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THE Alternative Energy (general) Thread pt 3(merged)

Discussions of conventional and alternative energy production technologies.

Re: Is solar energy the solution?

Unread postby MonteQuest » Tue 28 Oct 2014, 18:24:21

kublikhan wrote: Monte, repeating wrong information again does not make it right. First off, renewables share is growing not shrinking. Even if we use your limited category of not including heat, transportation, traditional biomass, or hydro, the numbers grew by over a third, from 0.8% in 2006 to 1.2% in 2012.


Nice spin..."over a third" That's misleading...try they grew .4%. :) My research said it declined. With that small a number, the margin of error alone could account for the difference.

Bottom line, .4% after ten years is a meaningless contribution compared to the challenge.
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Re: Is solar energy the solution?

Unread postby tom_s2 » Tue 28 Oct 2014, 19:06:30

Monte:

I cannot even envision the day when solar/wind system components are mined, manufactured, shipped, installed, maintained, replaced, and disposed of by the same electrical energy they produce.


Fossil fuels won't be exhausted for at least 150 years, and you're trying to envision that far into the future based upon what you see today. You couldn't envision overhead wires for trucks, but then you found out it was already happening.

One possibility is to use ammonia as fuel. It's possible to manufacture ammonia (NH4) using wind turbines, air, and salt water. Ammonia is liquid under modest pressure, and will burn inside internal combustion engines. Ammonia fuel could provide a liquid fuel for internal combustion engines for those few uses (such as mining equipment or very rural applications) which are difficult to electrify. Obviously, it will take a long time to convert the industrial infrastructure to alternatives like those, but there are readily available alternatives for every usage of oil, and we have a long time. Ammonia fuel is just one option among many.

Saying that "you can't envision the day" just means you are unaccustomed to something. If you went back 115 years, you'd find that all of industrial civilization ran off coal alone, including ships, mining equipment, and steam shovels. If you'd lived back then, would you have envisioned the transition to oil, then gas, then nuclear (then back away from it)? In fact, think back when you started here, ten years ago. Did you envision fracking, the resurgence of US oil, the introduction of EVs by almost all major manufacturers, and a 90% drop in the price of solar PV?

The economy gradually transitions between sources of energy. The economy has always done this, and is doing so right now. That is business as usual. Already, the economy is transitioning to renewables more quickly than is required.

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Re: Is solar energy the solution?

Unread postby kublikhan » Tue 28 Oct 2014, 19:13:30

MonteQuest wrote:I posted numbers for all. I didn't exclude anything. Look again. I focused on the modern renewables solar/wind numbers because that is where everyone thinks the hope lies. Most of the renewable growth has been in hydro.
I looked again. Your post contained factual errors:

MonteQuest wrote:Due to growth in energy demand, it is less than they contributed six years ago.
False. Renewables in this category grew from 0.8% to 1.2%.

MonteQuest wrote:In 2008, the IEA’s World Energy Outlook predicted renewable energy would displace natural gas to become the second largest producer of electrical energy by 2015. That sure didn’t happen.
False. Renewables are currently at about the same share as natural gas and are on track to pass natural gas around 2015/2016.

MonteQuest wrote:However, even with these massive growth rates, renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, geothermal and biofuels contribute just 2% of our primary energy with wind/solar less than 1%
I'll go with misleading on this one. Or since you like the term, lets go with "doomer spin". You say you are talking about renewables contribution to primary energy but then you cut out the vast majority of renewables contribution to primary energy and call it 2%. This is misleading IMHO. From the same source we are both using:

Energy use for the provision of useful heat represents about half of total world final energy consumption. Modern renewables (excluding traditional biomass) meet a small but gradually rising share of final global heat demand (about 10%). Modern biomass, solar thermal, and geothermal energy provide hot water and space heating for tens of millions of domestic and commercial buildings around the world.

Half of the primary energy in the world is used for heat. You included this in your totals. But then when you are getting you 2% figure, you strip out renewables contribution to heat!!! This is grossly misleading. I will say it a third time: Apples to apples and oranges to oranges Monty! All renewables share of primary energy is 19%. All renewables share of electricity only is 22%. Enough with the doomer spin.

MonteQuest wrote:Nice spin..."over a third" That's misleading...try they grew .4%. :) My research said it declined. With that small a number, the margin of error alone could account for the difference.

