http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/24/business/businessspecial2/...New York Times today has section with a series of articles on new energy technologies. This article address environmental opposition to solar installations especially in the deserts of Southern California.Environmentalists feel that desert installations are not necessary. Roof top installations should be enough.
Environmentalists feel that desert installations are not necessary. Roof top installations should be enough. I'd have to concur. Or at least, we should be starting on existing structures and only migrating to the desert if we absolutely have to.
I consider myself somewhat "green". I drive a Prius. I pay a premium on my electric bill to guarantee that the energy I use is derived from renewable sources (mostly wind & hydroelectric). And I would love to put solar panels on my roof, if they weren't so darned expenseive. But environmentalists criticizing large scale solar projects--I just don't get it. There are numerous problems with solar--it doesn't work at night, or on rainy days, and the production & disposal of the panels may be a bit of a nightmare (especially if they contain toxic minerals, like First Solar's do). But one of the main problems is that individual roof-based application just doesn't make sense for most Americans. For one thing, we move around too often--every few years for a lot of folks--and unless you are going to stay put for a long time, it is very hard to recoup the initial investment, even with tax credits. Secondly, the installation costs add a great deal to the overall cost, and installing panels roof by roof is just not very cost effective for that reason.So large-scale solar projects are the most cost-effective way to bring solar power to most people's homes. And let's face it--the California desert is an ideal location for such projects. It ain't exactly prime real estate, it's close to a dense concentration of people, and it is very, very sunny. Close to perfect for the purpose.This is the sort of thing that makes most people say that environmentalists are wackos/elitists, and to cut off any discussion concerning global warming, greenhouse gas emissions, etc.
This is the sort of thing that makes most people say that environmentalists are wackos/elitists, and to cut off any discussion concerning global warming, greenhouse gas emissions, etc.Man, I am so sick of people crying "elitist" at everything complex. It doesn't even make sense. We're talking about installing solar panels, an increasingly complex product created by so-called elitist thinking, but when it comes time to install them, a lazy and stupid solution can't be challenged without "elitism" cropping up. You don't hear this anywhere else in the world, only the Whining Half of America.And let's face it--the California desert is an ideal location for such projects. It ain't exactly prime real estate, it's close to a dense concentration of people, and it is very, very sunny. Close to perfect for the purpose.No, it's not ideal. I can think of nothing more environmentally "dead" than an a shopping mall parking lot. With just a smidgen more work and bit more steel to lift them higher, that mall parking lot could be roofed over with solar panels. Connectivity to the grid would be perhaps slightly more complex, but far shorter in distance. It would provide shade for the cars beneath, and be highly visible politically.Until every shopping mall parking lot has such a roof, I see no reason to migrate to the desert. I really don't get why that's "elitist".
Until every shopping mall parking lot has such a roof, I see no reason to migrate to the desert. That might be a better plan for PV, but cheaper concentrating solar power would not work well in that situation. The desert still has the advantage in terms of low-cost, large-scale solar power generation. Buckaroo
buckaroobonzai: "Until every shopping mall parking lot has such a roof, I see no reason to migrate to the desert."That might be a better plan for PV, but cheaper concentrating solar power would not work well in that situation. The desert still has the advantage in terms of low-cost, large-scale solar power generation.And the concentration of solar power approach can store heat in salts and enable continued power generation for a while after the sun goes down.
