within this decade especially if DoE's 5-year battery project succeeds. Half of all electricity that goes into the grid gets lost in transmission, so solar on your roof would only need to be half as efficient as a coal plant to compete, but it isn't there yet. Also grid prices reflect hidden subsidies in the form of externalities (pollution, health costs) and Bush-era tax subsidies to the oil & gas industry; some say the total cost of those fuels actually exceed solar. Solar efficiency continues to gain on mature technologies and may overtake within a few years.

  36. EBGuy


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    36   6:45pm Wed 30 Jan 2013   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    Here's what you want to use in conjunction with a fresnel lens:
    Silicon Valley start-up Solar Junction has raised the bar for solar efficiency to 44 percent, and even higher values are in the cards: The company has a road map for reaching 50 percent efficiency and beyond.
.. Concentrating sunlight not only trims costs, it also boosts cell efficiency, because it increases the output voltages at each junction. In Solar Junction’s case, the record-breaking efficiency resulted from concentrating sunlight by a factor of 947 on a cell from a production run.


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