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Solar Power in the Third World

michael posted more than 13 years ago | from the keep-that-oil-flowing dept.

Technology 221

KTS writes: "Over at Wired, there's an interesting article about the use of solar energy by the rural poor in the Dominican Republic. Soluz, Inc., a Massachussetts-based company, has installed thousands of solar panels on an island where most of the rural population is cutoff from the power-grid. Says the article: "Rural communities rely on solar energy for everything from pumping clean water from aquifers to recharging cell phone batteries." According to another article, the Dominican Republic now has "more [solar panels] per capita than anywhere else in the world." After constantly hearing about the misuse of technology, stories like this make you feel good. With solar power, it looks like developing countries can avoid much of the downside that comes with electric power, while reaping the benefits. Zero polution, no overhead lines, and no squandered petroleum (after all, we need the oil for ourselves)."

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This ain't new... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#105224)

This sort of low tech micro solar has been spreading rapidly throughout the third world for life critical power needs in remote areas and for rural lighting projects. Helped mainly by charitable and philanthropic groups it really is a boon to those who use it. Want to see more examples (Burma, Vietnam, Mexico, Costa Rica, Nepal, Africa, etc) and lots of details on exact system desgins , layout and costs...check out Home power magazine here [homepower.com] grab a PDF of the latest issue ..always free. Back issues are avail. via their SOLAR CD rom series.....

Re:Looking at the long run... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#105225)

Genetic enginaring negates that arguement

Easy limiting determinant. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#105226)

Assume the cost of the solar cell itself is 100% electricity cost, based on your lowest residential kilowatt rate. $100 at $0.20 a kw? That's 500 Kilowatts (maximum).

Re:"Boring Facts" thread - post away! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#105227)

Interesting maths there.

1 square mile = 1 mile x 1 mile

= 1600m x 1600m
= 2560000m^2

You get ~1kW/m^2 of sunlight, so that's 2560000kW of raw sunlight, which at 30% efficiency is:

2560000kW * 0.3 = 768 000kW == 768MW

The average house in .au uses about 20kWh/day. In .au you get an average of about 5 hours of full sun equivalent/day. So your 1 square mile gives you:

768MW * 5 = 3840 000kWh/day

Which is enough for 142 _thousand_ households or about 300,000 people.

Either American's use a _lot_ more electricity than this (say about 10kW/hour on average) or something is wrong in your maths.

Stephen

Brilliant concept (snicker) (1)

pedro (1613) | more than 13 years ago | (#105228)

Seriously, though, can you think of a better environment in which to perfect solar energy gathering and storage technologies?
That's the thing I always loved about MIR.. you just jump in there, see if it floats, runs, whatever, on the leanest shoestring possible, and in the most hostile of conditions, and guess what? The truly good technology eventually wriggles its' way to the top. Very darwinistic.
I'm surprised that many big corps aren't knocking each other over to rush into places like this.. it's the best sort of test bed ever.

Re:Solar Is Expensive (1)

drwho (4190) | more than 13 years ago | (#105230)

Well Siemens is by far NOT the only quality manufacturer. There are many. If you look around, you'll see that the base cost of solar cells is about $4/Watt. You'll still need to add housing, cooling (cells work better in the cold), voltage control, storage, and distribution. These cost. But the largest cost is the cells themselves. Which are generally rated for 25 year life span.

Of course, if Net Metering were in full effect (see my post on Net Metering further down), our storage systems wouldn't need to be so large, which would save quite a bit of money.

Re:Good (1)

arielb (5604) | more than 13 years ago | (#105233)

If it's so great then why don't you go and live there? As far as I'm concerned I'm happy where I live with clean running water, choice of DSL or cable modem, full service gas stations, etc etc

Re:Geez... (1)

arielb (5604) | more than 13 years ago | (#105234)

I'm all for more drilling and taking advantage of cool technology but that doesn't mean we should dump barrels of oil in the sea...you know there's something called balance and moderation. That means it's a good idea to turn the light off if you're not using it but I don't have the arrogance to try to get the government to force you if you don't care.

solars great... (1)

J05H (5625) | more than 13 years ago | (#105235)

except for all the toxic manufacturing byproducts.
And the horrendous expense. and the maintenance costs, MTBF, etc. of solar plants, including keeping panels dust and dirt free.

Solar is great, until you look toward the details. It makes lots of sense in very specialized circumstances, but is not a panacea, is most certainly not a "clean" technology. it has problems, too.

the fount of negativity, josh

Cutting our own throats? (1)

unitron (5733) | more than 13 years ago | (#105237)

"(after all, we need the oil for ourselves)."

So if
1. We manufacture the solar cells, semiconductors, and plastic cases and cabinets here where it not only involves nasty chemicals that may eventually wind up in the air or the water but requires energy created by burning stuff as well, and
2. We continue to rely almost totally on a petroleum based economy and infrastructure, while
3. The third world keeps on having cleaner air and water and less vulnerability to being blackmailed by OPEC,

are we making it possible for them to outcompete in the "information age", as the very rich and the very technically talented leave the polluted first and second worlds for islands with
1. pristine beaches,
2. state of the art communication infrastructures (no legacy systems to support),
3. electrical systems that are back up the day after a hurricane (with battery backup during the hurricane and no worries about backfeeding transformers and killing power company linemen), and
4. banking and legal structures they can control instead of having to let the "great unwashed" exercise any real political power, while
5. spending enough money buying our politicians to shift their defense needs and expenses to us,

is it going to be a case of "last one to leave what used to be called civilization, don't forget to turn out the lights, assuming any are still working" ?

Re:Puts things in perspective. (1)

ch-chuck (9622) | more than 13 years ago | (#105239)

no - but if that's the way it's going to be, lets see, I NEED a Ferrari GT, a Sony Vaio, a bigger house in the hills (w/ a summer cottage on the beach, furnished), a Waring blender, a harum of SuperModels, two DVD players w/ the complete MGM library, a home theatre system, an all expense paid vacation in Hawaii, $50,000 cash, a full time lawyer, an arsenal of high power weapons, political pull in DC with influence over UN policy. As for abilities, I have none, so gimme gimme gimme!!!

Bloody thieves....

Re:Not zero-pollution. (1)

Apps (21158) | more than 13 years ago | (#105243)

Of course this pollution is in Massachussetts, where the cells are manufactured, not in the third world countries :-)
A first world attitude clears your conscience to make it zero polluting.

