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Alternative energy?

Discussion in 'General Chat' started by y0ud, Jan 5, 2009.

  1. y0ud


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    Jun 23, 2008
    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
  2. Stormin_Norman

    Stormin_Norman Currency Trader

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    Jan 12, 2008
    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


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    Feb 14, 2005
    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
  4. y0ud


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    Jun 23, 2008
    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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    Aug 22, 2008
    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


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    Jul 11, 2005
    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.

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