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Elon Musk's Solar City Is Ramping Up Solar Panel Production

Soulskill posted about 4 months ago | from the go-big-or-go-home dept.

Power 262

MarkWhittington writes: Elon Musk is well known as a private space flight entrepreneur, thanks to his space launch company SpaceX. He is also a purveyor of high end electric cars manufactured by his other company, Tesla Motors. But many people do not know that Musk has a third business, Solar City, which is a manufacturer of solar panels. On Tuesday that company announced a major play to increase the output of solar panels suitable for home solar units. Solar City has acquired a company called Silevo, which is said to have a line of solar panels that have demonstrated high electricity output and low cost. Silevo claims that its panels have achieved a 22 percent efficiency and are well on their way to achieving 24 percent efficiency. It suggests that 10 cents per watt is saved for every point of efficiency gained. Solar City, using the technology it has acquired from Silevo, intends to build a manufacturing plant in upstate New York with a one gigawatt per year capacity. This will only be the beginning as it intends to build future manufacturing plants with orders of magnitude capacity. The goal appears to be for the company to become the biggest manufacturer of solar panels in the world.

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Tie this in with the battery tech from Tesla... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47261557)

This might be a great thing for the future. I have no idea what the timeframe would be, but this could spark the eventual cutting off from the grid, or at least using the grid as a backup. . .

Re:Tie this in with the battery tech from Tesla... (2, Insightful)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about 4 months ago | (#47262369)

They SAY they are a solar panel company.

Really? They are a finance company - selling debt. The sales come-on is laid on pretty thick, by cold calling with a claim to having you pay negative energy bills.

If the actual numbers work out when their quota sales guy arrives? Then you buy their SolarCity system, which you cannot modify or upgrade. Do you want emergency off-grid capability? Sorry, no can do. Thiel has arrangements with the big, incumbent local monopolies. When they are down? You are down.

There are better options, and cells with better efficiency. Shop around if you want solar, and don't get stuck with a 15 year finance deal on panels that become obsolete several years before they add equity.

Re:Tie this in with the battery tech from Tesla... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47262589)

So do you keep waiting to buy a computer until the *next* CPU/GPU/disk tech/memory tech is here?

OF COURSE it's going to go obsolete. There's a lot of emphasis on exactly that - making it better.

But you have to decide when to buy in, and there will always be newer panels/cars/insulation/computers/software before the one one becomes obsolete.

Re:Tie this in with the battery tech from Tesla... (2)

Jeremi (14640) | about 4 months ago | (#47262723)

There are better options, and cells with better efficiency. Shop around if you want solar

Sure, there are better systems to be had, if you are willing to shell out cash up front. If that's something that you're unwilling or unable to do, however, it's hard to beat cutting your electric bill in half for free.

There's also something to be said for not having to maintain and support the system yourself. Non-technical people feel better knowing that if the system fails or performs poorly, it's SolarCity's problem, not theirs.

Retiring to Mars.... (4, Funny)

stiggle (649614) | about 4 months ago | (#47262743)

SpaceX to get Musk to Mars.
Tesla to move him around on Mars.
Solar City to power everything on Mars.

Musk is sticking with his plans to retire on Mars and all his companies are helping him get there.

Sustainability (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47261565)

I always wonder: can the solar power race be hindered by the sustainability of producing solar panels? I mean: how much silicon is there available?

Sustainability (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47261577)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silicon

"Over 90% of the Earth's crust is composed of silicate minerals..."

I don't think Silicon is the problem here. Most (if not all) solar panels depend on other rare earth materials that may be in short supply tho.

Re:Sustainability (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47261587)

Most (if not all) solar panels depend on other rare earth materials that may be in short supply tho.

A bit like Tesla's batteries are depending on Lithium.

Re:Sustainability (1)

NotDrWho (3543773) | about 4 months ago | (#47261689)

Lithium

Well if you need some, just make some more! Jeez, I thought this was a discussion board for smart people.

Re: Sustainability (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47261723)

Rare earths aren't actually rare. It is just an unfortunate naming convention. The minerals that go into solar cells and batteries are not consumed and are concentrated in their applications so recycling them is easy.

The main issue is still just basic economics. This appears to be what elon is trying to fix.

Re: Sustainability (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47262617)

They may not be rare, but some of them are essentially completely controlled by China. Who may or may not decide to play nice, as is their right.

