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Alternative energy?

Discussion in 'Commodities' started by y0ud, Jan 5, 2009.

  1. y0ud

    y0ud

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    i have spent a bit of time reading about solar/alternative energy sources and wondering wether now is the right time to have something installed. i read a few magazines which spoke of geothermal energy and advancement this/ advancement that, sounding a whole lot like the computer market.
    at the moment most of the solar energy systems say that your alternative energy system will pay its self off with the money you save over the next 8-15 years. with all the fuss in the market, and companies being forced to throw money into alternative energies, would it be wise to wait a while?

    what other facts can you fine forum'its bring to the table about alternative energy


    go forth
     
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  2. Stormin_Norman

    Stormin_Norman Currency Trader

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    youre better off spending the money converting your house to low voltage.

    from there powering it will be easier and in the meantime u can have substantially lower bills.
     
  3. Smurf1976

    Smurf1976

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    I think I've said just about all that can be said on this topic in the various climate change and peak oil threads.

    Bottom line is this: WHY do you want to produce your own energy at home?

    If the reasons are anything other than not being able to obtain a reliable supply from the grid at a reasonable price then I'll ask a second question:

    WHY not produce cars, furniture, computers, butter, washing powder or anything else at home? Why go into the energy business rather than some other business?

    And if you are going into the energy business, what is the reason for wanting to do it on a very small scale with consequent high costs? Would you open a car factory in the backyard? Or an oil refinery? So why build and run a tiny power station? Why not just buy shares in a company that owns much larger power stations and produces electricity at far lower cost through the benefits of scale?

    If the reason has something to do with alternative energy as a solution to all hte problems caused by fossil fuels, then you'd surely want to be producing that energy in the most resource efficient manner possible? Doing anything on a very small scale almost always ends up being far less resource efficient than large scale production - that's essentially the principle that the likes of Henry Ford worked out a long time ago and it applies to power generation just as it applies to anything else.

    So yes, you can put some solar panels on the roof which will generate electricity at about $1000 per megawatt hour not counting the costs of providing grid infrastructure and conventional power stations that will still be needed, on average, 83% of the time.

    Even if every house in the country did it, we'll still be burning coal for the majority of total generation due to the technical and economic limits on household solar panels. In short, it doesn't scale.

    Overall, it's a nice idea but it's just not going to happen that we get more than a trivial share of total generation from such systems. We can get 25 times more bang for the buck, over and above the cost of fossil fuel generation, investing in large scale renewables instead.

    We could just put up wind turbines at $80 per megawatt hour that operate with twice the capacity factor (time running as a % of total time) that solar does.

    Or we could go for large scale geothermal that, in theory at least, ought to also be around $80 but it's a true baseload power station that's an actual replacement for coal or nuclear.

    Conventional coal-fired generation costs are in the order of $40 per MWh as a reference point. Gas is very similar. Oil at present prices (US$46 per barrel) would be around $120, hence the disappearance of virtually all oil-fired power generation.

    I'm NOT saying that you shouldn't put some panels up if you want to. But don't be thinking that we're about to see the idea take over electricity generation on a meaningful scale. We'd need to see massive cuts in labour costs for that to happen and I don't see much chance of that.

    If you want to do something positive then I'd:

    1. Stick with the grid.
    2. Make the house inherently efficient. Windows, shading, insulation and so on.
    3. Get a heat pump / gas / solar for hot water (which is best depends on the situation)
    4. If suitable for the area, go for evaporative cooling in preference to air-conditioning.
    5. Heat pump / gas / wood for heating (will depend on location and lifestyle)
    6. No incandescent or halogen lighting apart from limited short running applications requiring immediate full brightness.

    That lot will give you far more bang for your buck than generating your own power and you'll still end up with fairly low overall consumption. 2twocents
     
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  4. y0ud

    y0ud

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    thanks for the post!

    how do you think the energy system will change over the next 10 or so years?
     
  5. Sir Osisofliver

    Sir Osisofliver

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    Hi Smurf,

    I don't think I have the energy to go through the peak oil and climate change threads, (pun intended) to read what you have said before, so I'll just ask my questions and hope you come back to this thread.

    1) Can I get the source for those Megawatt hours you quoted please? $1000 a megawatt hour for solar panels sounds..... exorbitant.

    2) Have you factored in transmission losses?

    3) Did you price in the effect of carbon credits? (Not that K Rudd didn't make that a complete freaking joke).

    4) The performance of solar panels varies drastically depending upon location. The performance of a solar panel in Townsville vs the same solar panel in Melbourne will be vastly different - where is your panel that you base your assumptions on?

    I persoanlly find that there are several concepts and projects that I would like to see rather than coal or even gas fired power stations

    Sir O
     
  6. Happy

    Happy

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    I totally agree with what Smurf says, but I am little bit of just in case person, so price per MW becomes kind of irrelevant if for example State supply of electricity for some reason dries up.

    We don’t know yet how ugly the recession head is going to look.
    Will it be just simple downturn, recession, or it will be total collapse of community fabric, as we know it.

    With return to everybody for himself rule of the jungle so to speak, where gangs and survival groups will roam the streets trying to protect their interests with complete lack of state support.

    The only problem I see is no good to have grid-feeding system, as nothing will come back.
    But storage battery system is prohibitively expensive and needs to be replaced every 5 to 20 years.

    Probably water head (mentioned by Smurf) as stored energy is the only viable solution, but you have to be on bigger block of land than your average sub-quarter-acre.
     