Re:"Boring Facts" thread - post away! (1)

leucadiadude (68989) | more than 13 years ago | (#105254)

The one overstatement that immediately jumps out at me is the 30% figure. I don't think it's anywhere NEAR that high. The highest I've ever seen to date is 15%. For a large manufacturing run that is. Not an R&D unit.

The other part is that manufacturing plants of all types use a LOT of power. So if you are an industrialised nation you need much much more power per capita than undeveloped countries. The typical number you always see is about 1.0KW/hr per household here for residential use. Industrial use, well forget it.

Re:Rest of the world (1)

leucadiadude (68989) | more than 13 years ago | (#105255)

Isn't there also the theory about where petroleum comes from? The old standby is that ancient organic material decayed into it (the dinosaur theory). I've read (somewhere - I'm trying to track down a link right now) that a new theory is that there is an enormously rich biosphere of micro-organisms in the rock of the mantle, and these organisms may explain why our known petroleum reserves are not going down as fast as we thought they should be, taking into account all know production and discovery etc... Petroleum may be being created much faster than previously thought.

Re:Rest of the world (1)

leucadiadude (68989) | more than 13 years ago | (#105256)

All five of the major grid control regions in the USA have the same basic curve shape. The high and low of the three major peaks in a day may differ in magnitude but they are there. Also, it's well known in the UK that at TV commercial breaks in the evening, the electric load spikes due to several hundred thousand electric teakettles being turned on at the same time. Heh.

Power consumption DOES change at night here (1)

leucadiadude (68989) | more than 13 years ago | (#105257)

Industrialized nations power consumption does indeed change significantly at night. It doesn't go to zero obviously, but it does change according to a known cycle. If you would like to see what a real load cycle looks like you can go to the CalISO page and look at the current grid load graph for most of the State of California, or click here [caiso.com] .

Re:question about your email address (1)

Bagheera (71311) | more than 13 years ago | (#105258)

Actually, I use that address because of folks like you who have nothing better to do than flame for no comprehendable reason.

Of course, I at least include one...

Re:question about your email address (1)

Bagheera (71311) | more than 13 years ago | (#105259)

Dude, what is your problem?

Warms the heart (1)

Lerc (71477) | more than 13 years ago | (#105260)

It's nice to hear that the rural poor in third world countries have a way to recharge their cell phone batteries

Re:I should move to the Dominican Republic (1)

joe52 (74496) | more than 13 years ago | (#105261)

I would imagine that it's more like someone in a town where there is no electrical grid has a cell phone. I an area where there are no installed phone wires, a cell phone may be more economical than trying to get a land line.

Re:Puts things in perspective. (1)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 13 years ago | (#105264)

Am I the only one who thinks that K. Marx said that?

-Peter

But... (1)

themassiah (80330) | more than 13 years ago | (#105269)

What if they are using their solar panels to charge batteries for .... [dramatic pause] The Alan Parsons Project?


Mwah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah!~

Solar Power Perfect for Air Conditioners (1)

Jeppe Salvesen (101622) | more than 13 years ago | (#105273)

Solar power is really perfect for Air Conditioners. When it's oppressively hot, it's usually sunny too. With a million solar power plants on a million root tops, I think that would REALLY help during the summertime power spikes. It would not be enough by its own of course, but it would kick in when needed the most.

Let's just hope Dubya doesn't find out about this project. I'm sure he'd close it down in a heartbeat.

Re:Not zero-pollution. (1)

JunkDNA (123288) | more than 13 years ago | (#105276)

It takes hard-core chemical usage to manufacture photovoltaic cells

Don't forget all the hard-core chemicals you need to manufacture the damn batteries. I believe batteries are the only way to store power for use at night or in low light conditions. You can bet they are lead acid or some other tasty environmentally friendly compound.

Re:"Boring Facts" thread - post away! (1)

R.Caley (126968) | more than 13 years ago | (#105280)

One square mile is a LOT of area.

Think of your own city or town, and where you would put that much solar cells.

Over here buildings come equipped with a wonfderful device called a roof.
_O_

Re:sustainable development (1)

Chagrin (128939) | more than 13 years ago | (#105282)

  • Solar power doesn't do them much good if they have to buy expensive replacements every time it breaks.
I think that's why most of the customers rent them for $10-$20 a month.

Read
The
Article

Rest of the world (1)

hyperlogi (153324) | more than 13 years ago | (#105287)

It seems like the rest of the world would catch on. Third world countries usually don't have the pollution problems that others do.... and yet they still use the cleaner powersources.... doesn't make sense!

Re:"Boring Facts" thread - post away! (1)

Simon Jester (162698) | more than 13 years ago | (#105288)

So stick the cells somewhere else. We're told repeatedly that there are several large areas of desert which we've made uninhabitable through nuclear testing - sounds like a good place to me.

Re:But... (1)

andr0meda (167375) | more than 13 years ago | (#105291)


Well, Orbital produced 'The girl with the sun in her head' with GreenPeace`s solar power vehicle, a truck equiped with batteries and solar cells on antennae-like deployable pannels.

Looking at the long run... (1)

Djere (171241) | more than 13 years ago | (#105292)

Renewable resources will be the death of us in the long run. Our current level of medical technology has seriously interfered with the natural evolutionary process. People with extreme vision defects, the weak, and the elderly are allowed to survive, propagate, and continue consuming resources through our "society." This can only lead to an eventual propagation of genetic defects which will counter thousands of years of evolution. Only by consuming to the point of social collapse can we truly further the advancement of the human species. Screw solar. Consume! It's the only way to save our species!

Re:you must have Pow-wah! (1)

jchristopher (198929) | more than 13 years ago | (#105300)

If the sun blows up, we are all completely fucked. Lack of solar power would be the least of our worries :)

Re:Rest of the world (1)

dfenstrate (202098) | more than 13 years ago | (#105301)

Theres also the notion that the processes that made the fossil fuels in the first place are still at work today, as are the geological processes that creat coal. But I'm sure our use is outstripping natures production.

Re:Appropriate Technology (1)

raju1kabir (251972) | more than 13 years ago | (#105306)

Other considerations need to be thought about as well. In some countries, children play a role of water carriers. Go in and start pumping water with solar panels, and you've changed the social aspects of the community. The children must be given some other role to play.

This, if taken seriously, would be a pretty powerful argument against ever doing anything anywhere.

If this is bad enough to worry about - after all, kids are supremely adaptable - then everything is.

Re:Economics... (1)

Sarcasmooo! (267601) | more than 13 years ago | (#105307)

Not to mention that a country which relies on solar power isn't likely to go to war over oil.