Sustainability (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47261871)

What is the rare earth content of some of our solar systems planets/asteroids? Creating a sustainable launch industry could be part of a long term plan at getting at sources of rare earth minerals necessary for long term battery/solar production. Most of these elements are more precious than gold, so with reduced launch costs and ever increasing demand for them extraterrestrial mining for them could be economically viable in the near term.

Re:Sustainability (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 4 months ago | (#47262329)

I think the GP is confused about the meaning of the term "rare earths". The only rare earth I'm aware of that is used for batteries is lanthanum, which is used in NiMH batteries, which are not being installed into Tesla vehicles.

Re:Sustainability (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 4 months ago | (#47262221)

Most (if not all) solar panels depend on other rare earth materials that may be in short supply tho.

Please be so kind to list rare earths necessary for manufacturing silicon PV cells. I'm really not aware of any.

Re:Sustainability (2)

iggymanz (596061) | about 4 months ago | (#47262407)

none of the doping materials in common use for these high efficiency cells are really "rare" either. Indium is probably the "rarest", and there is three times as much ore of that as silver on this planet. You'll see some sensationalist investor "doomsday" reports of exhausting Indium by 2017 or so, which are just rubbish disconnected from reality.

Re:Sustainability (1)

edxwelch (600979) | about 4 months ago | (#47262509)

I don't think there are any rare earth materials used in polysilicon cells. In fact, the solar city cells are cheaper to manufacture because they are using copper instead of (standard) silver electrodes

Re:Sustainability (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47261807)

I'm curious if panels produce more energy than it costs to make them. It does take a lot of energy to turn sand into semiconductor-grade silicon, dope it, etc.

I read a lot of people bashing solar because of this, but this seems to be a "ask three people, get four answers" type of question.

Re: Sustainability (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47262127)

Nope. Not even close.

Re:Sustainability (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 4 months ago | (#47262343)

I'm curious if panels produce more energy than it costs to make them.

Of course they do.

Re:Sustainability (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 4 months ago | (#47262719)

It only takes a moment of thought to conclude that anyone making the claim that solar panels are not energy-positive is an idiot or a shill:
Working backwards the key points are:
- buying a solar panel is cost effective in most climates: substantially more energy will be produced over it's lifetime than could be bought with the same amount of money, even without subsidies.
- solar panels are sold at above cost: manufacturing companies are not charities and will maintain a profit margin.
- manufacturers are paying for the energy to produce the panels, plus materials, labor, and rent.

Therefore the combination of materials, labor, rent and energy required to produce and deliver a solar panel must cost substantially less than the lifetime energy production of the solar panel.

It's not the materials, per se (2)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 4 months ago | (#47261881)

The sustainability of solar panels is tied to the end-user cost per kWh. Here's how I see it: every dollar spent at the consumer end is a dollar in non-renewable energy cost. Why? Every material in this world is free. What is not free is the energy it takes to extract, refine, and manufacture. And no matter how you slice it, that dollar is going to end up in energy - as fuel for an agricultural tractor, or as fuel to smelt ore, or as fuel to drive a boring machine to extract materials, or as fuel to power a ship, a plane, or a truck to deliver your raw and processed goods. Even the money you pay to Musk will get burned in jet fuel for his plane or yacht, or in his employees cars to get to work - even the ones who drive Teslas who recharge using oil, gas, or coal fired plants (which is the majority).

So look at your MSRP, and divide it through by the life of the panel and the average output. Until we break about 12c/watt we're just "storing" fossil fuel energy in batteries which only work when the sun is shining. It is getting closer. Right now a typical installation (complete, by a contractor, not DIY) is $7/watt for residential, and sunny places like LA get 5-5.5 hours/day, or 1800-1900h/year, with most panels warrantied for 20 years. That's 37000Wh life per panel watt, or 37kWh. At 8c/kWh, that $7 panel is worth $4.50 in energy. (note that the panel costs are down to the $2-3/W range, so they're positive on the panels, but negative on the system). That's not break even on small installed systems, but large systems are getting efficiencies greater than their cost to built. Hopefully it will trickle down, and more solar power will be used to assist manufacturing, which will tilt the balance in favor of solar even more.

Re:It's not the materials, per se (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47262007)

Yea, because time, capital investment, and manual labor are free except for the cost of energy. <\sarcasm >

Why not just drop your pseudo-economic theory about energy costs and just go with the plain old dollars that you end up with in your analysis.

Re:It's not the materials, per se (4, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 4 months ago | (#47262027)

The sustainability of solar panels is tied to the end-user cost per kWh.

