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Canada to Build 40MW Solar Power Plant

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the thinking-big dept.

Power 402

IceDiver writes "According to an article in the Toronto Star, an Ontario company has been given approval to build a 40MW solar power plant near Sarnia in Southwestern Ontario. This is enough power for about 10,000 homes. The plant will cover 365 hectares (1.4 sq. miles) and is to be operational by 2010. OptiSolar, the company building the plant, claims to have developed a way to mass produce the solar panels at a dramatically reduced cost, making the plant competitive with other forms of power generation. 'Compared to coal, nuclear power, even wind, solar's squeaky-clean image comes at a high price. OptiSolar is selling the electricity to the province under its new standard offer program, which pays a premium for electricity that comes from small-scale renewable projects. In the case of wind, it's 11 cents per kilowatt-hour. Solar fetches 42 cents per kilowatt hour, nearly four times as much.'"

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and coal? (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18916899)

6 cents.

or evertything else... (3, Insightful)

C10H14N2 (640033) | more than 7 years ago | (#18916943)

If I converted to this, it would ramp my annual bill from $480 to $3200. Since we haven't had a significant nuclear accident since the Carter administration, which even then affected roughly NO ONE, I'll stick with my current supplier, thanks.

Re:or evertything else... (5, Informative)

Yaztromo (655250) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917041)

If I converted to this, it would ramp my annual bill from $480 to $3200.

No misunderstand the program. It isn't end-consumers who pay the $0.42/KWh, its the Province of Ontario, through the Ontario Power Authority. It simple gets pumped into the grid, and the consumers continue to pay the standard rate. The contract with the Province is good for 20 years.

The idea is to spur development of renewable energy sources, while fossil fuel based plants are taken offline. It's a pretty sweet deal for the microgenerators (the program is only open to projects that generate a maximum of 10MW at a voltage of 50kV or less).

Note that during peak periods, an extra 3.52/KWh is paid out, and the contract is indexed to inflation. And anyone in Ontario can apply to have their renewable resource microgenerator included in the program simply by filling out an online form.

IMO, this is an excellent program. Ontario has been rebuilding nuclear capacity, has a lot of hydroelectric generation, and has been taking fossil fuel based plants offline (slowly). My family has some holiday property in central Ontario that goes unused for much of the year, and I've long thought that we should invest in some solar panels and a small wind turbine hooked into the power grid to generate some revenue. A program like this could very well make it worth it in the long run. Every such project, no matter how small, is that much less reliance needed on a fossil fuel-based plant somewhere.

Yaz.

Re:or everything else... (4, Informative)

Yaztromo (655250) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917059)

Oops -- I forgot the URL to the programs website, for the interested:

http://www.powerauthority.on.ca/sop/ [powerauthority.on.ca]

Yaz.

Re:or evertything else... (-1, Troll)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917157)

"It isn't end-consumers who pay the $0.42/KWh, its the Province of Ontario"

like every greenie i've ever met, your lack of understanding of even basic economics is woeful. where the hell do you think the province gets it's money from dim wit??? CONSUMERS/TAX PAYERS.

and last i heard, the production of the solar panels is more toxic then just burning the same amount of coal. i hate this kind of feel good crap. do something REAL for the environment, not this fake shit.

Re:or evertything else... (3, Informative)

Yaztromo (655250) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917215)

like every greenie i've ever met, your lack of understanding of even basic economics is woeful. where the hell do you think the province gets it's money from dim wit??? CONSUMERS/TAX PAYERS. and last i heard, the production of the solar panels is more toxic then just burning the same amount of coal. i hate this kind of feel good crap. do something REAL for the environment, not this fake shit.

I'm not a "greenie". I can, however, use proper capitalization, grammar, and spelling.

You have to realize that in Ontario many of the existing large-scale power stations are slated to be shutdown within the next 20 years anyhow. Where do you think the capital construction costs for new and/or retrofitted plants is going to come from? Those exact same taxpayers. Who pays for the environmental consequences? Those exact same taxpayers. Who pays for the extra healthcare costs associated with the pollution the existing coal fired plants spew into the atmosphere? Those exact same taxpayers.

The Province specifically capped this program to smaller installations. Capital infrastructure costs money, but once installed will provide benefits for many years to come (and should for significantly longer than then 20 year contract period). The taxpayers are going to wind up paying for this new infrastructure in one way or another -- an incentive like this to create new jobs, new power generation, with the side benefits of a cleaner environment and lessened health care costs (remember, health care in Canada is paid for by the Province), and it's an all-around winning scenario.

I think it is you that needs a lesson in economics. A few lessons in English and typing wouldn't hurt either while you're at it.

Yaz.

Re:or evertything else... (2, Interesting)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917793)

Where do you think the capital construction costs for new and/or retrofitted plants is going to come from? Those exact same taxpayers.

I'd tend to think that the taxpayers would rather pay to replace the plants with cheaper and more effective alternatives. For example, while this has a construction cost of $8 watt, with a power factor* likely between 30-40%

*Basically what percentage of the plant's rated capacity it actually averages. A 40MW plant with a power factor of 40% would actually average 16MW. A 1,000MW plant with a load factor of 90% would produce 900MW on average. It's what tends to really kill solar and wind, as solar can't break 50%, and wind only breaks 50% in some very rare locations.

Re:or evertything else... (1)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917801)

My post-fu is weak today...

I'd tend to think that the taxpayers would rather pay to replace the plants with cheaper and more effective alternatives. For example, while this has a construction cost of $8 watt, with a power factor* likely between 30-40%

continuation:
nuclear power has contstruction costs of between $2-4/watt, and a factor around 90%, making it around twice as efficient per watt as solar. Fuel costs are actually considered trivial, and containing nuclear waste, while expensive, there actually isn't that much of it.

Re:or evertything else... (1)

minorproblem (891991) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917607)

Im pretty sure canada uses spot pricing for electricity, so the generators sell their electricity into the grid, at a spot price with available loads updated every 5 mins. Then power retails buy up the power etc think of it like a big stockmarket.

