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  1.  (6539.61)

    That's why I pretty much am a solar person. Most power we use requires energy to make. I believe solar is the ultimate answer as it just involves collectors. The overall energy and waste from creation of solar panels is rather small, relatively speaking. In some cases, like say water heating, it's literally just setting the water container in the sun.

    Another aspect the electric car suffers from is the need people have to go excessively fast. I personally would be quite satisfied with a 45-50 mph top speed, but of course the market won't be happy with this.
    • CommentAuthorKosmopolit
    • CommentTimeAug 10th 2009
    I'm pretty much a "no single simple answer guy".

    We need nukes. In fact we need more nukes. but they'll come at a cost.

    And it's highly unlikely that the world could build and fuel enough nukes to replace coal inside the next fifty years.

    IIRC, there are around 500 nuke plants in the world meaning we've built an average of 10 a year. As the first generations of nuclear power plants reach the end of their operating life we'll need to increase that average by two or three fold just to maintain the status quo.

    To increase the total contribution of nuclear energy in the world electricity mic from around 20% to around 70% (to replace coal) in 20 or 30 years we'd robably need to increase the rate of construction 5-10 fold.

    Anyone know where we're going to get 10 times the current number of nuclear engineers and peopel qualified in all the other specialised fields required?

    Because universities sure aren't producing them now.
  2.  (6539.63)
    Fine, you want nukes. But where do you put the spent radioactive material? There's no getting rid of it and the costs of disposal sends the price up significantly.

    Plus there's more than enough area in Arizona desert alone to supply the electric energy needed to supply the whole country with solar power. No waste, no moving parts- It's incredible. Why shouldn't we pursue that first?
    • CommentAuthorKosmopolit
    • CommentTimeAug 10th 2009
    Disposing of nuclear waste is a real problem but it's one that can be handled - much like, say, the toxic gases used in the manufacture of silicon for solar cells or the impact of wind turbines on wild bird populations.
    • CommentAuthorlooneynerd
    • CommentTimeAug 10th 2009
    I have a few questions regarding solar. Sure we could build solar fields in places like the American south west, Saudi Arabia (who are already starting to), the Gobi Desert, etc. But how does covering hundreds or thousands of square miles in solar panels affect the environment? It's surely to have some kind of effect on wildlife, erosion, etc. in those areas. What would they cost to run, maintain, and operate? How much would it be to port power from Arizona to say, New York city 2000 miles away? From a military perspective, doesn't putting all of our power options in one, big shiny basket make a bit of no-sense? What is the cost of replacing the whole grid to solar? What company administers such a massive source of power without driving others out of business? How do you decide that company from all of the ones in the US? Or do you simply force all of these companies out of business or to reduce size, perhaps becoming regional distributors, in either case leaving hundreds or (more probably) thousands jobless? What about the economies of West Virginia, Western and Eastern Kentucky, and Northern Tennessee, who are almost entirely dependent on coal mining?

    Now, to be fair, come to think of it most of these are questions that can be asked of converting our grid over to most single-power systems. I don't think there's going to be one magic-bullet to energy, I think it will come down to personal and regional solutions; people putting energy into the grid through their own means (exercise bikes and treadmills, home solar cells, etc.), personal geothermal systems, regional nuke and solar plants, wind and sea-powered turbine farms, Nuclear, and even still coal to an extent in areas, etc. etc.
    • CommentAuthorKosmopolit
    • CommentTimeAug 10th 2009
    "From a military perspective, doesn't putting all of our power options in one, big shiny basket make a bit of no-sense?"

    I have to go out shortly but I will point out that the current US electrical grid does much the same thing except the baskets are nuclear and coal plants - and the consequences of a military strike on a nuclear plant are likely to be far worse than the consequences of a military strike on a nuclear plant.

    France, which nuclear advocates often point to as a model for the world, builds really large multi-reactor conglomerates which would be prime military targets.

    Then in order to minimise the domestic opposition, the locate them as far away from major cities as possible - meaning they tend to be located within 50 miles or so of France's borders.
    • CommentAuthorlooneynerd
    • CommentTimeAug 10th 2009 edited

    Very true. But what's easier, dropping a half dozen bombs or missiles on a few south-western solar fields, or hitting every single one of the 1000+ individual plants across the US? I'm not saying the strategic question is a massive one, but military concerns (or as it has become, terrorist concerns) are issues that politicians and policy makers deciding on power options have to account for. One of the biggest reasons for opposition to nuclear in recent years was because of threat of attack, and this issue was raised as recently as the 2008 presidential election.
  3.  (6539.68)
    Actually the solar panel system is far less vulnerable than any other system we have. Nuclear, coal, gas- they all require generators. Disrupt them, the system is doomed. A quote on it from how the system works...

    In order for a power grid to operate in a stable and continuous manner, all of the generators must turn at the same RPM rate. The required precision is phenomenal; over the course of a year they must turn within .0000001% - they cannot even vary, over the course of the year, by 1/10th of a revolution in the total number of times they revolve.