Unfortunately, it has to compete with forms of power for which sustainability is not even being considered, obviously namely coal and oil. As long as the cost of cleaning up the pollution of using "traditional" energy-generating sources is handwaved away, solar's gonna have a bad time.

Re:It's not the materials, per se (1)

bobbied (2522392) | about 4 months ago | (#47262483)

Handwaved away? On that issue I disagree with you. Such costs are routinely considered when a company goes though the decision cycle of "should we build a new plant?" They'd be stupid not to consider, "how much will it cost to clean up the mess?" in today's day and age where the EPA can come in and pretty much regulate you out of business for messing things up.

Right now, if one considers the TCO of solar, they come up way short of other options. Environmentally they fail too, but you have to open up your aperture to the total life cycle of the system to be totally fair. Most of the environmentalists don't like to do that.

Re:It's not the materials, per se (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 4 months ago | (#47262607)

Right now, if one considers the TCO of solar, they come up way short of other options. Environmentally they fail too, but you have to open up your aperture to the total life cycle of the system to be totally fair.

All current-production solar panels are highly recyclable and they are being made of decreasing quantities of ever more common and less polluting materials. The hardware that ties the system together is more reliable and lighter than ever. I'm going to go ahead and say [citation needed] on this one.

Re:It's not the materials, per se (4, Insightful)

necro81 (917438) | about 4 months ago | (#47262165)

Right now a typical installation (complete, by a contractor, not DIY) is $7/watt for residential, and sunny places like LA get 5-5.5 hours/day, or 1800-1900h/year, with most panels warrantied for 20 years. That's 37000Wh life per panel watt, or 37kWh

you need to refresh your dimensional analysis, because you are missing a term or two. 1800-1900h/year * 20 years = 37000 hours of productive life per panel, not 37000 watt-hours of total output. If the total lifetime output of a solar panel over 20 years was a measly 37 kWh (roughly the daily energy consumption of a home in the United States) no one would buy them.

What's missing in your analysis is the power output of the panel during those daylit hours. For the 5 hours of peak generation during the day, you could expect about 200 W for a "standard" panel. (You'll get not-insignificant power generation during all daylight hours, but we'll focus on peak generation for now.) That brings the lifetime output to something like 7.4 MWh, which at wholesale (not residential customer) electrical rates of $50/MWh equates to $370 worth of electricity. Even taking net present value into consideration, the energy cost breakeven for manufacturing solar cells is measured in years, if not months.

Solar panels are not merely an energy storage device that captures conventional energy sources during their manufacture, only to trickle that energy out with sunshine. They are a net energy producer many times over. With (currently impractical, not-at-scale) methods for storing and buffering the power, it is feasible to power the entire PV manufacturing and installation pipeline entirely with solar power.

Re:It's not the materials, per se (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47262349)

I don't intend to be rude (so no [citation needed] replies), but is there a place or a source that one can reference this?

I keep hearing that solar panels are not energy effective due to the cost of manufacture, and it would be nice to reply to the detractors some figures to combat this.

Re:It's not the materials, per se (1)

necro81 (917438) | about 4 months ago | (#47262753)

There are a number of studies that have examined the life cycle energy costs for photovoltaic panels. Start with this [google.com] and go from there. Some numbers I've seen (like this [bnl.gov] ) indicate the energy payback for monocrystalline PV modules is around two years; less for other technologies. Those numbers are from 2011, so I suspect that with increased manufacturing volume the numbers are even more favorable today.

A different argument that could be made comes down to basic economics. If solar panels took substantially more energy to manufacture than they produce over their lifespan, it would be reflected in their price. As the GP argued, albeit poorly, one can look at the price for a commodity and get from it a rough sense of the energy investment that it embodies. The wholesale price of PV modules is $1-2 per W of capacity, which one could argue represents tens of kWh of energy input. Even if there are externalities not captured in the price, and the total energy cost was hundreds of kWh per panel, that's still one or two orders of magnitude lower than the total lifetime output of the same panel.

Re:It's not the materials, per se (2)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 4 months ago | (#47262411)

The sustainability of solar panels is tied to the end-user cost per kWh. Here's how I see it: every dollar spent at the consumer end is a dollar in non-renewable energy cost. Why? Every material in this world is free. What is not free is the energy it takes to extract, refine, and manufacture.

You're completely omitting labor costs. Your calculation would make somewhat more sense in a fully robotic economy, which we don't have. Not to mention that given how a solar panel generates much more energy in its lifetime than what is necessary to produce it, by your logic, the problem really is that we don't have nearly enough solar panels manufacturing themselves (or, generating energy to power the manufacturing process for their own replacements, and then some). So you're arguing in favor of more solar panels, not against it.