Re:"Boring Facts" thread - post away! (1)

jotaeleemeese (303437) | more than 13 years ago | (#105308)

Er, do you know a thing called roof?

I don't mean to be intrusive, but must roofs I am sure are used for nothing anyway.

Re:Solar Is Expensive (1)

elgee (308600) | more than 13 years ago | (#105309)

Re: I just got the literature in the mail and the cost, less installation cost, runs about $45,000 for a 30 kWh/day system." Hmm. I might be able to work my home (with a bit more conservation) with that power output. Does that include Nicad wet cells instead of lead-acid batteries? Wet cell Nicads last virtually forever. The cost increases if you add solar heating, even if you only use solar for hot water. At that cost, only those not near an existing power grid can justify it.

Re:Rest of the world (1)

NaturePhotog (317732) | more than 13 years ago | (#105312)

...but don't think that the fuel will ever run out. It won't, and the reasons why are complex (more than I want to talk about here). I'm intrigued...why won't it run out? At least a web link to the general theory? Thanks.

Re:Rest of the world (1)

NaturePhotog (317732) | more than 13 years ago | (#105313)

Apply this story to petrol, and you will see - its all about the cost/benefit ration. Someday oil will be scarce, and it will cost 50/gallon. Then people will switch, because the ratio is whacked. Someday the readily usuable supply of oil will dry up, and exploring for new oil and actually drilling for it will become so expensive, the problem will solve itself. Hmm...that sounds a lot like it's going to effectively run out, whether there's literally no crude oil left or not. I just hope we don't get far enough along that curve that we really trash the planet looking for those last few nuts...er...deposits of oil. Still, an interesting idea.

I should move to the Dominican Republic (1)

bwhaley (410361) | more than 13 years ago | (#105321)

"...use of solar energy by the rural poor...for everything from pumping clean water from aquifers to recharging cell phone batteries.

Rural poor have cell phones? My cell phone doesn't work, and I'm not rural or poor! What they need to come up with is a solar charging cell phone that charges while you talk. Not that I get much sun anyhow.. do flourescent lights count?

There are two major products that come out of Berkeley: LSD and BSD. We don't believe this to be a coincidence.

Re:Rest of the world (1)

Capsaicin (412918) | more than 13 years ago | (#105322)

The main problem is, solar would never work in the US, except under an and life-style altering condition.

Well my parents live in rural NSW (Australia) and survive quite well on their solar system. True they have slightly more high-tech batteries than (and more of them) than those mentioned in the article, (as well a diesel generator for emergency backup,) and gas for energy hungry appliances such as the fridge and oven.

None of this has involved any extreme life-style changes. They have to turn off the (energy efficient) lights when they leave the room and resort to the gas stove more often than the microwave, but since they already had this odd (to my way of thinking) habit of sleeping at night and being awake in the day.

It is true, that solar energy (ie battery technology) seems unlikely to be able to replace all the energy demands for modern 24 hour cities, (but it isn't going to do that in Dominican Republic either. Point is that much household use, especially in remote areas, can be supplied or supplemented by solar energy with today's technology.

Cell Phones Make Sense (1)

Kiss The Sp0rk (447455) | more than 13 years ago | (#105327)

For the same reason photovoltaic cells do. There is no pre-existing infrastructure. It's easier and cheaper to use cell-phones than to run phone-lines.
KTS:Lover, Poet, Artiste, Aesthete, Utensil.

Re:solar power initiatives in the US (1)

Dutchie (450420) | more than 13 years ago | (#105328)

Yes, and if you believe that that's anything serious.... one word: Kyoto Treaty and coal powered electricity plants.
  • Imagination is more important than knowledge.

Re:Flourescent Lights (2)

drwho (4190) | more than 13 years ago | (#105339)

Flourescent lights hurt my eyes. How about LED lights? they've come a long way, baby. The most efficient, coolest, and longest lasting of all light sources (other than the sun) invented so far. The problem is their spectrum is limited, so getting nice, white light out of them has been difficult. But a lot has happened lately. There are already LED flashlights, expect to see more of them in the next few years.

Solar Is Expensive (2)

N8F8 (4562) | more than 13 years ago | (#105340)

I'm going to build a new home next spring so I decided to check out solar as an option. The largest solar panel maufacturer, and the only company that manufacturers UL certified panels is, Siemens [siemenssolar.com] . I just got the literature in the mail and the cost, less installation cost, runs about $45,000 for a 30 kWh/day system. Unless electic prices really spike on the East Coast this just isn't a realistic system. I guess they must do somthing in the Dominican Repulic back-country that makes this more feasible and economic than running gas/fuel generators.

Re:"Boring Facts" thread - post away! (2)

Arandir (19206) | more than 13 years ago | (#105348)

One square mile is a LOT of area.

Think of your own city or town, and where you would put that much solar cells. I live in Mountain View, California. In order for it to work for us, we would either have to pave over a significant portion of the San Fransisco Bay, or declare war on Palo Alto and take their surface area.

Renewable energy (2)

urtica (26207) | more than 13 years ago | (#105357)

I compiled a summary [bigpond.net.au] of some of the info I found on renewable energy sources recently. Got some interesting data on the cost of various means of producing power. Photovoltaics seem to be one of the more expensive renewable resources, but still justifiable on cost grounds alone in a lot of situations, especially where grid power is expensive or not available.

Re:Solar ponds (2)

Bob Uhl (30977) | more than 13 years ago | (#105359)

Why do you assume that it's the government's responsibility to fund solar research, and hence blame Reagan for diverting funds to other ends (say, perh., defeating the Soviet Union...)? Why is it not, say, the solar industry's job? Why not take a collection amongst environmental groups to pay for some research? In short, why must every man, woman and child be forced to fund your favourite area of research?

Not that I'm against solar power. I quite like the idea, actually. But I've yet to see it as at all economical in my situation. $70,000 for a home setup (I number ISTR from a back issue of Home Power or somesuch) is a tad steep. At even $300/month for electricity, that'll take 20 years to pay itself off. And by that time the system would be way too outdated. I can do better things with $70,000. Even at a 5% rate of return, I could turn it into $185,730, which could buy one whopping nice solar panel system in 2021, even if it _would_ be worth only about $103,834 in today's dollars. Now get that price down by a factor of ten, and I'd snap at the chance, esp. because I myself only use about $30/month, and would thus be putting $270/mo. back into the system and thus making money underneath net metering.