"You don't hear this anywhere else in the world, only the Whining Half of America."You wouldn't hear people complaining about the plan to put them in the desert in too many parts of the world, either, for that matter. "With just a smidgen more work and bit more steel to lift them higher, that mall parking lot could be roofed over with solar panels."That is easy to say if you aren't the one paying for them. To put an installation over a mall parking lot, you need to lift them high enough to provide around 8' clearance over the parking lot, minimum. Even that that level, you are limiting some larger vehicles from the parking lot. This also making them several times taller. Given the effects of seismic and wind forces, taller tends to have a multiplying effect. Twice as tall may be 3x the material. You also need to span much further, as the functionality of the parking is wiped out if you have supports coming down every 8' or so. You probably need to get them spaced at 27' or more. This also have a multiplying effect on materials. Any columns placed in a parking lot also either need to be built strong enough to resist a car hitting them, or have small barriers built around them. Either way, that adds cost and takes up space. This is all to say nothing of the near certainty that an installation in a mall parking lot will be vandalized. So, add the cost of an employee to remove grafitti from them. You should also probably add period replacement of panels hit by rocks/bottles or wiped out by an over-height vehicle. This isn't to say that you couldn't budget to address those things, but you are driving the cost of the infrastructure up dramatically and helping to make solar that much less viable. I think a mall parking lot is a great idea, really, but one that make solar more expensive, less reliable, and less viable. If this was a mature technology that was cheap, you could fairly easily talk about penalizing it with lots of extra costs, but that just isn't the case. "Until every shopping mall parking lot has such a roof, I see no reason to migrate to the desert. I really don't get why that's "elitist"."It is elitist for two reasons. First, it says that you get to impose your judgement on others. Without bearing the costs or the burdens, or even clearly understanding them, you feel better about mall parking lot installation, and so therefore that is the only choice we should be allowed to make. Second, it tosses aside good solutions time and time again because they aren't perfect solutions. This leaves the rest of us stuck with bad solutions, because we aren't allowed to pursue anything better until some ever-moving standard of perfection has been reached.
Until every shopping mall parking lot has such a roof, I see no reason to migrate to the desert. I really don't get why that's "elitist". To me an "elitist" is a person (or group) who feels that their values are the correct ones, regardless of others...i.e. they are so smart that they know better. So one person's wasteland desert might be something to be preserved, while another rooftop or a parking lot is a wasteland to another.I say use them both. It would be elitist (to me) to say you must use up one before going to the other because there are many benefits of using both and improving both; and there are many value judgements on the side effects and costs of one or the other.You aren't going to get a project like Solar One (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Solar_Project#Solar_One ) in your neighborhood Walmart shopping center. There are serious advantages to being able to generate power almost 24/7 from this solar design. And this design probably achieves a much higher thermal efficiency per dollar and per acre than any PV array technology. Maybe not. Elitism means that you don't care, you already know you are right.Elitists say that you can't use coal because it is dirty and a fossil fuel, you can't use NG because it is a fossil fuel and contributes to global warming, you can't use hydro because it dams up rivers, you can't use nuclear because of radioactive waste, wind is OK as long as it doesn't block your view or kill a bird, etc, etc. All the while using a per capita amount of products and energy that far exceeds the amount actually generated by your "preferred" method, but you know best and you will not compromise on what you know is the "best" solution even if numerous partial solutions could be implemented in the mean time.Mike
That is easy to say if you aren't the one paying for them. ...snip... Either way, that adds cost and takes up space.These are great points, thanks. The construction and safety costs will surely be higher, but they are also localized. Would it outweigh the normal costs of getting power into the grid from a remote place?It is elitist for two reasons. First, it says that you get to impose your judgement on others.This section, unfortunately, is a pile of inconsistent BS that takes "elitism" to a new level."Impose"? That's a loose definition. And it works both ways: you're saying you can just eat up desert land, imposing your judgement on me, but my questioning it is "elitist"?Without bearing the costs or the burdens, or even clearly understanding them,...if that isn't elitist, I don't know what is...LOLI do understand them, and grant your more specific cost enumerations.... you feel better about mall parking lot installation, and so therefore that is the only choice we should be allowed to make.Yeah, I do feel better. But "only" and "allow" are too strong. You're projecting.I think there is some wiggle room for ethics here. Maybe it's that, and not my worship of cheapness, that pokes your elitist button. But I don't think my solution is the ONLY choice, I just think we need to tread carefully with the idea that we can just eat up more land in order to generate power, or that massive power generators are the best way to create and distribute it. I'm thinking very long term about the implications of how we structure our energy distribution network.Consider: many of those nations that were third world backwaters last century have grown up. They have never seen an age when telephone wires were strung from house to house all across their nation. Instead, they managed to benefit when they came of age from cellular technology, and they will never have to bear the cost of maintenance and upgrade of an existing wired network. When they adopt PV, it will be in the same manner: localized and integrated into their existing structures (I saw this happening in Belize already in the late 90s).That in the context within which I'm working: that our overall direction should be towards local, distributed, integrated power systems, not just for environmental reasons, but because it is more robust and, though it may take some investment to get there, in the end more flexible.Second, it tosses aside good solutions time and time again because they aren't perfect solutions. This leaves the rest of us stuck with bad solutions, because we aren't allowed to pursue anything better until some ever-moving standard of perfection has been reached.Another reframing of an argument I'm not making.