Re:It's not the materials, per se (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47262651)

You and several others seem to miss the fact that labor costs are part of the energy to extract, refine and manufacture.

Re:It's not the materials, per se (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47262565)

Typical installed costs aren't anywhere near $7/W unless you are getting completely ripped off.

Complete systems w/o install costs are under $2/W and if you can't find someone to do an install for well under $2/W you aren't looking very hard. It takes about 60 man hours to do a complete 10kW install with 40 panels including all electrical work (6 people, 10 hours). At $50/hr that is $3k, add another $1k for permitting, etc. Everything above that is gravy to the installers. Even a high end system with Silevo panels and power optimizers at each panel will be just over $2/W for the complete system. If your installer wants $5/W to install ($50k for a 10kW system) then you got conned.

Re:It's not the materials, per se (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47262693)

Cut your price to $3/W installed, use a more realistic number for power costs in California (8 cents/kWh, REALLY????), the LOWEST ConEd tier in CA is15 cents and the highest is 32 cents) and suddenly you have a $3 panel producing $9++ in energy over 20 years. At the end of the 20 years the panels may no longer be warranted or producing at full rates but they are likely still producing at 80% or higher of their original rate. Throw in 20 years of rate increases and the math gets even better.

Even saying "panel costs are down to the $2-3W range" is absurd, the Silevo 290W panels mentioned in the article are well under $1.5/W delivered. Complete systems using the Silevo 290W panels are $2.15/W and run of the mill Chinese panels are under $1/W.

Throw in 30% federal subsidies and the the residential homeowner in a sunny climate like parts of California can see a payback in 3-5 years. Many CA homeowners are on Edison rates that hit them for over 25cents/kWh for their peak tier usage (28 cents for tier 3, 32 cents for tier 4). A system sized to replace that top tier usage costs $2/W ($3 - 30% tax credit) and produces 50+ cents of power per year. That's a 4 year pay back.

For do-it-yourself systems, you can get numbers of under $2/W installed, $1.50/W after federal tax credits. That's a 3 year pay back in CA.

Why Silevo didn't aim to be biggest? (2, Interesting)

paziek (1329929) | about 4 months ago | (#47261567)

Why Silevo didn't aim to be biggest? If their panels are so good and cheap, then why not just keep selling them? Why sell company that is making profit and will most likely grow? Fast cash grab, or those panels aren't so special after all? And why not just use some cheap 16% China panels in higher volume? Sure there is limited real estate on house for panels, so you might not get all your need covered by solar, but with unstable weather you wouldn't anyway.

Re:Why Silevo didn't aim to be biggest? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47261571)

Well, Elon can cash a lot and accelerate the growth of Silevo.

Re:Why Silevo didn't aim to be biggest? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47261605)

Because the CEO got a money thrown in his face and saw a long vacation.

Re:Why Silevo didn't aim to be biggest? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47261647)

Why Silevo didn't aim to be biggest? If their panels are so good and cheap, then why not just keep selling them? Why sell company that is making profit and will most likely grow? Fast cash grab, or those panels aren't so special after all?

Perhaps the original owners of Silevo like the challenge of doing something new, and are bored with the "monotony" of an established business? Perhaps they like being researchers/discovers more than they like being businessmen? Perhaps the founders are getting older and have been working for decades and now want to spend time with the grandkids?

Perhaps who the fuck cares?

And why not just use some cheap 16% China panels in higher volume?

Why get an engine that can get 40 mpg when there are plenty that can get 20 mpg? (Answer: I'm sure there are number of people that will choose each one according to their needs.)

Higher capacity for smaller roofs (4, Interesting)

crow (16139) | about 4 months ago | (#47261665)

For many people, the limit on the size of their solar array is the size of their roof. If you want to offset your full usage, you may need higher-capacity panels than the standard 250W base panels. There are a number of higher-efficiency panels available, but the cost per Watt is higher. They probably don't cost much more to manufacture, so the more efficient panels have a higher profit margin.

Also, you have to keep improving your technology or you're out of the business when the cheap panels get to be as efficient than what you're producing.

Re:Higher capacity for smaller roofs (4, Interesting)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 4 months ago | (#47261751)

For many people, the limit on the size of their solar array is the size of their roof.