Re:or evertything else... (1)

Yaztromo (655250) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917673)

Im pretty sure canada uses spot pricing for electricity, so the generators sell their electricity into the grid, at a spot price with available loads updated every 5 mins. Then power retails buy up the power etc think of it like a big stockmarket.

Not quite true. Power is a Provincial jurisdiction, so it varies from Province to Province. Ontario has a system like this, but the Standard Offer Program for Small Electricity Generators bypasses this system, as it appears that they buy the power from the microgenerator operators, and then sell it at the spot price.

That's how I understand this to work at least. Other Provincial Governments simply own all of the power generation and transmission (that least for whatever they generate themselves, and don't import from other jurisdictions).

Yaz.

Re:or evertything else... (2, Insightful)

LynnwoodRooster (966895) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917549)

No misunderstand the program. It isn't end-consumers who pay the $0.42/KWh, its the Province of Ontario, through the Ontario Power Authority. It simple gets pumped into the grid, and the consumers continue to pay the standard rate. The contract with the Province is good for 20 years.

Glad to hear that the Province of Ontario no longer has ANY taxation of its citizens! Wonderful news - I'll move there immediately!

Oh wait, they still have to tax the population to pay for things like health, education, roads, power subsidies?

Somewhere this solar power plant is getting its $0.42/kWh, and if it's coming from the government, it's coming from your taxes. Essentially your tax dollars are funding this private company - you're paying $0.42/kWh minimum, whether it shows on your power bill or not.

I'd rather have the company directly bill me $0.42/kWh rather than the government collect it via taxes, because at least there isn't the typical middle-man/government-overhead charge tacked on, raising the actual cost even higher (probably closer to $0.50/kWh if the Province runs like most large governments).

Re:or evertything else... (4, Informative)

Yaztromo (655250) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917625)

Glad to hear that the Province of Ontario no longer has ANY taxation of its citizens! Wonderful news - I'll move there immediately!

Oh wait, they still have to tax the population to pay for things like health, education, roads, power subsidies?

Somewhere this solar power plant is getting its $0.42/kWh, and if it's coming from the government, it's coming from your taxes. Essentially your tax dollars are funding this private company - you're paying $0.42/kWh minimum, whether it shows on your power bill or not.

A few points:

  • As you said, taxation pays for health care in Ontario. Not all that far from the area in question is the Nanticoke Power Plant -- the largest coal fired power plant in North America. Pollution from fossil fuel fired power plants causes thousands of deaths in Canada per year, primarily of the elderly, who have to be hospitalized for lengthy periods of time due to respiratory problems. Pollution from fossil-fuel plants is already costing taxpayers. Reducing pollution will (in time) net a tax savings for taxpayers.
  • Most of the large scale power plants in Ontario are ageing, and will be in need of replacement in the next 20 years. The Government has stated its intentions to close Nanticoke by 2009. If new generation capacity is going to be built anyhow, who do you think is going to pay for it anyhow? That's right -- taxpayers.
  • Projects like this one will create jobs, which is a net increase for the Province when it comes to overall tax collections.
  • As seen in the blackout of August 2003 [wikipedia.org] (and I was living in Ontario at the time, and remember it quite well), Ontario's electricity grid and system of lots of large, distant power plants makes failure really easy. One of the potential solutions to mitigate the effects from such things occurring again is to have a lot more regional microgeneration plants. Encouraging the creation of such facilities can lessen the effect on the economy and the lives of citizens if such an event happens again.

FWIW, I haven't lived in Ontario for a few years. I have family that still does, however. IMO, this seems like a pretty good investment on the part of the Province and on the part of taxpayers -- taxpayers get clean burning energy, pollution-related health care costs decrease, jobs are created, and with a bit of luck and ingenuity green power related industries move to Ontario due to its expended market. Sounds like a pretty good deal to the citizens of Ontario to me.

Investments cost money. Governments have been investing in fossil fuel based power plants for decades, through either direct ownership or subsidies. Hell, chances are very good that the power in whatever region you're living in is or has been subsidized by tax dollars. Why start bitching about it just because in this case it's a green technology subsidy

Yaz.

Re:or evertything else... (4, Interesting)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917873)

Nanticoke Power Plant is a 3.92GW plant with what appears to be a 70% load factor.

In other words, even a hundred of these plants, with a combined cost of $30 billion dollars, wouldn't be able to replace Nanticoke. Meanwhile 4 Gigawatt nuclear reactors would cost ~4-8 Billion dollars and eliminate the need for nanticoke, complete with around a 30% increase in available power.

Projects like this one will create jobs, which is a net increase for the Province when it comes to overall tax collections.

Projects like this make sense if they increase economic activity, but building any kind of new power plant would do the same, and cheap power would help attract more new business than expensive power. Being miserly is the best way to increase business in many ways - providing the most services for the dollar.

I agree with you on the idea of eliminating pollution, just on the how.

Why start bitching about it just because in this case it's a green technology subsidy

Because it costs around 8 times as much as other clean technology? And people complain about Haliburton*.

*Not because I like fraud, but I also dislike waste. Rather than using this to 'spur' development, they'd be better off investing half directly into solar development and the other half building a few new nuclear reactors.

Re:or evertything else... (1)

Yaztromo (655250) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917965)

Meanwhile 4 Gigawatt nuclear reactors would cost ~4-8 Billion dollars and eliminate the need for nanticoke, complete with around a 30% increase in available power.

For the record, I am not against nuclear power. Ontario has nuclear power facilities, and are apparently setting up to bring 4 new reactors online by 2018 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darlington_Nuclear_G enerating_Station [wikipedia.org] ).

Ontario is a big place, however, with 1.5 times the surface area of the state of Texas. This is a very large area to serve, and much of it has a low population density. At these sorts of distances, there is a lot of potential for line-loss if you just build a few really massive plants and try to serve everyone from them. And let's face it -- you can't really put together a nuclear microgeneration station to service remote communities.