  7. jbocker

    jbocker

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    I asked the following question in the oil analysis thread. But thought I would ask it here (without creating a new thread) Basically with Oil Price being very low for maybe quite some time, what impact does it have on alternative energy companies in the supply / development business?
    The current environment has a supply glut due to a price war and we also have the caronavirus locking down an increasing number of nations.
    What impact will prevail on alternative energy. It is a bit of a hard one to answer in my mind if oil price should stay very low for a considerable period.
    The coronavirus is making the world rethink about many things and self sufficiency is becoming a topic starting to be asked. so is that an opportunity or will cheap oil curtail it?
     
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  8. basilio

    basilio

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  9. Trav.

    Trav.

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    The title of the article had me thrown a bit as a replacement for petroluem was a but to good to be true but it is a step in the right direction and there appears to be demand for it ( soon anyway )

    "It's a breakthrough, a gamechanger for bio-based lubricants," Dr Maglinao said.

    The US has mandated all government departments, including the military, must move to using plant-based lubricants by 2025, and Go Resources is aiming to secure some supply contracts.
     
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  10. Dona Ferentes

    Dona Ferentes

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    ten years ago, or more or less, recyclers set up to collect used cooking oil as an alternative to diesel.

    (that was when the price of diesel was higher). Everything has a price.
     
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  11. qldfrog

    qldfrog

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    oil is nearly back at its $40 a barrel price which I see medium term average.
    There is a very strong and I believe still increasing demand with asia ramping up, India after china...world consumption will carry on for a while, oil is still safe market for a while even with GW etc.
    tobacco companies are selling cancer making products, taxed heavily yet:
    [​IMG]
    invest in oil, use sunflower oil for your donuts...
     
  12. frugal.rock

    frugal.rock

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    Alternative energy...
    Me, trying to give up the smokes.
     
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  13. frugal.rock

    frugal.rock

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    Mostly used to manufacture bio diesel.
    I stopped making bio d around 10 years ago.
    I believe, bio diesel has never taken off due to legislation that prevents legal use in road vehicles if percentages greater than 10%...
    I think...

    F.Rock
     
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  14. Smurf1976

    Smurf1976

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    A key point to remember in all this is that the overwhelming majority of "alternative" energy involves the production of electricity as its output.

    Wind, solar, tidal, wave - they're "alternatives" which produce electricity as their only useful energy output.

    Nuclear and hydro are conventional non-fossil fuel options but also in practice produce electricity as their overwhelmingly dominant energy output. Other application isn't zero but it's minor.

    Landfill gas and any other low grade biofuel is commonly converted to electricity in practice since that tends to be easier than upgrading the fuel via chemical means.

    There are exceptions such as ethanol and biodiesel which do produce liquid fuels to replace oil, and there are exceptions with the direct use of wood to fire boilers etc, but in general most alternatives do have the common attribute of producing electricity. That is, they don't produce jet fuel for example.

    Now if we go back to 1973 then 25% of world electricity production was from oil (38% coal, 22% hydro, 11% gas, 4% nuclear) but today oil is down at about 3% (38% coal, 23% gas, 16% hydro, 10% nuclear, 4% wind, 2% solar, 2% biofuels etc, 1% other renewables). Figures don't add to 100% due to rounding.

    So to the extent it's oil versus renewables, it's more complex:

    1. If the oil price were to drop below the price of gas or coal such that oil does become competitive for electricity generation.

    2. To the extent that gas and coal prices fall along with oil. That tends to be a localised thing more than a global one. In some cases prices have come down, in others they haven't and remain well below the cost of oil anyway.

    3. Efforts to replace oil, particularly in transport, with either electricity directly (electric trains, battery powered cars, etc) or indirectly (hydrogen produced from electricity generated from renewables).

    4. The effect of government policies and taxation on point (3) in particular.

    That's all about the short term of course. If someone's giving away oil well then sure that can be used to generate electricity. $40 per barrel isn't low enough to undercut coal and gas yet however, it needs to go lower to do that. :2twocents
     
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  15. sptrawler

    sptrawler

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    Biodiesel or chip oil diesel, is o.k in older style diesels, they will just about burn anything. The more modern common rail diesels have a bit more of an issue with diesel quality, the pump pressure is very high so the fuel is required to lubricate it.
    Also a lot of the nitrile rubber used in the seals etc don't react well with bio diesel, add to that the variable cetane factor of home made bio fuel and it all becomes a bit hard.:D
    Just get a 20 year old diesel with an old rotary pump, all good, except for the people following wondering where the smell of fish and chips is coming from.:roflmao:
     
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  16. frugal.rock

    frugal.rock

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    I prefer oil used to cook donuts for the smell factor...:D
     
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  17. Smurf1976

    Smurf1976

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    It can be used but has to be identified at the pump if there's more than 5% biodiesel in the mix.

    There are certainly some who are using higher blends, 20% or even 100%, in things like power generation (remote towns), lighting towers and so on. :2twocents
     
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  18. Smurf1976

    Smurf1976

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    I should add there that use of wind and solar for other purposes isn't zero, eg solar hot water or wind to power sailing boats, but in terms of overall energy supply they're trivial in all but a very few places on earth such that wind and solar are, for practical purposes, mostly sources of electricity so far as commercial scale energy production is concerned.
     
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  19. frugal.rock

    frugal.rock

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    Have often thought I would like a personal mini nuclear reactor to provide electricity.
    Not available on the hardware shelves yet though! :D
    My fission is still concentrated around flatheads and garfish...

    I believe the guv is pushing hydrogen again...
     
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  20. sptrawler

    sptrawler

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    Hydrogen is a good storage medium for excess renewable energy, if the wind is blowing overnight and there is no load, it might as well be converted to hydrogen if there is no other storage medium e.g the pumped hydro is full and batteries charged.
     
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