Bottom line, .4% after ten years is a meaningless contribution compared to the challenge.
.4% eh? Talk about doomer spin :) Let's look at the facts shall we? I'll exclude traditional biomass here:

renewable share of global primary energy, excluding traditional biomass
2006
hydro: 3.0%
other: 2.4%
total: 5.4%

2012
hydro: 3.8%
other: 6.2%
total: 10%
Forget a third, renewables contribution to primary energy nearly doubled in the last 6 years, going from 5.4% to 10%
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Re: Is solar energy the solution?

Unread postby kublikhan » Tue 28 Oct 2014, 19:18:02

MonteQuest wrote:Solar will always be underpinned by fossil fuel energy. I cannot even envision the day when solar/wind system components are mined, manufactured, shipped, installed, maintained, replaced, and disposed of by the same electrical energy they produce.
What do you envision the post fossil fuel world will look like? Where will we get our energy from in your vision? Including mining, manufacturing, shipping, installing, maintaining, replacing, and disposing.
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Re: Is solar energy the solution?

Unread postby tom_s2 » Tue 28 Oct 2014, 19:25:14

Monte:

Wind, solar, biomass, geothermal only provide 1.2%. And due to growth in electrical demand, their contribution in that arena is shrinking, not growing.


That's not what your source claims. I've read that report, and I looked up the relevant section. As follows:

The combined modern and traditional renewable energy share remained about level with 2011, even as the share of modern renewables increased. This is because the rapid growth in modern renewable energy is tempered by both a slow migration away from traditional biomass and a continued rise in total global energy demand.


And:

While renewable (power) capacity continues to rise at a rapid rate from year to year, renewable electricity’s share of global generation is increasing more slowly. This is in large part because overall demand keeps rising rapidly


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Re: Is solar energy the solution?

Unread postby MonteQuest » Tue 28 Oct 2014, 20:07:17

kublikhan wrote:Forget a third, renewables contribution to primary energy nearly doubled in the last 6 years, going from 5.4% to 10%


Most of that growth was hydro. That isn't going to continue.

Yet, you seem to miss I was comparing electrical generation by modern renewables in 2008 to today in my initial post. Modern renewables, primarily wind and solar for electrical generation is where the meat is. We aren't going to see much more from hydro, geothermal, etc on the scale needed.

Renewables are growing at a snails pace compared to the Terrawatt Challenge and starting from such a small base, it will take decades to move the needle. We can argue over the exact numbers, but they are so small as to be meaningless.

The demand for energy is so great, that no renewable form of energy is displacing fossil fuel, it is only supplementing it.
Last edited by MonteQuest on Tue 28 Oct 2014, 20:30:13, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Is solar energy the solution?

Unread postby MonteQuest » Tue 28 Oct 2014, 20:17:56

kublikhan wrote: What do you envision the post fossil fuel world will look like? Where will we get our energy from in your vision? Including mining, manufacturing, shipping, installing, maintaining, replacing, and disposing.


I believe that most of the large scale renewable energy we will ever see has already been built. I see the day when it will be cheaper and more practical to feed and clothe a human being to do the work that machines now do. High tech complex systems will fall to the wayside.

Mostly, we will fight over the remaining resources. Scarcity breeds poverty, and poverty breeds conflict.
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Re: Is solar energy the solution?

Unread postby MonteQuest » Tue 28 Oct 2014, 20:28:23

tom_s2 wrote:Monte:

Wind, solar, biomass, geothermal only provide 1.2%. And due to growth in electrical demand, their contribution in that arena is shrinking, not growing.


That's not what your source claims. I've read that report, and I looked up the relevant section.


More sources I've read disagree with that source than do. The numbers are so small as to make the margin of error responsible.
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Re: Is solar energy the solution?

Unread postby dashster » Tue 28 Oct 2014, 21:54:48

MonteQuest wrote:
DesuMaiden wrote:The future will all be about reducing our energy consumption, and switching over to renewable sources of energy like solar, wind and biofuels energy.


What energy source do you suggest we use to manufacture, ship and maintain the components of the above mentioned?



Any of our current energy sources.
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Re: Is solar energy the solution?

Unread postby dashster » Tue 28 Oct 2014, 23:30:19

MonteQuest wrote:
DesuMaiden wrote: We can allocate our remaining fossil fuels towards the production of renewable energies which will hopefully be able to meet our energy demand. That's what I believe we should be doing.