"Elitist" in this instance means that most people cannot afford to slap $20,000 solar panels on their roofs.
"But I don't think my solution is the ONLY choice, I just think we need to tread carefully with the idea that we can just eat up more land in order to generate power, or that massive power generators are the best way to create and distribute it. I'm thinking very long term about the implications of how we structure our energy distribution network."I applaud you for that kind of thinking. Unfortunately, many of the people and groups featured in the article that started this thread are not so open-minded. When they say "tread carefully" they generally mean blocking projects that don't align with their views until they are satisfied, which isn't always possible. By agreeing with their premise (which I admit is a good one), but without offering a clear distinction from their approach, I think it was natural to assume a broader measure of agreement than you are now offering. "This section, unfortunately, is a pile of inconsistent BS that takes "elitism" to a new level."You refute my statement on elitism being by dismissing my views as "inconsistent BS". Surely you see the irony in that. You were the one who asked how your views could strike someone as elitist. Unless it was a purely rhetorical question, you had to know that you would get an answer with which you do not agree (since you don't think you are elitist). Since you think I am inconsistent, I think you missed my point: I am happy not to impose my opinions on others as long as they are happy not to impose their opinions on me. "...if that isn't elitist, I don't know what is...LOL"Well, you offered that it is a "smidgen" more in materials to do it the way you suggested. Perhaps I could have (and really should have) offered an alternate view in a more polite manner, and I'm sorry if I offended you, but I sometimes design equipment support structures and I thought that I ought to point out that the premise was not correct. The best analogy I can make would be the difference between a big crowd of people gathering in a field with folding chairs and the same group of people gathering in a stadium. Both approaches work and both have their place, but the scale is just very different. This isn't the way I feel about it, or something that satisfies my ethics, it is just the way it is. If you can find someone to build a parking lot PV installation for you in a safe manner (since you would need to comply with the building code), with only a "smidgen" more in materials, I won't try to stop you. In fact, that acheivement would inspire my deep respect. Now, I commented about "not clearly understanding the burdens" and I can see why it sounded elitist to you. I should have put it more gently. Yet, you advocated a view and supported it (in part) by making a statement that appears to me to be factually incorrect. If you had said that you just really value the natural beauty of the desert, that is one thing, but if you say that the support structures of the installation won't be much more expensive, that is another entirely. That suggests to me that you are advocating an option based on concepts that, at the very least, you have not fully considered. That doesn't mean your view is wrong (provided there are other reasons for holding it, which there clearly are), but I don't think I am elitist for pointing it out. Roof-top PV installations would probably be more cost-effective than parking lots, by the way. There are a few things to consider with those, though. First, you need to have enough available load capacity in the roof to support the panels and their support structures. This can be hit-or-miss. You won't find too many building owner that want an extra 20% capacity to be built into their roofs when they have a building built, but plenty hope that it is there when it comes time to install things on their roof years later. I suspect that a lot of the installations that take place on small building are the results of no one checking loads. That isn't a great idea for a small building, and it certainly wouldn't be a good choice for a big shopping mall roof. Second, anything you put on the roof risks compromising the integrity of the roofing. There are plenty of ways around this, but that doesn't mean that the person who has an office (or server) directly under that might not be just a little nervous about leaks. Nothing that can't be dealt with, but just things that have to be thought about.