    And we currently have 3 syncronized grids in this country. :(

    Solar panels on the other hand have no moving parts. A solar panel generates a relatively low maximum voltage, something on the lines 1.4 volts last I read. And that doesn't vary no matter the size of the cell. The perception may be the solar panel is hellishly vulnerable to terrorist attacks, but in the end all others are too, if not more so...
    • CommentAuthorKosmopolit
    • CommentTimeAug 10th 2009
    Well for one thing a major soalr farm is spread out over 100s of acres - so it'd take more than one bomb.

    And solar plants for the most part, depending on the design, are pretty modular. (The exception here would be the Power Tower designs with hundreds of mirrors focused on a single central tower.)You blow up half the facility and the other half can continue to send power to the grid. Kinda hard for a nuclear or coal plant to do that.

    The longer answer, which I'm just gong to start now and continue later, Is that the largest planned solar farms currently are around 1,000 megawatts, comparable in size to a single nuclear plant or cola-fired plant. A coal-fired plant takes up a couple of acres including the coal stacks and the like. A solar plant of similar size takes up severla hundred acres - so it simplty takes more to blow it up.

    And let's not forget coal plants are dependant on a whole infrastructure of coal mines, railroads and cooling water dams while a solar plant can operate for weeks or months with just the sun and minimal maintenance staff.
    • CommentAuthorlooneynerd
    • CommentTimeAug 10th 2009 edited

    You must never heard of anything like the CBU-107 and other cluster bombs (the 107 is capable of destroying nearly everything in a several-hundred acre radius). Additionally, a complex infrastructure is an asset in military operations, as such a system requires far more damage to be done over a larger area in a shorter amount of time to put out of commission permanently.

    But none of that's really the point, as you seem to be straw-manning my argument for no real reason. My point being that any serious change to the current system has ramifications which rarely seem to be considered, Short of perhaps sitting back and quietly starving to death, anything that humans do is going to cause some kind of damage to the environment in some way. Sure, eliminating coal plants would be absolutely great. Not only do we get less water and atmospheric Pollution, we also get the elimination of incredibly destructive mining practices. Trust me, my family is from Appalachia, I know what a strip mine does to the environment, and it's absolutely disgusting. But what happens when you eliminate the coal industry? You suddenly have hundreds of thousands of people who are out of the job, whether they be miners, coal plant engineers, etc. And in some cases (the miners), it's all they know, with many families having been involved in the industry for generations, and whom have no real way of improving their situations even with jobs.

    But none of these arguments are my point, which is what you seem to be missing. Any one of these can be argued, in some cases quite effectively (the military question, for example. The actual chances of another serious military strike on the United States, especially as far inland as Arizona, are quite low, obviously, making most other arguments moot in the first place). My point is that within the green movement there seems to be this overwhelming sense of any change is good change, without regard for consequences. Now, that criticism isn't leveled against the movement in general, or even its leader. Above I posted a study critical of electric cars by one of the largest Green movement organizations there are. I'm quite aware that many are trying to come up with ways to improve environmental impact while reducing economic casualties and the effects of the other questions I've listed.

    Okay, that was long winded. But my ultimate point is actually pretty simple; people just need to remain healthily skeptical, and question the results their plans and actions might have when it comes to improving the environment, not only guessing how it'll help the earth but how it will help people too.

    This will probably be the last time I post in or read this particular thread, as I feel it's turned into a me against everyone else type of deal, with the underlying belief that I'm somehow anti-Environmentalism. I'm not. I've chaired a commite responsible for getting two local universities (including my own) converting campus vehicles over electric or diesel, have been heavily involved in lobbying to achieve a number of changes on my campus, including the installation of "green roofs", which studies from our science department have shown can reduce campus emissions and increase efficiency for relatively low cost, was responsible for the establishment of a paper/cardboard recycling program at several local Best Buys saving hundreds of tons of paper from just going to the dump, etc. I just think that there is a lack of healthy skepticism and questioning about environmentalism out there nowadays, and that there are multiple factors to consider when making any decision that will have an impact not only on the planet but on people.
    • CommentAuthorKosmopolit
    • CommentTimeAug 10th 2009
    m sorry you feel that way Looney.

    Having said repeatedly that there was ""no single simple answer" to the energy problem and the transport problem I obviously agree that both the greens and others tend to ignroe the problems with their preferred solutions and overstte the problems with other possible solutions.
  4.  (6539.72)
    I'm not sure I understand why you feel that way, Looney. I definitely agree with a good chunk your ideas, especially the notion that ultimate solution breaks down to a regional or personal area. Heck, that's what I plan to do. I want to build a house using straw bale, using geothermal to cool, solar to heat water, possibly using it in radiant heat too. If I can include transportation into the equation, most likely electric, I will...
    • CommentAuthorKosmopolit
    • CommentTimeAug 19th 2009
    It looks like the Koreans are about to commercialise the whole recharge on the move idea.

    Daejeon may launch the use of hybrid buses running on ``recharging roads'' as the city's public transportation in the near future.

    The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) conducted a test drive of the On Line Electric Vehicle (OLEV) in the city Thursday for commercialization.

    OLEVs can run without having to be recharged, passing over certain tracks under which power coils are buried.

    The buses are provided electricity while running on the roads through a magnetic device attached to them. They are highly competitive in terms of price as their batteries are used only for emergencies, and are one-fifth the size of existing electric vehicles.

    I'm pretty sure it's only the batteries that are 1/5th the size.