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  1. tommay | | #1

    Because without the energy from the sun we and everything else are all dead.....

    1. Expert Member
      BILL WICHERS | | #5

      There are some interesting little ecosystems that sustain themselves on the heat and chemical compounds emitted from ridge vents on the floor of the Pacific Ocean. These little ecosystems are completely independent of the sun. As far I know, the little critters living in these isolated ecosystems are the only living things that live completely independently from the sun and it’s energy. It’s interesting to read about.

      Solar power has a part to play but it and wind energy are not going to be able to be the sole energy sources for the world. There are some large issues right now with wind energy production shortfalls in Texas (a recent article in power magazine details this), and solar in California.

      We’re always going to need some reliable baseload generation. Nuclear is probably the best answer here.


      1. maine_tyler | | #6

        Couldn't one argue, Bill, that to answer 'why solar is important' one could point exactly to the Texas wind reliability issue you bring up? Could not the strain on the ERCOT grid during the extreme heat and stagnant wind conditions have been largely alleviated by a better matched solar capacity, which matches cooling demands during these stagnant heat waves just fine?

        I get that the challenge of creating a fully reliable grid with high penetrations of VRE hasn't been 'solved' yet—and that perhaps nuclear could play an important role—but to date, it seems solar and wind hasn't really been deployed with large-scale management in mind so much as low cost development potential and to establish the lower thresholds of VRE into the grids. Cali and Texas may be proving grounds for what is, and isn't, possible. Certainly a more holistic management strategy would be wise, in any case.

        1. Expert Member
          BILL WICHERS | | #9

          That’s actually usually what I point out solar, but not for air conditioning. Solar output leaks right around where utility demand leaks (irrespective of air conditioning demand), which is a plus for solar.

          The issue is solar output is zero at night, and can vary greatly throughout the day due to weather conditions. Wind is also variable. Yes, over larger areas things get more predictable, but it’s still a variable energy source and that is never going to change because we can’t control nature.

          The simple reality is that there is not enough solar and wind energy potential that is economically viable (that doesn’t mean “if we just spent more!” Or “pay their fair share!” Or any of the other slogan-like things you here.) to harness. “Economically viable” in this case means not possible — it would take more resources to utilize than could be extracted in useful output. That is a fancy way to say net negative production.

          Solar and wind alone aren’t going to be the future of energy, it’s just not going to happen. They both can play a part, but they cannot supply ALL the energy required.


          1. exeric | | #10

            Bill, as much as I respect your expertise, you are simply wrong on this. Please read this article by someone who supports nuclear energy but realizes it is vastly inferior as a source of energy to solar PV.

            In the article it says that "1.2% of the Sahara desert is sufficient to cover all of the energy needs of the world in solar energy." He does the calculations that include the financial costs that prove it to be true. Of course, it doesn't mean that it would provide enough power when the sun isn't shining. Yes, solar energy is intermittent (duh). But there is such a surplus of available power from the sun that it is easily feasible to split hydrogen from water and then store it. Even though it is a relatively inefficient process it could easily be done by overbuilding solar PV so that the surplus is used to store hydrogen and used as a battery.

            There are hot dry areas of land that would not otherwise be suitable for anything except solar PV that are available on almost all the continents (maybe not the south pole) We are wasting vast areas of that available land as it is. It is easy to come up with an answer that suits ones agenda or occupation. But it can also be completely wrong. The information in that article is widely available to anyone who researches it.

          2. Expert Member
            BILL WICHERS | | #11

            You would then have to move all that energy around along with the transport losses, associated reliability issues (and as wires get very long, reactive issues come into play — even with HVDC lines). It’s not as simple as just covering some far off desert with solar panels. Jus because the energy may be there doesn’t mean it’s practical to use. I’d love to see more geothermal power, for example, but it’s not always practical, either.

            Solar isn’t “vastly superior” to other energy sources, it’s one more option with pros and cons like any other. I have often said solar is particularly suited to helping offset peak demand during daytime since solar’s peak output is a pretty close match to max demand, and that’s true at all times of the year and in all regions. Solar’s biggest two weaknesses are the obvious issue of night time, and also the very large areas required to collect sufficient solar energy to support late demand centers.

            You can find other papers out there showing desert ecosystems being impacted by large scale solar installations. They are not without their issues. These are complex issues with no simple answers. Future energy supplies will likely be a mix of sources as they are today, with the mix shifting as we’ve seen over past decades. I do not see a possibility of an “all wind and solar” future, and attempts to mandate such a mix, especially with arbitrary timelines, are going to cause large problems in the future which were beginning to see with early adopters.


          3. exeric | | #12

            Bill, there will always be people who raise FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) when change is imminent and required. The course we are now on is not sustainable. The atmosphere simply cannot withstand anymore burning of carbon based fuels without creating a runaway thermal event. It is not even clear we haven't progressed beyond that point. However, I chose to be hopeful and believe that people of good will can change their ways.