I'll take the "dumb minkey" position:1) PV solar on roofs and parking lots makes a lot of sense in terms of available real estate. I like that.2) There are larger issues of economics for PV in general. Its possible that roof vs greenfield have their own impact on the cost equation which I'm sure will be considered.3) If some governing body wants to mandate a particular kind of location.....fine. The market dynamics are usually skewed by incentives anyway....what's one more? Liking it or not liking it doesn't seem to make much difference in terms of affecting it.4) Solar collector approaches seem to lend themselves to greenfield sites, although I suppose its conceivable that roof installations may be feasible from economic, engineering and safety considerations. If I were building it though, I wouldn't want to try the roof approach.5) Anybody is free to agree or disagree with me on any of the above without being called names or accused of illegitimate, unsavory or unpopular motives....unless the position is blatantly in support of world domination or some such. However, if you don't like minkeys...too bad.Rob
<exit lurker mode>For future reference, here is wikipedia's definition of "elitism." The article has a couple flags on it, but I think the first paragraph captures the meaning of the word well enough.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ElitismElitism is the belief or attitude that those individuals who are considered members of the elite — a select group of people with outstanding personal abilities, intellect, wealth, specialized training or experience, or other distinctive attributes — are those whose views on a matter are to be taken the most seriously or carry the most weight; whose views and/or actions are most likely to be constructive to society as a whole; or whose extraordinary skills, abilities or wisdom render them especially fit to govern. Alternatively, the term elitism may be used to describe a situation in which power is concentrated in the hands of the elite.So let's stop branding each other on the forehead with the scarlet "E," OK? It seems to me arguing in favor of one implementation pathway over another for solar energy isn't the same as asserting a nearly exclusive right to make all the important decisions.-Pup<return to lurker mode>
I'm wanting to outline what is needed for a roof installation at my house. It may be helpful to others. To start with, the intent is for an integrated PVT (PV & heat) installation. Pinching pennys means doing it a bit at a time, and as much as is practical, do-it-myself. At present, early preparation - better insulation, especially wing insulation. Also trenching for below-basement heat tubes to seasonally store heat that is below domestic hot water temperatures. The heated water will go first to DHW, then to warm the soil. Cost at this stage is mostly labor. (Some soil warming is being done now by fans blowing summer air through the basement and up into the house, which also provides low cost cooling. If you try this, have a dehumidifier at first.) When this is done, the south roof will be braced with two-bys in the attic, forming a truss. This needs doing anyway, it is an old house and the roof is sagging an inch or so. Then on top of the roof in order: closed cell foam with foam sealant at seams; groove it for PEX tubes; the PEX and manifolds; metal roofing on top, slightly compressing the PEX. Add a pump, (do a search on "NIFTE AND pump" for an interesting one) antifreeze solution, a heat exchanger at the DHW, and connections, controls, and valving to the underfloor tubes. Warm fluid comes from the roof, prewarms the DHW, warms the soil, and returns to the roof. The PV is for later - electricity is somewhat low here (ND, we toured a wind farm yesterday, + coal, oil, hydro - our limit here is transmission capacity). What is being looked at is the laminated PV (United Solar). By the time all the rest is done, either the price will be practical, or the point will be moot, given my age. The whole pattern is 1) to install now what pays off now, and 2) design for the possible future. In investing, my pattern is to priority first into NEEDED expenses, then "reality" investments, then left overs into cash investments like stocks. It has worked out well: I take home about $20k/year from my job, but this is only 38% of our total income (including social security), and we are reinvesting about 25% of that total income. Of course, living costs are very low in this small rural town!!!
The PV is for later - electricity is somewhat low here (ND, we toured a wind farm yesterday, + coal, oil, hydro - our limit here is transmission capacity). What is being looked at is the laminated PV (United Solar). By the time all the rest is done, either the price will be practical, or the point will be moot, given my age.What about looking into small scale wind power? North Dakota is, after all, the 'Saudia Arabia' of wind.