I've never said that this plan alone is the solution to all of Ontario's future power needs. Big plants certainly have their place, and nuclear is my personal choice for such plants. This is why the Standard Offer Program is only for microgeneration facilities that use renewable energy sources. I don't see any reason why spurring investment in such plants where they make sense is a bad thing.

Yaz.

Re:or evertything else... (1)

Dasher42 (514179) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917143)

Like most things related to Big Oil and big car companies, you're being presented with an up-front cost for the renewable energy, and the subsidized costs you've paid for through your tax dollars. Our petroleum based economy is actually very costly, and it doesn't come down to dollars, but who wants to keep their hands on the tap.

This is good news. This is a sane source of electricity that will help solar power gain the momentum for an economy of scale.

Re:or evertything else... (1)

diederick (889764) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917555)

The main problem with nuclear energy is not the accidents, but the storage of the waste material, which remains extremely poisonous for a very long time. Maybe you didn't know that.

You strike me as the person who doesn't want to move away from oil because of environmental issues but because it's running out. Rather than spend more money on something that is sustainable, you would save your money for other things and go with cheap temporary solutions that will slowly destroy our environment. This I find very selfish. Nuclear energy is just as dangerous and finite as oil, if not more.

Instead of choosing between cheap or expensive solutions, you should just use less energy.

Re:or evertything else... (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917919)

Since we haven't had a significant nuclear accident since the Carter administration, which even then affected roughly NO ONE, I'll stick with my current supplier, thanks.

I don't mind nuclear myself, but I can't build a reactor in my back yard (well maybe, but I don't think my neighbors would like it)

With solar, I can put it in my back yard effectively offsetting my own power needs without paying anyone else in the process. Currently, it isn't cost effective to do so with the price of solar cells, but if they get to a point where they are more efficient and cheaper than their current forms, I'd slap a few on my roof in an instant.

Maybe in the far flung future I could use solar to produce my own hydrogen and gas my car.

That way... I would have complete control over my energy needs and would not have to deal with failures at the central level or price fluctuations.

Not to mention total darkness for half the year (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18916975)

Not to mention total darkness for half the year. canada is one cold, desolate wasteland.

Re:Not to mention total darkness for half the year (1, Offtopic)

FlyingSquidStudios (1031284) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917267)

Yes, Canada is just one big wasteland. Its people live in igloos and spend their time putting mayonnaise on the walruses they rely on for survival. The igloos are a perfect defense against flying hockey pucks which periodically soar across the Canadian landscape. Also, we can't trust their prescription drugs to be of the same quality as American drugs.

Re:and coal? (1)

Heembo (916647) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917241)

Coal is neither small-scale or a renewable project. RTFA.

Shame (3, Insightful)

mrshowtime (562809) | more than 7 years ago | (#18916901)

I was shopping for home improvement stuff today and I put my hand on a 8x3 huge sheet of granite and was amazed at how much energy and heat was in that relatively thin piece. It got me to thinking why there has never been a real push for solar energy technology. Yes, in the past it has been cost prohibitive, but I guess I am asking why there has never been a "nuclear" level push behind solar tech and why isn't there a real push now that we have the technology available? I mean, come on, it's free, endless* energy! :)

Re:Shame (4, Insightful)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 7 years ago | (#18916929)

Footprint.

Cheap, efficient, easily maintianable solar is not hard at all. All you need is mirrors, some slow electric motors, a working fluid, and a conventional turbine. Oh, and a lot of land not near NIMBYs, who for some reason will find a reason to be scared of everything.

Re:Shame (1)

chuckymonkey (1059244) | more than 7 years ago | (#18916951)

You know, I was actually considering making something like what you're talking about. It would be pretty easy to make. All you need is a computer to control the mirrors and keep maximum amount of focused light on the heat collector, some valved piping to flash steam water and drive the turbine then a cold water return line. Wouldn't do much for you in a rain storm or snow storm, but for the most part (especially where I live) it would be on many hours of the day.

Biggest Shame: Emotion Trumps Science (3, Informative)

reporter (666905) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917017)

Stanford University, UC Berkeley, and Georgetown University conducted an extensive study of the cost of nuclear power generation via current and future nuclear technologies [sciencedaily.com] . The conclusion is that the cost of nuclear power falls in the range: "3 cents per kilowatt hour to nearly 14 cents per kilowatt hour". That cost is much lower than the solar-cell power plant and, on average, is cheaper than wind power. Nuclear power is almost as "clean" as wind power.

Building a solar-panel power station is "cool", "neat", and "oh, so hip". However, it makes no economic sense. Solar power is about 3x the cost of the most expensive nuclear power.

Nuclear power is the way to go.

Re:Biggest Shame: Emotion Trumps Science (2, Insightful)

Yaotzin (827566) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917193)

Still, there's the little problem regarding nuclear waste. What the hell are we going to do with it?

Re:Biggest Shame: Emotion Trumps Science (0)

rbarreira (836272) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917209)

To build nuclear bombs for use in holy/anti-"terrorism" wars?

Re:Biggest Shame: Emotion Trumps Science (1)

ThePengwin (934031) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917503)

the US has hardly used any of the giant stockpile they have, let along any other country. do we REALLY need more?

Re:Biggest Shame: Emotion Trumps Science (1)

Broken scope (973885) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917309)

Self feeding cycle or some such. If no one ever stands to make a profit from the safe disposal/containment/reuse of nuclear waste and other irradiated materials, the problem of disposal will never be solved. If there is a significant need there will be some greedy sob will find a way to fill it and get filthy rich doing so.

Re:Biggest Shame: Emotion Trumps Science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18917245)

But without a new generation of reactors with a more complete fuel cycle or those that use thorium as fuel, the uranium will be converted to high level radioactive waste with only one one hundredth of it energy having been extracted, never mind the fraction actually converted to a electricity. Nuclear is nice, but is a stop gap, however effective and green a stop-gap it may be.