Re:Warms the heart (2)

MrCreosote (34188) | more than 13 years ago | (#105361)

Developing countries have a very high take up of mobile communications tech, since they bypass the need to have (expensive) landlines laid to every place you want to have a phone. Landlines also have a nasty habit of being pulled down every time a decent storm passes through, or being dug up by a local farmer, requiring more maintenance in often remote areas. For mobile phones, you just need to put up a cell tower every so often, which aren't as susceptable to falling trees and the like.

Appropriate Technology (2)

A moron (37050) | more than 13 years ago | (#105362)

This is indeed cool. But "1st world countries" that think cell phones and solar power are useful for "third world countries" should be careful.

One great story is where the "advanced" white man brought a bunch of solar panels to a third world country. The locals found that they worked great as tables but not much else.

Other considerations need to be thought about as well. In some countries, children play a role of water carriers. Go in and start pumping water with solar panels, and you've changed the social aspects of the community. The children must be given some other role to play.

It all sort of reminds me of time travel in the movies, where the person goes back, changes one small thing, and suddenly a chain reaction of events occurs, forever changing history, often for the worse.

Fuel cells, oil and batteries (2)

vrt3 (62368) | more than 13 years ago | (#105365)

With all due respect, I think you are misunderstanding the comparison. Fuel cells are not an alternative for oil, or any other fuel. They USE fuel (hydrogen), and convert the chemical energy in it to electrical energy.

As a matter of fact, that hydrogen has to come from somewhere. We don't find it in nature, so we have to produce it. By using other sources of energy, such as fossil fuels, solar energy or whatever.

Re:Rest of the world (2)

leucadiadude (68989) | more than 13 years ago | (#105368)

The main argument for 120V is it's extremely simple to split out three phase 480V power from that pole mounted transformer to all teh homes on your street. Two phases to every house, and maintaining equal load on each phase over the whole block. Then you can have 220v across the two phases sent to your home, or 120v to ground from each phase. The main point of having 220V is much lower running amps for motors for the same horsepower. Lower amps mean lower heat and less resistance to current flow, so more efficient.

BTW, local distribution is usually 4300V - 12000V. So those pole mounted transformers would be 4300V to 480V three phase step downs. Medium distances would be 66000V - 230000V and really long distances would be 230KV to 1000KV.

Re:Not zero-pollution. (2)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 13 years ago | (#105369)

Not true. It takes from one to several years [ecotopia.com] to break even, depending on the technology, but the claim that they take more energy than they put out is pure FUD.

Also, if you're far enough away from the grid it can actually be cheaper to install a photovoltaic system than to run copper and get on the grid.

The above is the standard repost from the last solar power article. Thanks to Mr. Slippery (tms@spambefuddler-infamous.net) for the real scoop

Here here (2)

Camel Pilot (78781) | more than 13 years ago | (#105370)

In fact, it is our generation's right (and the one before) to consume the last drop on non-renewable fossil fuel. Let our children and their children curse in the cold and dark.

Re:cost vs benefit (2)

mr (88570) | more than 13 years ago | (#105371)

And everyone knows you are full of shit.

www.homepower.org

They point out the energy payback in in under-5 years based on a German study.

Wind power has a under 3 year payback based on the power used to produce it.

Do you have some links to prove your POV, AC?

Re:Not zero-pollution. (2)

RevRigel (90335) | more than 13 years ago | (#105372)

Semiconductor production also takes a huge amount of electricity -- which is generated by coal, nuclear, etc.
I've been told that solar cells, given their lifespan of 30 years or so (what the article linked said, I believe), a solar cell cannot generate in its lifetime, in full sunlight, more energy than it took to create it in the first place. Now, this may no longer be true, or it may never have been true. I've also been told it's an urban legend. I could figure out how much a given solar cell could generate over that period of time, but I know nothing about how much power every single process needed to make the solar cells takes.
Anyone know if this is truth or fiction?

I've always been partial to wind power, myself -- even if not electric, you can rig up something simple out of wood and fibre to pump water or provide mechanical power. Things that are easier to do are invariably easier and cheaper to bring to the masses.

Re:Rest of the world (2)

dbrower (114953) | more than 13 years ago | (#105378)

Much like the way the USA and Japan both use the less efficient 110v system for their power transportation, while most of the rest of the world uses 220v.
Most transmission is not anywhere near 120v (the actual nominal voltage in most of the US). Transmission is done at much higher voltages, and there are relatively local transformers to step down to household voltages. It is not clear that, having properly sized wiring, the voltage drop on the 400 feet from transformer to house is all that significant, compared to all the other transmission losses. Some of the 120v loss might also be made up in transformer efficiency, which is better at 60hz than 50hz. (That's why military avionics often ran 400hz).

The main argument for 120v is that it is somewhat less fatal to touch accidentally than 220. The major downside is that it obliges larger wiring to avoid voltage drop/transmission loss. This has material/energy costs of its own.

-dB

Re:Economics... (2)

Frank T. Lofaro Jr. (142215) | more than 13 years ago | (#105380)

Once fuel gets to be in such short supply that oil costs so much that gasoline is $4 a gallon (will happen eventually) it will become VERY economical to use solar power.

Solar power has low ongoing costs - no refinery workers to pay, no use of fuel to refine fuel (refineries USE quite a bit on energy), just the costs to make them and some occasional maintenance (you would have that with ANY power source).

Re:Economics... (2)

octalman (169480) | more than 13 years ago | (#105382)

Wrong. Fuel cells don't store anything. A fuel cell is a conversion device - it converts some fuel directly to electrical power. A fuel cell is just an engine with no moving parts. Some use methanol for fuel, others use propane etc.

A solar panel is also a conversion device, converting solar radiation to electrical power.

And yes, the two are in competition with each other. The Santa Fe Railroad (now Burlington Northern Santa Fe) used to use solar panels to power their remote communications units, but switched to propane powered fuel cells. Why? Lack of sufficient power at night or under cloudy conditions, plus, wind and hail repeatedly damaged their expensive solar panels.

Re:Rest of the world (2)

danheskett (178529) | more than 13 years ago | (#105383)

I didnt know that. Thats for the stat. I always heard and even read afew places that our pwoer demand was static nationwide. Thanks for the correction.

I think the point stands though, that solar power is only producing power for a limited portion of the day, and our power demand is still very large even at night (50% of a boatload is still big ass number), heh).

Alternative power will happen someday, but don't think that the fuel will ever run out. It won't, and the reasons why are complex (more than I want to talk about here). When alternatiev power finally is mainstream (it wont be alternative, of course!) it will because it is cheaper for us to use solar power.