And what will the rest of the world run on while you do that? Who gets to do without heat and lights while they wait years for renewable energy construction to produce any net new energy?


Why is renewable energy not producing any new net energy now? And why would it do so in the future if you feel it isn't doing so now?

However much electricity is used to produce renewables, it will be a small part of the total amount of electricity used in the world.

The date when the United States wakes up to Peak Oil, Peak Coal and Peak Natural Gas will unfortunately be, as in Peak Oil for the United States in 1970 - after it happens. But the good news is that the United States wastes massive amount of money on armaments. Just a filthy ugly huge pile of wasteful spending that it they uses to terrorize, threaten and intimidate the world. But, think of all the money that could be available for renewables if that massive military spending was redirected to building renewables. We don't have to talk about "no net new energy" at all as massive military spending produces no new energy at all. Net or otherwise. Zippo.
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Re: Is solar energy the solution?

Unread postby tom_s2 » Wed 29 Oct 2014, 01:49:42

Hi Monte,

I believe that most of the large scale renewable energy we will ever see has already been built.


I've been following the energy decline/peak oil movement for quite awhile now. As you know, it has had a long string of badly failed predictions. Many of you guys thought that civilization would promptly collapse around 2006. Most of you expected a "natural gas cliff" with drastically declining natural gas supplies. Many expected permanent electrical blackouts as per "The Olduvai Gorge". Almost everyone expected an end to world trade and world shipping. Almost everyone expected that oil supplies would start declining around 2005 at around 3% per year. None of these things have occurred, yet the movement continues along unhindered. (Actually, I shouldn't say "unhindered", because it appears that more than 95% of people have left the movement and moved on, but some are still here).

If the prediction fails again, what then? Do you pack it in, acknowledge you were wrong about these topics, and move along? Or do you just push doomsday further into the future by 10 more years and hang around these forums for awhile longer?

What is the criterion of falsification here? When would you guys conclude that you're just wrong about these things?

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Re: Is solar energy the solution?

Unread postby ralfy » Wed 29 Oct 2014, 01:58:59

tom_s2 wrote:Hi desumaiden,

But my question is do we have enough rare Earth minerals to create all of those solar panels? Currently 97% of all of all the rare earth minerals (RAM) are mined in China, and they are restricting their exports of RAM in order to use their RAM to build their own economy. I'm not sure we even have enough RAM to build enough solar panels to generate enough electricity from solar energy.


Solar panels do not require rare Earth minerals for their construction. Solar panels are made of silicon, which is by far the most abundant element in the Earth's crust. The materials in solar panels are essentially inexhaustible, meaning there is vastly more than could ever be required and we'd hit other limits (like waste heat problems) long before running out of resources.

Solar panels, and their mounts and the cables leading up to them, are essentially made out of dirt. There is enough silicon and aluminum in the Earth's crust to cover the entire terrestrial surface of the planet with solar panels. This would be impossible for other reasons, but we wouldn't run out of silicon or any other elements.

At present, a small amount of silver is used in solar panels for the front contacts, but aluminum would serve also (although it would be slightly less efficient since it's a worse conductor).

-Tom S


Solar panels are not used solely for solar energy. There are many more components involved, not to mention infrastructure, transport via cargo ships, consumer goods, and more.
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Re: Is solar energy the solution?

Unread postby ralfy » Wed 29 Oct 2014, 02:02:07

tom_s2 wrote:Hi MonteQuest,

What energy source do you suggest we use to manufacture, ship and maintain the components of the above mentioned?


Solar power can provide for much of its own transportation. Trucks, trains, and buses can easily be electrified using overhead wires, and can run during the day time. Many rail lines are already electrified in Europe and Russia.

Ships do not require oil for their propulsion. Until the 1970s, the most common kind of ship engine was the steam turbine, which can use anything that will burn as fuel, including wood chips or anything else.

There are some usages of fossil fuels (like tractors, mining equipment, steelmaking, and so on) which are more difficult to transition to other sources of energy. However, these uses make up less than 3% of all fossil fuel consumption. We will have enough oil for those uses for at least 100 years even if it peaks today and starts declining immediately according to a Hubbert curve. The economy will transition everything else to renewables first.

What happens after that, depends upon technological developments over the next 100 years. Those technological developments are impossible to foresee. However, collapse is not a serious possibility in my opinion, at least not for energy-related reasons. There are obvious substitutes for every use of fossil fuels, and vastly more time than is required to transition to them.