Wind, Tide, Geothermal, Solar, Fusion. These have a future. Or at least one that will out live my children's children.

Re:Biggest Shame: Emotion Trumps Science (5, Interesting)

mgv (198488) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917325)

Building a solar-panel power station is "cool", "neat", and "oh, so hip". However, it makes no economic sense. Solar power is about 3x the cost of the most expensive nuclear power.

Nuclear power is the way to go.


Ok, its not quite as simple as that.

Nuclear power by standard technology requires enrichment. Thats because they require a much higher percentage of U235 [wikipedia.org] in order to sustain a reaction than occurs naturally.

U235 is only 0.7% of uranium (as it has a half life about one tenth of U238 [wikipedia.org] ). You need 4% or more to do a conventional nuclear reactor.

Enrichment also means throwing away a lot of U238, which will never be used in a conventional reactor.

Now we can use U238 in a breeder reactor [wikipedia.org] (and Thorium, which converts to U233). But if you do that, its a whole different technology, and the costs [wikipedia.org] aren't as clear cut.

If you were to try and run the world on conventional reactors, the supply of uranium would last us 20 years or so. If you can use breeders, you will get maybe a 100 years (depends how much we use). If you add in thorium, several hundred years.

So the only price that is relevant is the breeder reactor price of electricity. Because there isn't enough U235 in the world to really get serious about using it this way.

Breeder reactor technology is real, we can do it. Its a bit more expensive, but will no doubt get cheaper with use. Guess what? So will solar power.

And, at the risk of being doom and gloom, guess which one will still be plentiful in the year 3000? There is a finite amount of fissile material on the planet. The sun should be good for about 500 million years or so, as opposed to 500 years.

I know that there are energy storage issues for baseload, but there are solutions such as solar towers [wikipedia.org] . And open battery [wikipedia.org] storage.

I'm not opposed to nuclear power, but in the longer run, its also a stop gap for solar energy (including wind & hydro as being solar in origin), geothermal and tidal energy. So that is where we need to spend the big dollars.

My 2c worth.

Michael

Re:Biggest Shame: Emotion Trumps Science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18917349)

Canada is probably well placed to implement nuclear power plants as it has a good supply of uranium.

Given a base level of nuclear generation of about the same as today, or a bit more, there are economically extractable supplies of uranium for about 100 years at that price (although does that price include plant creation and decomissioning costs?).

If the usage of nuclear power expands and supplies of uranium do not increase then there is the possibility that the fuel will not last 100 years (meaning decommissioning costs become a larger proportion of the generation costs, forcing them up) and that the cost of uranium increases rapidly (it has been doing so, but largely because new mining infrastructure has been delayed). Increasing costs will probably mean investment in other uranium mining, but will increase overall generation costs.

Fast breeding or thorium reactors are possible, but if the generation infrastructure is not set up for these initially then it will mean some expensive changes later on, with more capital costs to take account of in the generation costs. Fast breeding also represents the threat of nuclear weapon proliferation. It does mean reduced high level waste volumes, though (although there is still a lot of lower level waste - containment vessels and the like, and this sheer volume might present a problem in the scenario of vastly expanded nuclear generation.).

I think nuclear power has a place for the future, but like any power generation it won't be a universal panacea. I can see it being very useful for base load, or load overnight, although we might find that electricity ends up being more expensive overnight if solar provides a significant proportion of generation capacity and we might need to become more diurnal. Who knows.

In regards to solar there are two options here. One is to use solar thermal where appropriate - e.g. heat water to provide hot water in homes. That's the one that should go on roofs. The hot water provides a storage medium too for overnight use. The other is quantum dot technology. If this pans out it could boost PV efficiency to something around 40% but at much reduced cost compared to the silicon PV. The biggest problem here is making it reliable for sufficiently large areas. Even then PV will only be part of the overall solution, but if it is cheap and provides some of the load it can mean a reduction in requirements from other sources. It might also mean that you could embed it in other things so that your laptop or ipod can supplement or recharge its battery from sunlight and things of this nature. You can get things like personal FM radios that have solar panels, but the size, weight and cost of these parts could be reduced.

Negawatts are going to be the really important factor. New housing needs to be built to far better standards of insulation, for example, and it isn't rocket science, or even particularly expensive, to do so. It might be that people will need to put on a sweater in the house in winter too. It's not particularly a hardship. Built with high levels of insulation and you don't necessarily need to even do that or heat a house. The big problem will be the existing stocks of houses and how to refit them. Some forms of insulation are easy to refit, but building up walls to the sort of levels you can get from straw bale construction/insulation is much more difficult. You could also view straw bale construction as a form of carbon sequestration. A well insulated house has a more constant temperature so it might be more pleasant to live in anyway. Negawatts also encompass other resource usage - for example reduced treated water usage (e.g. shower rather than use the bath, capture rainwater in a water butt for watering the garden, use grey water to flush the toilet) means less energy required to treat water.

Negawatts (i.e. reduced consumption) make the problem of providing new generation capacity that much easier. It might mean that as time goes on there are some lifestyle changes, although the thing to aim at is a good standard, and even more so a good quality of life going on into the future. Better to plan ahead for as smooth a transition as possible.

G'Oh, Canada! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18916903)

Well hopefully economy of scale blah blah cheap enough for every home.

42 cents/kwh!!! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18916907)

Cool. How do I get into this business of selling power to Ontario?

Ratio's (4, Insightful)

Kawahee (901497) | more than 7 years ago | (#18916909)

"to power 10,000 homes ... the plant will cover 365 hectares"

It appears the footprint per house of the solar panels is actually less than the footprint of a house by itself. Surely it should be mandatory/make sense for compulsary solar panelling on houses?