I thought of it, but the house is in town, would need major reinforcing, and the lot isn't big enough for a stand-alone tower. Although the garden - "Why do people in small towns lock their car doors in August?" "So the won't be stuffed with Zuchini!!" Not quite that strong, but the tomatoes are producing well this year also. No worry about high vegetable prices here! :-)) In addition to the Tatanka (Acciona) wind farm, FPL has a 40 MW farm at Edgely. I worked for about a year for a small company that was checking the wind power north & west from Hwy 11 in the hills - they almost got the bid instead of FPL. Solar can provide heat as soon as the first stage is done, and with a little reinforcing, the south roof can handle it. The primary problem will be installation - roof angle is 45 degrees. It is a spare time project, unless the economy tanks to layoffs, so the roof doesn't need considering this year.
Cool. Good luck with your project!
Cool. Good luck with your project! Um. "that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to the men of skill, but time and chance happens to them all." Ecclesiates 9:11, the Bible. In other words, "Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong, unless someone makes it their business to prevent it." And prevention doesn't always work. As an analogy, God gives to plants sunshine, rain, and soil, but the plants need to grow leaves, stems and roots to use them. God gives humans opportunities, capabilities, and resources, but we need to choose to plan, work, and persevere. And still there is the "luck" factor. Since the ways thing can go wrong far outnumbers the ways they can go right, bad luck always has better odds than good luck. Example: Some research shows that entry of unfavorable mutations into a genome outnumbers the ones removed by natural selection by almost 100:1. Please, luck is too chancy, I want to minimize it!!!! ;-) Getting back to investing, a magazine I just read commented that with the dollar falling, manufacturing for export has expanded. I thought things hadn't been slowing down much at the factory where I work, but attributed it to the company's policy of "no debt." Maybe both?
"Please, luck is too chancy, I want to minimize it!!!!"I think this is the drive to reduce/spread risk and has been so "effectively" employed by the genius MBA's working Finance and has contributed so much to the current health of the American Economy.Yeah, good luck with that. ;-)
"Please, luck is too chancy, I want to minimize it!!!!"I think this is the drive to reduce/spread risk and has been so "effectively" employed by the genius MBA's working Finance and has contributed so much to the current health of the American Economy.Yeah, good luck with that. ;-)Luck is risky. But risk isn't luck. Whenever posaible, I assess the odds - which is one reason I don't play the lottery. An average of 50%/play loss is WAY too high. It is also why I look at "reality" investments first. My apple tree won't last forever, but after a delay of a few years started around 100%/year ROI. Any reality investment is, by definition, inflation proof. Too bad there isn't room in the yard for another fruit tree! It could have died on me - the risk. Plenty of risk in stocks also, but there are better ways of picking them than throwing a dart at the newspaper.BTW, could anyone tell me how to italicize quotes when replying? I see them in other replies, but haven't yet figured out how to do it.
You can italicize or go bold this way:< i >italicize< /i > < b >bold< /b >...but you have to leave out the spaces within the brackets shown in the example. When you do it, the effect shows up but the markers don't. Leave in the spaces, or transpose the / and you've screwed it up.Rob
"< i >italicize< /i > < b >bold< /b >...but you have to leave out the spaces within the brackets shown in the example. When you do it, the effect shows up but the markers don't. Leave in the spaces, or transpose the / and you've screwed it up.RobThanks, Rob.I previewed some variations to see exactly how it works.BTW, anyone wanting to look into "reality" alternate and renewable, especially do-it-yourself, investments should get the "Mother Earth News" CDs of their back articles. They have been around for 37 years, and are the ones who got me interested.
Glad to be of service.You'll find a host of knowledgeable people around here (on this and other boards), able to help with mundane things like the HTML markers you asked about, as well as insights into more useful stuff like your suggestion of the Mother Earth News.Rob
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