If you have an unobstructed, south sloping roof, it is likely you can offset all of your electricity needs with standard panels. I looked into this last year, and we needed panels on less than half of our roof. However, we decided against it because it was far more cost effective to invest in cheap LED light bulbs ($2 each on eBay) and attic insulation. That pushed all of our electricity consumption into the lowest billing tier, and the solar panels no longer made financial sense.

Re:Higher capacity for smaller roofs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47262513)

Florida here. Panels over about 2/3 of my roof, invested in LED bulbs and attic insulation. Effectively $0 power bill last 4 months (generated more energy than used).

Panels were heavily subsidized by Government and power company (60% of total cost).
Appears to have about a 9% year-over year rate of return (which makes financial sense, but just barely).

If you told me that I could invest in a bond that would more-or-less guarantee ill-liquid 9% return rates, I would do so immediately, but I would not do the same for a 6% return rate.

Contact Keith.RoomForRent@gmail.com for more information.

Re:Higher capacity for smaller roofs (2)

bobbied (2522392) | about 4 months ago | (#47262537)

"the lay of the land today, where there are indeed too many suppliers, most of whom are producing relatively low photonic efficiency solar cells at uncompelling costs" (Quote from http://blog.solarcity.com/sile... [solarcity.com] )

You have indeed discovered the unvarnished truth, solar is not viable in terms of cost and this is unlikely to change anytime soon. Conservation is usually the best bang for the buck, but even that has it's limits.

Re:Why Silevo didn't aim to be biggest? (4, Informative)

Jaime2 (824950) | about 4 months ago | (#47261909)

They didn't have enough cash. The reason they are building the plant in Buffalo is because New York State as paying for most of the up front capital. Before Musk, they had to find creative ways to grow the company and were likely to get trampled in the market by a competitor with the money to make market moves that Silevo couldn't afford to do. With Musk behind them, they can grow at whatever pace they can convince Musk they can be profitable at.

Re:Why Silevo didn't aim to be biggest? (1)

CaptainLard (1902452) | about 4 months ago | (#47262577)

If this goes through, another positive side effect of the plant being in NY is that the percentage of electricity generated by coal in north east is among the lowest in the nation. Every now and then I hear the false rumor that solar panels take more energy to generate than they produce. The industry is already energy neutral and all those panels that were produced during the rapid industry growth still have 20-30 years of free energy collection to pay back their debt. It will be a huge win for CO2 reduction if the biggest solar panel factory in the world is powered mainly by nuclear and renewable energy.

Re:Why Silevo didn't aim to be biggest? (4, Informative)

sribe (304414) | about 4 months ago | (#47262143)

Why Silevo didn't aim to be biggest?

Legitimate question, to which the summary provides no clue as to the likely answer.

Solar City is not just a manufacturer, they are also, in a sense, a distributed alternative utility. They do not sell panels to homeowners. Instead, they install solar systems on homes and sell the electricity produced to the homeowner. The advantage is that the homeowner has $0 upfront costs, and is guaranteed a specified level of savings over their current utility prices. So it's a much easier sell, since homeowners don't have to apply for a loan, cough up a down payment, make monthly payments and so on.

This model has been very successful at brining in sales, and Musk has been pretty successful at raising the enormous amounts of capital required to scale this model. (Solar City fronts the whole cost of installation, then earns that + profit back over a pretty long period of time.) It would be a heck of a challenge for a manufacturer of panels to go out and build the kind of business that Solar City has built.

Re: Why Silevo didn't aim to be biggest? (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 4 months ago | (#47262403)

Because you can not compete with a nation that subsidizes and dumps on foreign market as well as manipulates money. With this approach, they have a market right away. In fact, solar city is ready to expand their operation all over america.

OMG with orders of magnitude capacity? (1)

fredrated (639554) | about 4 months ago | (#47261583)

Is that even possible?

Re:OMG with orders of magnitude capacity? (2)

queazocotal (915608) | about 4 months ago | (#47261631)

Well - one - sure.
The largest players in the market are at the moment shipping a gigawatt a quarter or so.
Ten gigawatts a year would make them the largest in the world by a comfortable margin.
And likely depress the price to well below $.50/W.
If they can get the price well under this - say $.25/W - then solar becomes economic in a lot
more places.
At that price, I'm buying 6kW or so.
At $.25/W, that is a price of $50/m^2.
This is in the range where it's sort-of-comparable with other roof claddings.