Re:Ratio's (1)

jack455 (748443) | more than 7 years ago | (#18916949)

Why shouldn't power companies be forced to rent your roof space and even provide maintenance, in exchange for the power it produces? They could keep a percentage of the power and let you use the rest.

You probably couldn't force people to allow the companies to rent out their roof, but the option could be there. I think most people would do this, if it wasn't an eyesore.

As it stands now, the companies have to buy any excess power that you don't use and it gets pooled into the power grid. My father has been looking into this for a while now for his roof.

Net metering (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917845)

This program recognizes the higher value of peak power production and this pays a premium (in Canadian dollars) for power as it is delivered to the grid. There is also a premium for non-polluting energy here. In some places in the US (in 41 states) utlities are required to credit the extra power you produce yourself at retail rates. If there is no time-of-use metering, then there is no particular recognition of solar power's timely production profile. This way of doing things is called net metering http://mdsolar.blogspot.com/2007/03/net-metering.h tml [blogspot.com] .

If your father lives in a net metering state, he might be interested in an in between solution of renting the equipment rather than renting out his roof. This can be done in a way that fixes the rates for up to 25 years, has maintenance included, and does not have the big upfront cost of purchasing a system. You can learn more about this by following the links at http://mdsolar.blogspot.com/2007/01/slashdot-users -selling-solar.html [blogspot.com] .

Re:Ratio's (1)

simcop2387 (703011) | more than 7 years ago | (#18916955)

assuming its just solar panelling, i'd think it'd be a good idea. but if its anything fancier (like the mirrors pointed at a tower to boil water) then it might not scale to that size very well.

Re:Ratio's (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18916961)

It's already 1.4 sq. miles. I think it's pretty scaled.

Re:Ratio's (4, Informative)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 7 years ago | (#18916997)

Are you sure about that? [google.com]

365 hecters = 39.3 million square feet. The average [census.gov] size of new homes are ~2.4k square feet each, or 24 million square feet total. This doesn't count roof space though, as a two story house will have half the roof expected.

It's close, but not a match.

Hmm... 40MW over 10k homes only leaves 4kw average draw per house, or 16 amps of 240 during the day. Figure a 50% load factor(High end), that's 1,440 kw/h per house. At my local price of $.08/kwh $115.20 of electricity. I saw that Canada's subsidizing solar to the tune of $.24/kwh, so it'd end up being $345.60 of electricity.

This is considered good how?

Re:Ratio's (1, Insightful)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917029)

I saw that Canada's subsidizing solar to the tune of $.24/kwh, so it'd end up being $345.60 of electricity.

Excuse, me, I'm dyslexic apparently. $.42/kwh = $604.80

Are they insane?

$70-80 million for a 10mw install, this one is expected to run $300 millon.
$80 million for 10mw = $8 a watt, in Canada I'd expect availability to limit the production factor to, at most, 40%

Let's beat the nuclear drum a bit.
Nuclear power = $1-2/watt, for a production factor that's above 80% today.

For around four times what they're predicting this to cost, they could set up a nuclear power plant that could cover 250,000 homes insteal of 10,000. 25 times as many, for 4 times the cost. Invest(or don't borrow) the rest and you'll save enough money to handle the increased continued maintenance. Figure 5-10 times and you could have a reactor that can burn other plant's wastes and actually make money as the plants enter a bidding war to sell you their waste.

Re:Ratio's (1)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917039)

Well I'd say that they think getting cleaner energy is worth the price difference. I know its strange to hear of people who put something in front of the almighty buck, but they do exist.

In pursuit of the almighty buck, coal would win (1)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917173)

Well I'd say that they think getting cleaner energy is worth the price difference.

If I was solely in pursuit of the 'almighty buck' I'd have suggested coal. Coal, with minimal pollution controls would probably run $.25/watt capacity. Fuel costs would be higher, of course. With newest generation pollution control technology costs increase to the point that a minor rise in coal costs would make nuclear cheaper even in the short run.

I'd say that the difference between nuclear and solar isn't enough to justify spending eight or so times as much on it. Heck, going by the picture you'd have quite a bit of yard maintenance to do, and unless they're doing that with electric mowers it'd end up being about as carbon neutral as nuclear. Especially if, like I said, they build a breeder/IFR reactor and start using waste fuel from other plants to power the thing. That'd be like building a garbage fired power plant. Getting rid of waste while creating economic gains. Win-Win.

Only for a very few homes, though. (2, Interesting)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917201)

It's not really "cleaner," because it's not producing nearly as much power as the nuclear plant would.

The nuclear plant could give far, far many more homes carbon-neutral power -- the wind plant is going to give it to just a few, while the rest are still going to be stuck on highly polluting fossil fuel generation. When you factor all that fossil fuel into the "solar" column, which you need to, in order to produce the same amount of power from a finite investment in plants, it's not very clean at all.

It's nothing but a very expensive feel-good measure.

Re:Only for a very few homes, though. (3, Informative)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917823)

I just have to say that I agree with you. That's one of the points I've tried to make: There are limits to funding, economies, etc... While the supply is not fixed, there are processes that are more efficient than others.

A 40MW plant of solar is unlikely to enable the takedown of even a single coal plant. Even ten of them is unlikely to. Ten of these solar plants would cost $3Billion dollars, which, depending upon which figures you use, would result in 1-3GW of new nuclear plant capacity, which would enable the shutting down of a number of coal plants.

Is it just me, or does it appear that somebody's being awfully free with the troll mod on anybody being down on solar power, or this install of it?

Re:Ratio's (1)

Kawahee (901497) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917447)

I had a feeling that the math didn't quite add up. The Census data was a nice addition. Well rebuked.

Re:Ratio's (4, Insightful)

smallfries (601545) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917613)

Yesterday there was an article [independent.co.uk] in the Independent about a large wave powered station off the coast of Cornwall. The thing that struck me as odd is that in the UK the 20MW station will supply about 7500 "homes" - always a strange piece of statistics. In Canada the 40MW solar station will supply about 10000. Is this purely down to different levels of power consumption on either side of the Atlantic, or is the exchange rate for Canadian Watts pretty bad?