Re:Rest of the world (2)

danheskett (178529) | more than 13 years ago | (#105384)

?I'm intrigued...why won't it run out? At least a web link to the general theory? Thanks.

Okay, I am up anyways, here it goes:

First, I can't take credit for this story, or the thought behind it. I dont need flames about it being stolen/copied/lifted.

Okay, so imagine this: you really like nuts. I mean really like 'em. And not those pre-shelled shit, you like to shell 'em just cause thats how they come. So you get locked in a room that is filled bottom to top with nuts. Everywhere, all you can see is it nuts. You are overjoyed, and you clear off a spot and begin to crack and eat nuts like never before. All day every day, you just eat those things. So as you eat, you keep a nice little neat pile of where the shells go. But after a while, you get lots and lots of shells. They start overcrowding the nuts you havent eaten, and now you have to search for nuts that arent already eaten.

After a few days, you get so that you have to search for a few minutes to find a nut. Then it takes an hour. Then it takes a day. Sooner or later, the benefit of finding a nut (eating) is outweighed by the cost (the time to find it). You'll eventually just get bored, and tired, and leave the room.

Apply this story to petrol, and you will see - its all about the cost/benefit ration. Someday oil will be scarce, and it will cost 50/gallon. Then people will switch, because the ratio is whacked. Someday the readily usuable supply of oil will dry up, and exploring for new oil and actually drilling for it will become so expensive, the problem will solve itself.

Cell phones ?? (2)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 13 years ago | (#105387)

"Rural communities rely on solar energy for everything from pumping clean water from aquifers to recharging cell phone batteries."

Cell phones in rural areas that are cut off from the power grid ? :-)

a very large point is being missed here (2)

rhakka (224319) | more than 13 years ago | (#105389)

lots of people are discussing the economics of solar PV vs. standard energy. Yes, if you just want to retrofit your home, or you design a standard home and want to make it solar, it's a very large expense. However, even though the cost may be slightly greater per kwh, you can drastically reduce the cost of a full solar PV system by designing the home to be energy efficient in the first place. Use DC appliances, optimize your solar collection facing and use a myriad number of design tricks to reduce your power usage. it semms most of us waste as much energy as we use practically. If you could be completely self-sufficient for electricity for the next 25 years for $20,000, would you do it? I spend 90 as a household here in Maine, monthly. and the economics only improve with grid tied systems. sure you need some additional equipment, but you don't *need* a battery bank and net metering can make a large difference in the economics.

Re:Economics... (2)

HongPong (226840) | more than 13 years ago | (#105390)

I think by that logic, burning oil is not exactly a source of energy, just a battery-like release of chemical energy. I guess, then, only collection of natural radiation counts as an energy source.

--

Re:Rest of the world (2)

FrostedChaos (231468) | more than 13 years ago | (#105392)

Um... third world countries often have terrible enviromental problems.

A lot of industries move to the third world to benefit from looser pollution rules (or lack of pollution rules.) Just because the media hasn't seen fit to tell you this information yet doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

Re:you must have Pow-wah! (2)

Steven Reddie (237450) | more than 13 years ago | (#105393)

But if you have heaps of batteries you could store a heap of energy from the blast.

Not FUD entirely. Just old data (2)

einhverfr (238914) | more than 13 years ago | (#105394)

Not true. It takes from one to several years to break even, depending on the technology, but the claim that they take more energy than they put out is pure FUD.

I have a friend who did the calculations on a common type fo solar cell himself and found that, at least 5 years ago, they did take more energy to make than they were getting out of them. Economy of scale might be a part. But there are different types of solar cells too. The technology may have improved in the last 5 years too.

I would think of it less as FUD and more as outdated info.

Re:Cell Phones Make Sense (2)

raju1kabir (251972) | more than 13 years ago | (#105395)

It's easier and cheaper to use cell-phones than to run phone-lines.

That depends on the anticipated subscriber density and on your cost of financing.

In sparsely-populated areas or in cases when it is difficult to secure long-term financing at reasonable rates, wireless is cheaper, yes.

In a dense area, when you can afford to invest for the long term, nothing beats good old fashioned copper. At least so far.

Re:sustainable development (2)

Proud Geek (260376) | more than 13 years ago | (#105398)

According to the article $10-20 monthly is about 10% of their income. That's only cheap when you compare it to the dry cell batteries it replaces. And it says nothing about sustainability. Are repairs made locally, or is it creating a dependence upon imported USian parts?

Read
My
Lips

Re:Rest of the world (2)

NaturePhotog (317732) | more than 13 years ago | (#105399)

Industrialized nations share a different trait - our power consumption does not decrease much or at all during the overnight hours. Yes it does. See for example, the current status [caiso.com] (and forecast demand) of the California ISO (California Independent System Operator, which controls the distribution of power and produces warnings about potential rolling blackouts here in California). Notice that the power demand drops significantly after 9PM PST, reaching almost 50% of the day time peak at around 4AM PST. Which isn't to say that power demand drops to zero over night; we still some source of power, but hydroelectric, wind and wave power all work day and night. And coal and gas-fired plants aren't going to go away over night (no pun intended), but they will go away eventually when the fuel runs out.

Re:I've lived in the Dominican Republic (2)

NaturePhotog (317732) | more than 13 years ago | (#105400)

First off, the electric situation is terrible in that country. This is not just for the remote undeveloped rural regions. In the major metropolitan areas, even the capital city, Santo Domingo, just about everyone who can afford it has their own gas generator. Why? Because the power outages are frequent and of great duration. Sounds like Nigeria (where a friend is working with the government to set up some computer labs and training). The power goes out frequently enough that "Oh NEPA!" (NEPA = Nigerian Electrical Power Administration) has entered the vernacular. Lots of businesses, especially in Lagos, and not just computer-based ones find it difficult to work when the power drops out randomly and for long stretches.

displaced polution, not eliminated polution (2)

Bob_Robertson (454888) | more than 13 years ago | (#105407)

Solar cells are a great product for a targetted market: putting relatively low power into a location not otherwise served. And solar cell deployment is both cheap and clean, for places where such considerations are called for. (like on sail-boats)

However, solar cell production is neither cheap, nor clean. Heavy metals and lead, light metals like arsenic, or non-metals such as silicon, all contribute to the polution load for their manufacture.

Hiding those production costs behind tax incentives, grants, EPA loopholes, does not stop the polution, nor clean it up. Only honesty in the real costs of production would drive incentive to clean up the process.

Ronald Regan did not "kill" solar cells, his administration stopped the artificial incentives for wasteful production. Research has gone on, and clean (and therefore cheap) production methods will either be developed, or solar cells will remain a niche market.