Re:OMG with orders of magnitude capacity? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47261653)

I don't see why you couldn't build a second factory with a capacity of 10 gigawatt / year after you build a first one with a 1 gigawatt / year capacity.
The pilot factory would be used to learn how to properly control quality and increase throughput.
Taking it step by step is only natural.

At my previous employer we introuced new products in a small factory close to the design teams and then pushed it to bigger factories once the initial problems were taken care of.

Not more solar energy!! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47261585)

Who needs the sun? It's the worst source of power there is, only available during the day. What are you going to do at night? Ride a bicycle?

Re:Not more solar energy!! (4, Insightful)

OneSmartFellow (716217) | about 4 months ago | (#47261635)

The sun is the BEST source of power there is. It powers all life on this planet.

The problem is not the power source, it's how to store it. Plants do that pretty well, our problem is we're inneficient at extracting that power to produce electricty.

Luckily we're highly efficient at extracting it to produce body heat.

Not more solar energy!! (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47261659)

you may have night but the World +12 hours has day.

Re:Not more solar energy!! (1)

oodaloop (1229816) | about 4 months ago | (#47261671)

I don't know, battteries? FSM knows I need a lot of power at night when all my lights are off and I'm sleeping.

Not more solar energy!! (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47261707)

" It's the worst source of power there is"

Funny, virtually all energy sources are based on it. Wind energy is simply temperature differentials in the atmosphere created by the sun, hydroelectric is only possible because the sun heated oceans evaporate and the resulting rainfall can be harnessed, even fossil fuels are the remnants of ancient plants (which use sunlight) compressed into a energy source over millions of years by heat & pressure. The only thing we need to make it a viable energy sources is come up with a cheap, high density storage medium and refine our ways of capturing it (solar panels of course have issues). At a minimum solar thermal use should be expanded (hot water preheating, supplemental furnace, industrial, etc)

Re:Not more solar energy!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47262381)

Ok, fess up, who missed the sarcasm?

Re:Not more solar energy!! (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about 4 months ago | (#47262687)

The 4 posters above you.

(plus one Informati+ve) (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47261601)

I'm confused (1)

OneSmartFellow (716217) | about 4 months ago | (#47261611)

10 cents per watt is saved for every point of efficiency gained

What does that mean ?


My electricity cost of approx. € 0.25 / kwh

How do I save 10 cents per watt ? Or are they talking about the re-purchase price of the panel ?

Re:I'm confused (5, Informative)

jonnythan (79727) | about 4 months ago | (#47261641)

They're talking about purchase and installation:

"Because less modules are needed for the same power output, less land, labor, mounting structures, wiring and support racks are also required, saving an estimate of 10 cents a watt for every point of efficiency gained."

So if you're installing 4000 watts worth of panel, using 23% efficiency panels costs $400 less to purchase and install than 22% efficiency panels.

Engineering win (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47261621)

Once I heard that solar panels output more energy in their service lifespan than it takes to manufacture them. Is that true? Then there is no reason to not make as many as possible. It's an epic win on the engineering/physical science level.

Re:Engineering win (1)

dak664 (1992350) | about 4 months ago | (#47261817)

Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROEI) of PV can be 3-4 in favorable cases but the rate of return is also important if you want to multiply the resource. If energy parity for the first panel takes 5 years then its output could produce a second panel in another 5 years. So for 10 years you get no net energy, after which you can tap some of the output for other uses while still continuing to add panels at an accelerating rate. Doesn't matter if you start with 10 or 10 billion, there is still no net energy for 10 years. Starting with a large number could cause energy shortages and social unrest which could end the sustainable growth entirely.

Yes, we should have started 20 years ago.

Re:Engineering win (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 4 months ago | (#47262011)

Yes, we should have started 20 years ago.

You mistyped "30". PV panels could bay back their energy investment in seven years in the seventies.

Re:Engineering win (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47262035)

Actually, in your example, unless the panel dies in 10 years, you get net energy output after 5 years.

Re:Engineering win (4, Insightful)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about 4 months ago | (#47261999)

Once I heard that solar panels output more energy in their service lifespan than it takes to manufacture them. Is that true?

For all solar panels except those used on satellites, yes.

Then there is no reason to not make as many as possible. It's an epic win on the engineering/physical science level.

It would not be an epic win for our monied overlords so it's not so straightforward.

Re:Engineering win (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47262763)

It would not be an epic win for our monied overlords so it's not so straightforward.
 
Yeah, because the 141st richest person on the planet (according to Forbes) is doing this for charity.