Re:Ratio's (1)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917769)

It depends upon your assumptions, of course.

The canadian plant is dedicating 4KW per home. In US terms, this is over a $100 of electricity. More than most people would use except for those with electric heat.

The UK one would be 2.7kw per home, so yeah, they're figuring on less power usage. Maybe the UK has fewer electric ranges/stoves/water heaters on average. Lights probably won't make much difference.

Now, in either case there's also the question of whether the reporter figured the power factor in, and if they did, what figure they used.

Re:Ratio's (1)

CrankyOldBastard (945508) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917787)

Might it be that on average, Canada is colder? Not that I've ever been there, but what I see on TV makes me think of a land of ice and snow.

Obligitary response (0, Offtopic)

hack slash (1064002) | more than 7 years ago | (#18916917)

I for one welcome our new solar death ray Canadian overlords.

Re:Obligitary response (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18916947)

I for one welcome the modding down the parent overlords.

Re:Obligitary response (1)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917297)

As a US citizen, I will never accept Canadian overlords. In case you haven't noticed, we've had the longest cold war in history. Its such an insidious rivalry, that some people think it taboo to even speak of. I think we'll be hitting our tipping point when Canada's operation Global Warming really heats up. Canada will have vast amounts of arable farmland, while Florida becomes to hot for the old folks. Then the old people will rise up and conquer Canada, pushing their lattitude further north to compensate,"Oh wait Wheel of Fortune is on."

Next up: Mexico or South Texas. With the influx of Mexican migrants into Texas, are we seeing Mexico encroach onto American soil, or are is the Mexican government being complacent about the cultural similarities, making it succeptable to merging. We'll never have a 51rst state because it'd make the stars look all wrong, but we could let a state grow...

I'm not impressed (2, Insightful)

syncrotic (828809) | more than 7 years ago | (#18916967)

Photovoltaic is an appropriate technology for the private rooftops of wealthy environmentally-minded people. They don't mind a 20 year ROI, because they're installing the panels to feel good about making a difference. I, as a consumer of electricity, do not want to pay $0.42/kWh: that's probably one of the most expensive electricity sources in north america.

I especially don't want to pay those rates for a dead-end technology. It's one thing to build a pilot plant at subsidized rates if it can realistically be expected to scale... but we know enough about conventional PV cells that we can state, with some confidence, that only a major research breakthrough is ever going to make them a viable large-scale power source.

Re:I'm not impressed (2, Insightful)

kanweg (771128) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917283)

Breakthroughs don't get big money funding, the only exception I know is fusion technology, and like 30 years ago, we still have 30 years to wait before it is believed to be economical. Let's hope they are right this time.

It is nice if there is a single missing cause, and if we find and solve it we have cost-effective solar power. It is very rare for technology to work that way. Take chips. The transistor on a chip was a breakthrough, sure, but it took an awful long time to get me a 3 GHz Mac. All the time I've been buying technology that wasn't that good. Do you really think that if no one had bought computers until now, that we could have bought the computer with its current specs?

Solar has to follow the path of wind energy. Slowly we've been learning more about the wind, improving various technologies (materials, shapes, transmission) and scaling up, as a result of which the cost of wind power comes down. This path is only possible if people are willing to pay a little more to allow companies to earn money. How would investors react if a company said it would start investing $500M in research without certainty that a break through would be made?

Old technology is the status quo, has had decades to improve. It is the old (coal etc.) that is the dead-end technology.

Not willing to invest in the best available clean electricity is like not willing to sow to harvest. Betting on one horse is also not wise.

Here in the Netherlands, over a decade ago, I've pestered electricity companies to allow me to pay MORE for my electricity, if only they generated it more cleanly. This has actually been introduced (interestingly first by the "dirty Joe" of the electricity companies for a reason I'd overlooked: They didn't care about so much about the environment as well as making money, and there was a market there of environmentally conscious consumers willing to pay a bit more). Green electricity is a success here, I think, especially since the tax break for green electricity. Most of the additional money is spent on wind power and biomass, some of it on solar. For each of those technologies goes, what is currently is being installed is better than what was installed 5 years ago. If we'd waited for 5 years and done nothing, we couldn't have installed the current state of the art technology because it wouldn't have been developed and put to practice.

Personally I get a bit squeezy in the stomach reading comments like yours. Old technology is slowly but steadily running us in big trouble, so some action should be taken. And taking action timely and gradually is generally better than a dropping-from-airplane-without-parachute-but-in-de nial-attitude. No one is asking you to pay $0.42 per kWh, but offering nothing is, well, disappointing.

Bert

Re:I'm not impressed (2, Informative)

dino213b (949816) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917385)

Historically, in the US, projects that succeed have to be subsidized by the federal government. A prime example of big projects in the US that are "perceived as successful" are dams. Private construction of dams has failed time and time again (due to massive costs) until bureau of reclamation and USACE started siphoning from the federal budget for their construction. If you examine costs vs benefits on most dams in the US, you will see that a large number of them are "useless". Funding of these puppies has been weird, at best. Initially they were supposed to pay for themselves, but, that was abandoned some time ago.

So as it pertains to your argument, were the wealthy given benefits of expensive dam construction? No. The federal government secured funding to benefit all, rich or poor. (In the grand scheme of things, consider all of the beneficiaries poor). Sure, there were exceptions..but would you consider hydroelectric plants as dead-end technology?

Canada has no energy crisis or an energy shortage.

http://www.eia.doe.gov/pub/oil_gas/petroleum/data_ publications/company_level_imports/current/import. html [doe.gov]

As you can see, Canada is the #1 supplier of oil to the US. Their population is around 33 mil and most of the population lives right next to the US border. So why would they bother with PV arrays? They are going to charge consumers normal electric rates for use --- however, big government projects are very patient. As inflation goes up and time goes on, the electricity will more than pay off for itself. Peak oil is theorized to start strangling energy exports in the next 10-15-20 years while this PV array will last 20-30-40 years without breaking a sweat.