I also believe in the export of high-tech to "developing" regions as quickly as possible, to prevent their needing to pass through the awfully poluting "heavy industry" cycle just because some politicians are too cowardly to admit that "brown" people are people too.

Bob-

Mourn on the 4th of July, set a place at the table for Thomas Jefferson, and toast "Next Year, In Philidelphia."

Re:Rest of the world (2)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 13 years ago | (#105408)

Much like the way the USA and Japan both use the less efficient 110v system for their power transportation, while most of the rest of the world uses 220v. The installed base is simply too extensive and the costs of converting would be astronomical, and hence these two nations simply stick with their less efficient power distribution systems.

Decentralization is the big win (3)

iabervon (1971) | more than 13 years ago | (#105409)

The thing that really makes solar better for them than anything else is that you can have your own solar panels, and the power doesn't have to be sent anywhere. That means that you don't rely on power lines which may go unmaintained or a power plant which may go offline. The first-world power grids work well because there's a lot of redundancy and utilities which can maintain the power lines.

If you don't have thousands of other paying customers on the same segment as you, you're not going to get great service, and you'd do better to just do it yourself with a solar system or a generator, and solar's just easier at that scale.

tempted myself (Sydney, Australia) (3)

danny (2658) | more than 13 years ago | (#105410)

At the moment it's not quite cost-effective for me to install a photovoltaic system on my house in suburban Sydney (even with the quite decent government rebates), but it's not far off. I'm tempted for non-commercial reasons, simply because I like the idea. Check out Pacific Solar [pacificsolar.com.au] for details of one Australian company with a nice system.

Danny.

Re:Economics... (3)

Jeremi (14640) | more than 13 years ago | (#105411)

especially with competing fuel sources like fuel cells on the very-near horizon.

Fuel cells are not in competition with solar energy, because fuel cells are not an energy source. They are a method for storing energy (like batteries, but better). You still have to generate that energy somehow (and solar is as good a method as any)

Re:Rest of the world (3)

AT (21754) | more than 13 years ago | (#105412)

Third world countries usually don't have the pollution problems that others do

Obviously, you've never been to a city in a third world country. They most definately do have pollution problems: pollution control on cars is far less, heating and light are often generated by burning kerosene, coal, or even animal dung, and forget about sewers and garbage collection. Pollution controls for industry are much less strict if enforced at all. Plus the density of people is usually higher.

I sure couldn't tell when I was there (3)

epseps (39675) | more than 13 years ago | (#105414)

I was there in February (great place,except Puerta Plata) and there were constant blackouts. Most hotels and restaraunts had backup generators to provide power. The main power plants were diesel barges in the harbor. In the countryside I rarely came accross power at all unless it was by a generator...actually I went to a few places that didn't which adds quite a bit of time to your day. I didn't notice any solar power. But I'm happy to hear that they are attempting to use it. A very good way to get out of poverty is to have the extra time given by available power and sewage systems. I estimated that lack of these things added about 3 hours of work to an average person's day just to keep clean and prepare food. Time that could be much better spent at other educational or profitable endeavors. If anyone goes there. Go to the k-ramba bar on Calle Isabella in Santo Domingo. The energy engineers hang out there and it is a very good bar.

Re:cost vs benefit (3)

glitch! (57276) | more than 13 years ago | (#105416)

anyone know the lifecycle cost of solar cell power vs other types of power?

Sorry, I forgot to answer the second part of your question :-)

Let's assume that this 40 watt system will operate at 12 hours a day, and let's derate the output to 40 watts over 8 hours (instead of 12). That gives us 320 watt hours per day of work, or 115 kilowatt hours per 360 sunny days. You will have to reduce that figure depending on the local climate.

Where I live, electricity costs about 9.5 cents per kilowatt hour, so this setup would be worth about $11 per year. Not much of a bargain - for me anyway. (In case you are wondering, I probably get 350 days of full sunshine per year.)

But I don't think MY cost comparison is of any interest to the people in the article. The first few hundred watts are probably the most productive anyway. After that, the watts are probably just "wasted" on entertainment.

Re:"Boring Facts" thread - post away! (3)

Doctor K (79640) | more than 13 years ago | (#105417)

The best solar cells generally have about 30% efficiency, relative to the total flux of sunlight hitting the earth in the given area. To output 100 MW requires about 1 square mile of cells
---------
Interesting maths there.

You get ~1kW/m^2 of sunlight, so that's 2560000kW of raw sunlight, which at 30% efficiency is:

2560000kW * 0.3 = 768 000kW == 768MW

---------

Point of view from an applied physicist:

Sunlight from the earth is 1.2 kW/m^2 (higher than your estimate). However, 30% efficiency is a pretty big overestimate of how much you can get from a presently economical solar cell. There are solar cells approaching 30%, but these tend to be made out of more exotic materials and are not as easily manufactured.

Starting from an incident flux of 1.2 kW/m2:

Half the time it is night. So averaged over a day gives: 600 W/m2.

But in most places, not every day is sunny. So, hack another half off that: 300 W/m2.

Also, the efficiency of a solar cell is strongly dependent on the angle of incidence of the sunlight. Assuming a low cost installation where the cells aren't pivoting (expensive and prone to break down) to catch the rays gives a loss in available flux. Using a generous a cos^2 depenenced takes us down to: 150 W/m2

(Note: It is probably much worse as the cos^2 only accounts for effective reduction in solar cell cross-section area as the sun rises and sets. For grazing incidence light most of the sunlight will reflect off the solar cell. And yes, exotic solar cells have been designed to reduce this, but this adds to cost and manufacturing difficulty.)

Now, apply a realistic 20% solar cell efficiency: 30 W/m2.

Thus, a typical solar cell can be expected to yield on average (a generous estimate):

30 W/m2.

Of course, this ignores the efficiency of any storage system you might have if you want to make use of the power generated when the sun is not directly overhead on a clear day. So to try to get a more realistic feel, hack off another half to account for efficiency and grazing reflection:

15 W/m2.

So, a square mile array of solar cells could make an average contribution of:

1600 m * 1600 m * 15 W/m2= 38,400,000 W

This is one-twenth the value of the previous poster and a bit closer to the original post, but 38.4 MW can power a fair number of homes.

However, as the previous poster pointed out, in most cities, you could get more bang for your real-estate via other means.

However, when the sun is directly overhead, on a sunny day, you will get a peak performance of roughly 240 W/m2.