            I never said that solar PV was vastly better than all other forms of energy. But it is vastly superior to Nuclear power in its economics. It is also vastly superior to any other form of energy in its abundance. I have to agree with what Tom May said at the very top, surprising as that may be. It IS the main source of energy on this planet.

            We have to work with that fact. Do you really think that the technical difficulties with long distance transport of electricity are the impediment that will stop this change to solar PV from happening? No, it's not that at all. What might stop it from happening are people that need things to stay the way they are because of their own needs. It's not the planet's needs they seem to be worried about. But nobody who poo-poos the future of solar PV ever admits that.

          4. maine_tyler | | #13

            The 'let's get all our energy from the desert' bit strikes me as a bit absurd to be frank. It really is an issue of power, not just energy. An issue of time and place, not mere quantity.

            On the other hand, to say solar/wind would hit a wall of net-negative production (like a negative EROI) strikes me as equally unlikely (we don't really know these things), save for perhaps extremely high VRE penetrations nearing 100%. We're not able to be there yet, and no-one is saying we are. Innovation and change doesn't happen overnight. But it IS happening, and at a rapid pace.

            Nuclear has the same innovation and economic uncertainty. Currently, nuclear IS expensive. And there are it's 'other' issues. But newer technologies could prove safer and generate less waste. (innovation). It could also prove more economically viable at some future time, especially in a coordinate role with renewables.

            The reality is that an energy transition won't be easy, and it might only get politically harder if the relative cheapness of solar and wind wears off as we face the complications of a renewables powered grid. This DOESN'T mean it's not possible. It just means we have to be clear headed about the challenge and find ways to realize true environmental costs in our economics.

          5. exeric | | #14

            Tyler, here is an example of why you're incorrect when you can't imagine large solar projects in an arid or a drought stricken environment.


            After watching that video I hope you realize that it is easily feasible to do. Big projects like that one in India require political will along with the assistance of government. Unfortunately in the USA big projects that require buy-in by the total population are subject to conspiracy theory. In the age of the internet it is too easy for bad actors to start a whisper campaign that say it will never work. And then it becomes a reality because the doubt campaign gets amplified over the internet. There are just enough people in this country that do not exercise critical thinking to sabotage good ideas that involve large amounts of public financing. Perhaps you were one of them that help to scuttle a valuable project when you said in a public forum on the internet that you can't imagine it would work to have large solar projects being done in the desert. Maybe you didn't realize that it's already being done and they are working.

          6. maine_tyler | | #15


            I believe you've misinterpreted my post. But to be fair, I may not have been that clear.

            >"you're incorrect when you can't imagine large solar projects in an arid or a drought stricken environment."

            I understand that there are large solar projects in arid climates, and I'm not against them. That wasn't the issue I was addressing. My gripe was with the concept that we only need some 1% of the Sahara Dessert to power the world (from the earlier link you shared). Perhaps they were just making a (somewhat arbitrary, but interesting) point. My point is that it is not that simple. Bill is right about that.

            Being realistic* about the technical hurdles we have in front of us and the need for continued innovation is part of how we make the necessary adaptations. It's part of who I am: thinking about why something might not work, so that we can make it work.
            But I agree that, with it, we need creative optimism.

            *note: By realistic, I don't mean to conclude defeat when confronted with a set of problems; I mean to recognize the problems in order to solve for them.

  2. GBA Editor
    Kiley Jacques | | #2

    The answer to your question is both simple and incredibly complex. We need to transition to renewable sources of energy such as solar in order to get away from fossil fuels—coal, petroleum, and natural gas—which come with serious environmental consequences resulting from their associated carbon dioxide emissions, the most prevalent greenhouse gas. In fact, fossil fuels are the largest source of U.S. carbon emissions. One way to reduce emissions is to rely more heavily on renewable energy sources that also include hydropower, geothermal, and wind. In addition to decreasing greenhouse gas emissions and subsequent air pollution, diversifying our energy supply can reduce our reliance on imported fuels, which in turn, creates U.S. economic development opportunities in the clean energy sector. Furthermore, improving energy efficiency in combination with the use of renewable sources of electricity has the potential to reduce our overall energy demand. The long and the short of it is we need to clean up our act, and solar power is a proven way to do that.

  3. JC72 | | #3

    Answer: We want to insure that in 7.5 billion years future generations can watch the sun engulf the earth. Who wouldn't want to miss out on that ?!?

    Tin-foil hat answer: Rise in global temperatures ISN'T due to CO2 but due to the heat and water vapor associated with the emissions of CO2. CO2 can act as a cooling gas so once you remove the heat and excess water vapor the planet will undergo another ice age or at least experience significant cooling. Humans will live under ground and solar will be used to provide supplemental power to grow crops in climates which have become too cool.

    *sarcasm intended*

    1. Deleted | | #4


  4. user-2310254 | | #7

    Azure Power is an India-based solar company. I suspect this is not a legitimate post.

    1. JC72 | | #8

      +1 . Hence my reply. lol.

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