So the moral of the story? Count your chickens before they hatch.

Re:I'm not impressed (1)

Charcharodon (611187) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917911)

You are absolutley correct PV power generation will never be a viable large-scale power source, but what it is extremely good at is being a small-scale power source. Why go cover a big piece of land with solar cells when there are millions of empty roofs around the country. Considering the prices of homes these days and the nominal amount of improvement in output and price of home PV systems, the only thing that is holding back a solar explosion is the attitude the customers, the power company, and the government. They could easily be installed on new homes and could be sized as such that they would be almost unoticeable in terms of cost. A system as small as 100watts is extremely feaseable and could be had for around $600 dollars. As an impact on one person's monthly bills it would be almost unoticeable, but as a requirement for every new home built in the US it would have a dramatic impact. Solar has improved alot over the last 20 years. It's ready to go, it's just that people haven't seem to have gotten the message yet.

40MW is not that much (4, Informative)

Burdell (228580) | more than 7 years ago | (#18916973)

The nearby nuclear power plant here has three reactors, each of which can generate over 1100MW (one reactor is currently off-line but is on schedule to be on-line next month, now capable of up to 1280MW). Even closer to my house is the dam that can generate over 140MW.

Hydropower is hideously 'dirty.' (1)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917223)

I agree with you on the nuclear, however I don't think we should be so quick to put hydroelectric projects in the "non-polluting" column. They are actually hideously polluting, and unfortunately they create the sort of insidious pollution that's hard to get anyone to take responsibility for, and nearly impossible to reverse or clean up without demolishing the dam.

By converting a free-flowing river or stream into a pool of water, you cause the level of dissolved oxygen in it to go down; this alters the balance of organisms in it (both of the micro and macro variety), and lead to a buildup of organic pollutants which would normally be eliminated naturally. (Fertilizer runoff and industrial pollutants are the big ones, but even natural products can be toxic when they're not eliminated as they should be.)

There really is no free lunch -- while it could be argued that destroying a river is preferable than spewing toxic gasses into the atmosphere, hydropower is certainly not "clean" by any measure.

Re:40MW is not that much (1)

BuR4N (512430) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917319)

"The nearby nuclear power plant here has three reactors, each of which can generate over 1100MW"

How much energy was/is spent building it, maintaining it, mining for its fule,transporting the fule and manage its waste ? You need to offset that before you can draw any conclusions about its efficency.

Is it possible to use only renewable sources? (1, Insightful)

tsa (15680) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917009)

The question that has been bugging me for a long time is: Is it even possible for us to use only renewable energy sources? I'm almost convinced we will never get enough energy out of renewable sources. Even now there are stories in the newspapers about locals having not enough food and water because their resources are being used for the production of alcohol for car fuel. Only a tiny amount of the earth's car poulation uses alcohol as (constituent of) its fuel. What if every car on earth has to run on bio fuel? We won't have any land left for producing food. Covering the roof of your house in solar panels gives you just enough energy to power only your house, or maybe a bit more. Covering the roof of an appartment- or office building in solar panels will give nowhere near enough energy to power the building. We will have to start making energy-efficient appliances fast, and start to use our resources sparingly, or we will have big problems in the future.

Re:Is it possible to use only renewable sources? (1)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917057)

. Even now there are stories in the newspapers about locals having not enough food and water because their resources are being used for the production of alcohol for car fuel
Do you have a reliable example of this?

Re:Is it possible to use only renewable sources? (1)

tsa (15680) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917583)

Here [globalvoicesonline.org] is a good piece about the use of corn for fuel in Mexico. Both the positive and the negative effects for the local people and the economy are treated.

Re:Is it possible to use only renewable sources? (1)

tsa (15680) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917593)

Here [energybulletin.net] 's another one.

Re:Is it possible to use only renewable sources? (1)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917687)

Aaah, well yes unfortunately some countries are so desperate for money they'll let their people starve. Fortunately some countries (America, Australia, England) aren't that desperate.

Re:Is it possible to use only renewable sources? (1)

tsa (15680) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917877)

We get much of our food from abroad so we are guilty of this too.

Re:Is it possible to use only renewable sources? (1)

Xiph (723935) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917145)

Still, the rooftops do represent a resource, that we can use.
So it won't give us 100% coverage? well, even if all roofs covered in solar panals only covered 10% of our needs, it's still better than those 10% being covered by coal plants.

Yes, we do have to make more energy-efficient appliances and sadly yes, we do face big problems in the future.
The problems we face might be solvable by nuclear power, but we also know that this has long term problems we don't want,
I think it's best to at least get as much as we can with clean technologies, then cover our asses with nuclear.
Then we can use cars with even decent mileage and as the rest of the world gets industrialized all transportation will have to get cleaner.

There are two problems we're facing with this, the industrialization of undeveloped nations, and the idiocy of developed nations.
The first one can be alliviated by funding clean energy projects, the second one requires education and political change.
It's easier to build good habits from the ground, than to change bad habits around.

Re:Is it possible to use only renewable sources? (1)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917973)

You'd be better off installing a solar water heating system than photovoltiacs. It's much cheaper and more efficient. With a pump and a sufficiently sized tank somewhere, you should hardly ever need to heat the water using a different source. That alone would cut electricity usage(and NG, propane) by quite a bit.

By my calcs, it seesm that the solar project would cover about half a house's needs by converting it's roof to photovoltiac.

Re:Is it possible to use only renewable sources? (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917895)

There are more than sufficient resources to use renreable energy exclusively but we need to think differently about how power is managed. In my opinion, the base-load concept needs to be transformed into a fully demand-response-supply-management concept where stored renewable energy is held in reserve to handle time domain demand-supply imbalance. Here is an example of what I've been thinking about on this: http://mdsolar.blogspot.com/2007/04/smelling-salts .html [blogspot.com] .