The man has vision (5, Interesting)

Jheralack (1067056) | about 4 months ago | (#47261623)

Musk really has the vision and guts to push us in these areas that have languished for years (private space travel, electric cars, and now domestic electric power generation), and seems to be making them working concerns. If he gets even one past the tipping point, it's a lifelong career's worth of accomplishment. He may get the hat trick! Maybe we should pay attention to his alternative to the California high speed rail project...

Re:The man has vision (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47261915)

Yeah, it must be nice to have billions and decide that the world is your sandbox to live out as much of your Star Trek fantasies that you can. Given that and my admiration for Musk actually doing what some others only talk about, most of the stuff he's doing isn't revolutionary. Space X is the one thing I think he'll be remembered for in the long run. The rest of it is the right market at the right time.

Re:The man has vision (2)

amiga3D (567632) | about 4 months ago | (#47262703)

Nice to see a billionaire that actually has interests in using his money to build things instead of just buy things.

Re:The man has vision (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47262355)

Vision indeed. Solar City doesn't actually sell you the solar panels you put on your roof, just the electricity they generate.

Re:The man has vision (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47262443)

One has to wonder if he has somehow engineered the whole Ukraine/Russia and/or ISIL to make solar viable to investors!

Re:The man has vision (5, Interesting)

NatasRevol (731260) | about 4 months ago | (#47262785)

He's like an actual, decent version of an Ayn Rand book.

Not again... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47261645)

"one gigawatt per year", really?

Re:Not again... (1)

Fishbone (115047) | about 4 months ago | (#47261687)

It's actually more along the lines of 1.21 gigawatts.

Re:Not again... (1)

jittles (1613415) | about 4 months ago | (#47262319)

It's actually more along the lines of 1.21 gigawatts.

Jumping jigawatts Marty!

Re:Not again... (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 4 months ago | (#47261717)

Actually, the linked article says one gigawatt of panels over the first couple of years....

with an order of magnitude more to follow.

Nonetheless, Musk is a stock, and I'm buying.

Not again... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47261759)

The total quantity of solar cells produced in a year can produce 1 gigawatt at its peak efficiency. Is that more clear?

Re:Not again... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47262527)

Definitely more clear, I actually read that part too quickly, and figured it was the usual mistreatment of units that we are so familiar with; but in this context "1 GW / year" makes perfect sense.

um (3, Funny)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 4 months ago | (#47261783)

Haven't we all watched enough James Bond and Super Man films to know that Elon Musks true goal is to build a Giant Robot and/or Start WW3?

Upstate New York? Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47261887)

How will he ever comply with all of the onerous regulations that NY has for manufacturing facilities? Let's not even mention the hassle of dealing with unions..

Re:Upstate New York? Really? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47262283)

Feed all the regulatory paperwork into the generator furnace and the regulatory process becomes energy-positive.

Re:Upstate New York? Really? (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about 4 months ago | (#47262799)

Don't worry, Next plant he'll build will most likely be in the southwest somewhere.

Build the plants on blue states. (0)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 4 months ago | (#47261899)

Please please please, pretty please with a bow around it, do not build these plants in states voting for legislators who are hostile to climate science, hostile to green technology, hostile to EPA.

Re:Build the plants on blue states. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47262029)

Leave it to an asshat to wrap something like this up in politics. SMDH.
 
I guess I can't expect better from someone who wears their prejudices on their sleeve.

Re:Build the plants on blue states. (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 4 months ago | (#47262049)

You know electricity is among those things in the category of "incredibly easily moved across state lines after production". Building the station in California won't keep it from supplying Arizona and vice versa.

Build the stations where pragmatism dictates.

Re:Build the plants on blue states. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47262075)

Surely the thing to do is build them in those states. Give the naysayers a reason to be invested in the success and growth of such technologies. At the moment they can just ignore them if developed, built and sold elsewhere.

Granted, jobs in the plants won't be rewarding those who support the technologies, but that's not what it's about. Are the environmentally sympathetic likely to not use the technology out of spite if built elsewhere, as opposed to increased likelihood of 'turning' the naysayers?

Re:Build the plants on blue states. (1)

Jeremi (14640) | about 4 months ago | (#47262679)

Please please please, pretty please with a bow around it, do not build these plants in states voting for legislators who are hostile to climate science, hostile to green technology, hostile to EPA.

Alternatively, please please do build these plants in those states. Most of those legislators are hostile to renewable energy because their constituents (and backers) are from the fossil-fuel industry. If/when their constituents' livelihoods and/or campaign funds start coming from the solar power industry instead, that will likely 'evolve' their thinking more quickly than anything else.