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The transition may take around a century, but we need to do it faster for obvious reasons. The most important point to consider is that we need to do it given countries that aren't cooperating with each other, a global population that assumes that the transition will take place in only a few years, and given many other points (such as a growing global middle class, environmental damage, and a growing population).
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Re: Is solar energy the solution?

Unread postby ralfy » Wed 29 Oct 2014, 02:02:57

tom_s2 wrote:Hi sunweb,

sunweb wrote:The ERoEI of solar devices is very low if the whole systems input is taken into account.


The ERoEI of renewables is generally comparable to, or higher than, fossil fuels.

The calculation for ERoEI has always been carried out incorrectly in peak oil and energy decline circles. Peak oilers are wrongly counting the massive waste heat losses of heat engines as energy returns, when in fact, they are energy losses. For example, your car loses about 80% of the energy in gasoline as waste heat from the radiator which does not move the car. Those losses are not counted in calculations of ERoEI. If you count those waste heat losses, then the ERoEI of oil in gasoline-powered cars is about 2.9.

The ERoEI of fossil fuels is actually quite low and has always been lower than renewables.

sunweb wrote:And once you have the electricity (needs lots of copper - think big machines and environmental degradation)


You don't need copper for those purposes. Electrical wires are made out aluminum these days which is something like 8% of the crust of the earth.

sunweb wrote:where will you get the energy and materials to build the gizmos you want the electricity to run?


Manufacturing uses electricity and heat, which could be provided by solar power.

-Tom S


That's because energy returns for oil dropped considerably. The global population, meanwhile, requires higher energy returns and increasing energy quantity as part of capitalist systems.
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Re: Is solar energy the solution?

Unread postby ralfy » Wed 29 Oct 2014, 02:06:48

kublikhan wrote:Pstarr, I am not of the opinion that there will be zero consequences to BAU because of peak oil. My thoughts on this matter are closer to what Raugei was saying here:

In this post, Marco Raugei makes a fundamental point about an often raised question: if we have to use fossil fuels to manufacture renewable plants, doesn't it mean that renewables are useless? Raugei's answer is a resounding "no". In fact, the EROEI of fossil fuels acts as a multiplier for the final EROEI of the whole process. It turns out that if we invest the energy of fossil fuels to build renewable plants we get an overall EROEI around 20 for a process that leads to photovoltaic plants and an even better one for wind plants. So, if we want to invest in our future, that's the way to go, until we gradually arrive to completely replace fossil fuels!

It seems that this argument is too often brought up to imply that, since PV development and deployment is currently (largely) underpinned by fossil energy, and hence PV is not (yet) a fully independent and truly 100% renewable energy technology, then "why bother" in the first place?

Actually, this kind of critique is aimed at countering the incurable technological optimists' view that "there is nothing to worry about: we can continue unabated in our reckless business-as-usual overconsumption of energy (and resources) because soon PV (and other renewables) will seamlessly step in and take the baton from dirty fossil fuels, and all will be well".

Such through-rose-tinted-glasses optimism is most likely wrong-headed and should probably be tamed. But it is also worth looking at the issue from another angle. Let us assume that the average EROI of the current mix of fossil fuels (which still represent our main sources of primary energy, globally) is some value X > 1. And let us also agree that we (as a society) need a large and ever-growing share of our energy budget in the form of electricity (to power our computers, telecommunications, trains, home appliances, etc).

Broadly speaking, we therefore have two options:
1) keep using all the oil (and other fossil fuels) directly as FEEDSTOCK fuel in conventional power plants. In so doing, we would get out roughly 1/3 of the INPUT energy as electricity (electricity production efficiency in conventional power plants being ~0.33). This would be the "quick and dirty" option, that maximizes the short-term (almost instantaneous, in fact) "bang for the buck".

2) Use the same amount of available oil (and other fossil fuels) as (direct and indirect) INPUT for the production of PV plants.

Building and deploying a modern crystalline silicon PV system requires approximately 3 GJ of primary energy per m2. What this means is that the c-Si PV system would provide an output of electricity roughly equal to 18/3 = 6 times its primary energy input, which corresponds about 6/0.33 = 18 times the amount of electricity that we would have obtained, had we burnt the fuel(s) as FEEDSTOCK in conventional power plants (option 1 above), instead of using them as INPUT for the PV plant.