Since this is the time when power is most needed anyways, this points to solar cells being used to offset peak power demand when everybody's air conditioning kicks on simultaneously. I don't expect solar cells to be the primary source of power anytime soon except in special situations.

Kevin

Sometimes it's not electricity what you need (3)

changos (105425) | more than 13 years ago | (#105418)

Several semesters ago in one of my college classes, my profesor told us about his research. He goes to guatemala(where I'm from), to install solar stoves. They are very simple, but they work very good. It decreases their need for firewood. Any way, here [byu.edu] is the link to the article. It was posted in the University's [byu.edu] magazine.

Re:Rest of the world (3)

ZoneGray (168419) | more than 13 years ago | (#105420)

I live in a third-world economy, and the air here in California is pretty clean.

Re:Rest of the world (3)

danheskett (178529) | more than 13 years ago | (#105421)

The main problem is, solar would never work in the US, except under an extreme and life-style altering condition.

Third-world nations like those listed in the piece have very low power demands. They want power for the basics, during the daylight hours. This makes them *prime* candidates for solar power. Industrialized nations share a different trait - our power consumption does not decrease much or at all during the overnight hours. This means for us to use solar power effectively would require a massively new way to store power efficently overnight. People have proposed all kinds of things - using some power during the day to pump water up to a higher elevation, then using gravity to cause that water to regenerate electricty at night, creating massive arrays of traditional batteries, retooling appliances and machines to be battery-aware, and building each new unit with a battery that can let it run on its own overnight, etc etc.

But all of the solutions require a massive investment in (a) replacing old infrastructure, and (b) upgrading/designing/deploying new technologies to store power for the overnight hours. Power in the US/Canada/Petrol countries is generated on demand, and stored in the form of raw petrol when not needed.

Bottom line: upgrading your power system from zero is a lot cheaper/easier/quicker than upgrading after over a hundred years of constant power use and dependency.

Re:Not zero-pollution. (3)

raju1kabir (251972) | more than 13 years ago | (#105422)

I believe batteries are the only way to store power for use at night or in low light conditions.

You could always try a flywheel [slashdot.org] .

sustainable development (3)

Proud Geek (260376) | more than 13 years ago | (#105423)

Solar power doesn't do them much good if they have to buy expensive replacements every time it breaks. Environmentally this is great, and it also provides electric power where it wasn't available before, but you have to wonder at what cost.

Unless the technology can be maintained with local expertise it is just putting the people in a dependant relationship on more industrialized nations. There is a path that technological development has to go on to empower the people, and sometimes that means that less good technologies have to be used.

I've lived in the Dominican Republic (3)

MxTxL (307166) | more than 13 years ago | (#105424)

As a former resident of the DR, I hope I can shed some light on this thread.

First off, the electric situation is terrible in that country. This is not just for the remote undeveloped rural regions. In the major metropolitan areas, even the capital city, Santo Domingo, just about everyone who can afford it has their own gas generator. Why? Because the power outages are frequent and of great duration. In the US, if the power goes out frequently, anywhere, (say like California recently) it makes front page news, people are crying out because "We were out of power for 4 HOURS last night!" In DR there are parts of the city where they measure the time the power is ON like that, not where it is off. It's more like "Woo Hoo, we had a full 6 hours of power today!" The solution to this problem for many is gas generators. But these are really expensive to purchase, so it's the middle to upper class (who are vastly outnumbered by the lower class) that are able to buy them. These generators are also very expensive to operate, since gas isn't exactly cheap in the third world (like it is here, he says sarcastically) so most people can't have them or even operate them.

I believe the idea of solar panels to be a blessing for the country. Goodness knows that the government is corrupt, and the ruling class doesn't give a shit about the poor. It's a lack of will and cash that is preventing the outskirts from even being wired, and it's corruption that causes the places that ARE wired to remain dark. Solar panels are a way for the people to power themselves, cheaply. This has to be good.

cost vs benefit (3)

multicsfan (311891) | more than 13 years ago | (#105425)

anyone know the lifecycle cost of solar cell power vs other types of power?

Re:cost vs benefit (4)

glitch! (57276) | more than 13 years ago | (#105427)

anyone know the lifecycle cost of solar cell power vs other types of power?

Well, first you have the solar cells. Fancy new ones will probably cost $10 per watt, but I have seen perfectly good looking surplus ones for around $4/watt. So you would be looking at about $160 or so for the 40 watts mentioned in this story.

Of course, you aren't just going to nail the solar cells to a tree, so also figure in the cost of a nice frame. Considering that these people don't have a lot of money, I think it would be better to make the frames locally, and save on the labor costs. How does $20 for a plywood and plexiglas frame sound?

We also want some way to store the power. A deep-cycle marine battery is just right for this. Figure maybe $50 for that. The rich imperialist systems also include a charge controller, but our friends might prefer to save the $100 or so and flip a switch when the battery is fully charged. Add maybe $10 for a pair of cheap gauges (volts and amps).

Also figure in the cost of electrical wiring and miscellaneous hardware. I think we could get the cost down to around $250 if our goal is to provide power affordably.

How long will all this last? My guess is that the cells may (may!) last 10 years, the battery as long as five, and the frame maybe a few years. That brings my 10-year estimate to maybe $300 to $400, or up to $40 per year.

Solar power in rural areas... (4)

Bagheera (71311) | more than 13 years ago | (#105428)

This is one of those ideas that makes such perfect sense. Solar is currently an expensive solution on a per KWh basis to add to an existing grid. But, when there is no power infrastructure in place, it's not surprising to see it as a good solution. I'm glad there are people finally out there trying to get it going.

The big trick with a low input power system like that is the user's energy budget. Here in the states, we're used to having a huge budget for power. But, when you live on battery or generator power, you learn to economize. Folks in rural areas won't have the energy budget we may be used to in an urban area, but any power is better than none, and Solar is often a great solution. One reason many long distance cruisers (sailboats) rely heavily on big batteries and a rack of solar cells...

Re:"Boring Facts" thread - post away! (4)

bfree (113420) | more than 13 years ago | (#105430)

Only in America can the above statement be Funny :-(

Solar ponds (4)

legLess (127550) | more than 13 years ago | (#105431)

In high school, yon these many years ago, I made it to the Ohio state finals with my solar pond science fair project (Google search [google.com] 'cause I'm lazy). Like other forms of solar power, solar ponds can generate a fair amount of electricity.

What I learned, however, was that the sun is much better at heating things up than creating electricity. Heat a home, or water for a home, or a greenhouse - at these the sun excels. Also, we're still not very good at converting that energy into electricity. We would have been much farther along 'cept for fucking Ronald Reagan [sonofhans.net] (link's dated, but funny). Bastard killed off solar energy research in the 80s.