Solar still not cost effective (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47261923)

Home solar installations are still not very cost effective. I installed one at home anyway because I thought it would be a neat thing to play with, but the payback estimates the vendor and government used to sell me on it were vastly aggressive, claiming a 3-5 year payback. So far it has been nearly 10 years and I've not yet made back 20% of the installation cost.

In any case, solar might become more viable as we move away from coal, which the EPA seems to want to force sooner rather than later.

I also question the "environmentalism" of solar given how utterly dirty and toxic the processes are for making the cells themselves.

Re:Solar still not cost effective (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47262285)

*this post bought to you by Anonymous Coal industry shill

Re:Solar still not cost effective (1)

OneSmartFellow (716217) | about 4 months ago | (#47262487)

Note: Poster lives in Newfoundland, and paid for gold plated connectors.

Re:Solar still not cost effective (1)

amiga3D (567632) | about 4 months ago | (#47262767)

20% in 10 years? I'm a little skeptical about a lot of the claims for solar payback but this sounds a little low even to me. Most of what I've researched puts full payback at 8-10 years minus government incentives. I think with the attacks on coal resulting in higher prices it may move down to 5 year payback as energy prices go up. I think improvements in the next decade may make solar take off at long last.

Re:Solar still not cost effective (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about 4 months ago | (#47262819)

You can always move to China is you don't like moving away from coal, or its byproducts.

Gigawatt Per Year?? (1)

andy16666 (1592393) | about 4 months ago | (#47261963)

I know it's in the original article, but one gigawatt per year??? Someone doesn't understand energy. That's a rate of growth of capacity, not a capacity. I'm guessing what was intended was "one gigawatt hour per year" which is a measure of energy produced in one year. Divide by the number of hours in a year and you have the average power output.

Re:Gigawatt Per Year?? (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 4 months ago | (#47262061)

No, I think the interpretation that gives you pause is the correct one. Growth of capacity is exactly what a solar manufacturer would be interested in.

Re:Gigawatt Per Year?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47262135)

I read that as the factory's production capacity: as many solar cells you need for a cumulated nominal capacity of 1MW per year.

Re:Gigawatt Per Year?? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47262463)

He wants to produce 1GW of solar panels. If one solar panel is rated at 250W he wants to produce 4 million panels in a year.

How much energy each panel actually produces over a year depends on where and how they are installed. If you are in a very sunny climate like Phoenix you might get 375kWh out of each south facing installed 250W panel. If all 4 million panels were installed in a similar location they could generate 1500 GWh of power per year.

Re:Gigawatt Per Year?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47262699)

No. Elon is saying that the factory will built panels with a peak capacity of 1GW each year.

In 2013 the world creates 38GW of new photovoltaic peak power.
PV is growing exponentially. Elon targets 500GW per year soon to avoid any problem with the subtitution of fossil energy. We need to create 13x faster to avoid problems.
Although we create 20% growing of PV per year. At this rate, we will create 500GW per year in a decade plus some more years.
If we have reached the peak oil, we would need a faster deployment.

Daily Musk blowjob (-1, Flamebait)

Gothmolly (148874) | about 4 months ago | (#47262193)

Looks like it's time for the daily fellating of Elon Musk by Slashdot.

Re:Daily Musk blowjob (1)

iggymanz (596061) | about 4 months ago | (#47262357)

well deserved if the efficiency is even 20 percent; however if not then yes it's just a free hummer

Re:Daily Musk blowjob (1)

amiga3D (567632) | about 4 months ago | (#47262777)

Everyone loves a rich visionary. Well, maybe not everyone.

Where's the new ROI calculator? (1)

RogueWarrior65 (678876) | about 4 months ago | (#47262573)

I've played around with a few ROI calculators and thus far it appears that I wouldn't break even for 17 years. That's a pretty lousy return on investment particularly if the cells only have a 20 year life. And the performance degrades over time. These calculators don't seem to take that into account.

Sandia report (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47262735)

The above story references a 2006 Sandia world energy report.
    http://www.sandia.gov/~jytsao/Solar%20FAQs.pdf

FAQ 15 says 10.6% of the world's energy came from photosynthesis,
    but only 1.4% was sustainable.

Does that say 9.2% of the worlds energy comes from clear cutting forests?
      That would seem a LOT worse than burning coal.

Hopefully, their threshold for 'sustainable' is too high.
    But it seems like instituting sustainable agriculture might be a useful tool here.

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