A planned long-term investment might be advisable, for instance, aimed at bringing about a gradual transition. The latter is in fact what many have been advocating, often only to be met with rather negative ‘gloom and doom’ reactions by others on a number of prominent discussion forums. It seems as if, in the minds of the latter, the desire to show that ‘the emperor has no clothes’ (i.e. that PV and other renewables are not yet, and might never be in full, a real, completely independent and high-EROI alternative to fossil fuels) overrides all other considerations, and prevents them from realizing/admitting that, after all, it may still be reasonable and recommendable to try and push this slow transition forward.

To conclude, I would like to dispel all doubts and clearly state that I do agree with the aforementioned ‘pessimists’ that if we (as a society) do not come to grips with the notion that there is no such thing as infinite growth on a finite planet and re-align our goals and ‘development’ strategies accordingly, then all the technological fixes in the world stand little to no chance of being enough to avert an ominous crash. But, why write off PV (and other renewables) and deny their value as useful tools to (hopefully) help us out on a safe slide along the slopes of a "prosperous way down"?

If we have to use fossil fuels to manufacture renewable plants, doesn't it mean that renewables are useless?


The catch is that a solution, which is part of the topic thread, means BAU. That means combinations of energy sources are expected to provide more than the equivalent of one Saudi Arabia (or more) every seven years, not only in terms of energy but also to replace petrochemicals, to meet a growing global middle class (part of BAU), and to deal with environmental damage.
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Re: Is solar energy the solution?

Unread postby ralfy » Wed 29 Oct 2014, 02:09:35

Ultimately, one realizes that there is no solution to problems that will hamper BAU. The only thing that the world population can do is to lower resource and energy consumption.
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Re: Is solar energy the solution?

Unread postby Shaved Monkey » Wed 29 Oct 2014, 02:38:17

Multiple solutions including collapse is the answer
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Re: Is solar energy the solution?

Unread postby DesuMaiden » Wed 29 Oct 2014, 15:00:36

Solar energy cannot make up for the fact that 7 to 10 calories of fossil fuel energy is required to produce every calorie of food in the industrialized world. Solar energy might be able to provide us with electricity, but you can't use solar panels to produce enough food to feed 7 billion people.
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Re: Is solar energy the solution?

Unread postby tom_s2 » Wed 29 Oct 2014, 16:43:47

Desumaiden:

Solar energy might be able to provide us with electricity, but you can't use solar panels to produce enough food to feed 7 billion people.


Yes you can, because the vast majority of energy used for agriculture is used in the production of ammonia, for fertilizer. Ammonia is a chemical (NH4) which has no carbon atoms in it. No hydrocarbons are needed to produce ammonia. Although natural gas is used at present, the gas is used as a hydrogen donor. Any source of hydrogen would do, such as water.

During the 1950s, ammonia was made using electricity and water, until there was a widespread natural gas infrastructure, at which point gas was used to make the ammonia. As always, there was a gradual transition based upon currently-available resources.

I should also point out here, that ammonia is liquid at modest temperatures, and is suitable as a vehicle fuel (it burns in internal combustion engines). Thus, ammonia could also be used to power tractors and transportation equipment. Of course, there are many other options also.

Oil is not a magical substance which has irreplaceable chemical properties. I realize some people here treat oil as some kind of magical thing and there's NO POSSIBLE WAY to do anything without it, but in fact, it's an ordinary chemical, and there are lots of substitutes. For example, people here repeatedly denied that it was even possible to run a truck using overhead wires, but it's obviously straightforward to do so and has already been done. People here denied you can run a ship using woodchips, but that was already common before 1920. Lots of peak oilers claim that fertilizer can only be made out of gas, but in fact, it can be made from any source of hydrogen, and that was already common before 1960.

There are obvious substitutes for all uses of oil. Oil can even be manufactured. Oil was used first because it was cheap and convenient, that's all. It's straightforward to make or obtain plasticky substances (silicones), ammonia (NH4), energy, electricity, and vehicle fuels using sources other than oil or fossil fuels.

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Re: Is solar energy the solution?

Unread postby MonteQuest » Wed 29 Oct 2014, 17:04:04

tom_s2 wrote: No hydrocarbons are needed to produce ammonia. Although natural gas is used at present, the gas is used as a hydrogen donor. Any source of hydrogen would do, such as water.


Sorry, due the laws of thermodynamics, it takes more energy to make hydrogen than you get from it.
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