Anyway. Solar power is useful, yes, especially in 3rd-world countries where people aren't such energy hogs. But until our technology improves vastly (or we all start using much less energy), solar-generated electricity isn't going to help the 1st world very much.

"We all say so, so it must be true!"

Re:"Boring Facts" thread - post away! (4)

Djere (171241) | more than 13 years ago | (#105432)

It seems to me that I don't use much of my roof space. I mean, I can't even get up there to bask in the sun or get drunk and fall off for the neighbors' amusement. Think there might be a square mile of south-facing roof in your town?

Solar heating hacker (4)

bleeeeck (190906) | more than 13 years ago | (#105433)

A few years ago while I was looking for information on solar heating I found Nick Pine [google.com] .

He has many hundreds of usenet posts [villanova.edu] , ideas about converting an existing house to 100% solar [villanova.edu] , low cost and warm homeless shelters [ibiblio.org] , and is conducting solar heating experiments [villanova.edu] , all using inexpensive / easily obtainable materials.

If you're interested in solar heating, you should check him out.

solar power initiatives in the US (4)

bbh (210459) | more than 13 years ago | (#105434)

The Department of Energy does actually have a few programs set up in the United States to promote solar power use in the US. One is the Million Solar Roofs Initiative (MSR) which provides grants to state and local partnerships to try develop uses for solar energy in communities. The program plans to have a million solar roof systems in place in the United States by the year 2010.

There is a map of current locations of partnerships in the United States here:

http://www.eren.doe.gov/millionroofs/tally.html [doe.gov]

The main webpage for the program can be found here:

http://www.eren.doe.gov/millionroofs/" [doe.gov]

And here is a list of projects that have already been put into place in the United States related to this program:

http://www.eren.doe.gov/millionroofs/news.html [doe.gov]

bbh

Flourescent Lights (4)

Deffexor (230167) | more than 13 years ago | (#105435)

Anyone notice that they use flourescent lights?

While this may sound crazy, flourescent lights have come a long way and the technology is fairly common and is becoming cheaper everyday.

The cool thing about flourescent bulbs is that they now come in standard "edison" screw type sizes so you don't need to buy those long tubes. On top of this, they are over 80% efficient (only 20% of energy is turned to heat) and last 10,000 hours! [5 - 7 years under average use] Good old incandescent bulbs only last 1,000 hours at most and are only 15% efficient. (85% of the energy goes up as heat.)

Not only is this a boon for 3rd world countries, but it is helpful for 1st world ones with states that have rolling black-outs. :^)

So if you're a Californian trying to get in on the 20/20 deal, you might want to look into getting flourescent lights for your house. Not only do they produce less heat, they consume only 1/5th the electricity.

The best place that I've found to buy flourescent bulbs online is some company called http://www.energyguide.com [energyguide.com] and New Englanders get a $5 discount per bulb making them practically free. So what are you waiting for? Save yourself some money by lowering your electricity bill! (and perhaps avoid rolling blackouts!)

Puts things in perspective. (4)

etou q. sim (460123) | more than 13 years ago | (#105437)

Living here in California where people are constantly complaining about rising electric rates and rolling blackouts that disrupt your soap opera viewing, articles like this really help put things in perspective. Imagine a country where renting a 40-watt photovoltaic panel can be a life changing experience. Totally alien to our own way of life.

--

net metering (5)

drwho (4190) | more than 13 years ago | (#105438)

If the government really cared about getting alternative energy in use here in the US, they'd enforce net metering laws. What this means is: you hook up your [wind|solar|thermonuclear] electrical source to the grid, and when you put electricity back into the grid you get credit for it. Simple enough. With older technology, all that was required was a device to make sure that your current was in phase with the grid, and your meter would run 'backwards'. Now with the new, electronic meters, doing so would make you PAY for the electricity you put into the grid! This is absurd. In many states there are LAWS that REQUIRE the utilities to implement net metering, but they are being blatantly ignored. If you want more info, read Home Power Magazine [homepower.com] , which has really good info, all in an archive for FREE! (but hey, subscribe, send them some money, it's a worthy cause).

Not zero-pollution. (5)

Apuleius (6901) | more than 13 years ago | (#105439)

It takes hard-core chemical usage to
manufacture photovoltaic cells. Just remember
that there are other ways to exploit the sun,
as well (solar ovens, solar heating ranges,
et cetera).

Re:Economics... (5)

rjh3 (99390) | more than 13 years ago | (#105440)

The economics of solar power are actually excellent. A few pertinent facts:
1.) Solar cell sales have grown at a CAGR over 15% for the last 15 years. PV production has been running at capacity for over 10 years, despite construction of new PV manufacturing facilities. PV sales are on allocation and have multi-year backlogs.
2.) PV sales are now far more dominated by considerations of cost effective power generation than by considerations of cost effective publicity generation.
3.) US installations of solar cells are very widespread, but are now being installed mostly by people who do not spend money on publicity regarding the installations.
4.) Most installations are cost justified by the cost of installing grid power vs the cost of installing the PV system. For a small data monitoring system (commonly needed for railroads, natural resource sites, etc.) the cost of the PV system is usually less than the cost of installing one utility pole. So you see PV power even in fairly urban areas. For larger installations, the construction cost tradeoff is usually something like 1-2 miles from power line to power need. Then PV makes sense. There are lots of sites like these, but they are all miles from the nearest road and get little publicity.

Economics... (5)

edashofy (265252) | more than 13 years ago | (#105442)

The question of solar power is not whether it is useful or not, or clean or not. It's really a matter of whether it's economical or not.

In the Dominican Republic, a small island isolated from the immense power grids of places like the USA and Europe, with limited ability and resources to produce its own power, it's perfectly feasible (even with the high cost of replacing solar panels in the long run). However, we have a huge infrastructure for pumping, transporting, and burning petroleum.

High efficiency, low-maintenance solar cells are a good direction in which to spend research $$, but I think it'll take a major shift in economics to make this work--especially with competing fuel sources like fuel cells on the very-near horizon.

"Boring Facts" thread - post away! (5)

6EQUJ5 (446008) | more than 13 years ago | (#105443)


The best solar cells generally have about 30% efficiency, relative to the total flux of sunlight hitting the earth in the given area. To output 100 MW requires about 1 square mile of cells - that's enough power for about 18,000 people (Americans, that is... or about a million Dominicans).
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