The issue of liquid fuels is a little different but there are some developments described here: http://mdsolar.blogspot.com/2007/02/photosynthesis .html [blogspot.com] .
--
Rent solar power: http://mdsolar.blogspot.com/2007/01/slashdot-users -selling-solar.html [blogspot.com]

While it is a good idea (1)

jrcsnet (714232) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917063)

While I agree that its nice to see alternative generation being developed, you have to realize that those costs aren't what the consumer pays. Thats just the price they sell the power to the government for, its a rich subsidy for the power generators. The consumers don't pay anywhere near that, they pay the average market rate.

And for all those who mention anything along the lines of it being low production due to daylight hours, please look at a map. Sarnia is only like 30-40 miles from Detroit. So unless you also believe that the Detroit area is in total darkness 8 months a year, or are just to ignorant to care, your off on the product amount due to daylight hours.

Re:While it is a good idea (1)

LynnwoodRooster (966895) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917567)

While I agree that its nice to see alternative generation being developed, you have to realize that those costs aren't what the consumer pays. Thats just the price they sell the power to the government for, its a rich subsidy for the power generators. The consumers don't pay anywhere near that, they pay the average market rate.

Glad to hear that the Province of Ontario no longer has ANY taxation of its citizens! Wonderful news - I'll move there immediately!

Oh wait, they still have to tax the population to pay for things like health, education, roads, power subsidies?

Somewhere this solar power plant is getting its $0.42/kWh, and if it's coming from the government, it's coming from your taxes. Essentially your tax dollars are funding this private company - you're paying $0.42/kWh minimum, whether it shows on your power bill or not.

I'd rather have the company directly bill me $0.42/kWh rather than the government collect it via taxes, because at least there isn't the typical middle-man/government-overhead charge tacked on, raising the actual cost even higher (probably closer to $0.50/kWh if the Province runs like most large governments).

Re:While it is a good idea (1)

btooms (1089287) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917867)

"those costs aren't what the consumer pays. Thats just the price they sell the power to the government for" Right, and where does "the government" get its money from again? The government is artificially supporting a company using tax payer money that could not otherwise compete in the market. If the government is going to use tax money in an effort to 'help the environment' it should be spent on research or possible real solutions.

When the sun sets... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18917067)

and people turn on their lights, everyone is screwed?

i don't mind alternative powersources, but they all just end up being very unreliable for normal usage.

i however have read an article where they propose fission/fusion for use for the consumers, and other sources for the generation of hydrogen (for when fossil fuels run out). for such uses, reliability isn't such a problem, it'll even out, and a little dip is no problem.

i just can't understand why people are so keen on bringing unreliable sources into the powergrid... as if it isn't hard enough te keep everything working as it is...

Re:When the sun sets... (3, Informative)

triikan (1035650) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917255)

The advantage solar power brings is that peak usage is during the day, which happens to be just exactly when solar power is being produced. So, the coal powered plants don't have to work at as high of an output, and during the night, it still operates normally (in most areas, traditional plants operating at minimal levels (they can't be fully shut down on a nightly basis) produce more than enough electricity to meet night demands). Solar plants, unless combined with a storage mechanism (hydrogen production, batteries, etc.) do not replace traditional power, but instead augments it.

Re:When the sun sets... (1)

stinerman (812158) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917273)

When the sun sets and people turn on their lights, everyone is screwed?
Yes, because we haven't yet invented a way to store energy yet. Perhaps if you invented such a way, you might be rich. It'd stop me from having to turn the crank on my iPod, thats for sure.

Photovoltaic vs. SEGS (3, Interesting)

sarahbau (692647) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917073)

Why use photovoltaic panels for a power plant? They're nice for small applications, or for homes, but if you're building a power plant, something like the Solar Energy Generating Systems in the Mojave Desert makes more sense. They make 165MW and I believe only take 1,000 acres (only slightly more than the 365 hectares of this one). They've already been in operation over 20 years, but there doesn't seem to be anyone doing something similar.

SEGS [solel.com]

Re:Photovoltaic vs. SEGS (3, Interesting)

mshurpik (198339) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917229)

Yes. SEGS consists of parabolic mirrors that focus the sun's heat on a water pipe to create steam. Once you realize that solar rays can be focused to extreme temperatures, the idea of steam follows naturally.

Mirrors+water+sun=very cheap and effective. I wouldn't be surprised if this becomes a major generation method. For a large scale app you would want a turbine, but on a small scale you could probably do some interesting things with just the steam itself.

After all, the first solar app I saw as a kid was just to heat water for the home. Pipes+black paint+water pump=fewer oil deliveries. Why don't more people do this?

Re:Photovoltaic vs. SEGS (1)

univgeek (442857) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917435)

http://www.tatabpsolar.com/prod_gallery7.html [tatabpsolar.com]

These have been extensively deployed in Bangalore. Practically every roof-top has one. There are apparently a few interesting issues - while black pipes absorb the most heat, they also radiate the most. So they have some material which absorbs more than it radiates. Not entirely sure of the science behind it.

Re:Photovoltaic vs. SEGS (1)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917891)

I've seriously considered one of these, but I live in the far north, and it doesn't quite hit the break-even point for me.

Bangalore, Areas in the USA south of the Mason-Dixon line? They should be everywhere.

For the power station though, it doesn't matter as much as they're focusing lots and lots of sunlight into a small area with constant circulation - not much is going to be radiated, and the situation demands more durability and raw absorbtion ability than reduced radiation.

Re:Photovoltaic vs. SEGS (2, Informative)

joib (70841) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917863)

Concentrating solar power works comparatively better in areas with little cloud cover, since they are entirely dependent on direct radiation, vs. normal solar cells which at least get some output from diffuse light.

Translation (2, Funny)

pipingguy (566974) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917109)

FTA: The Sarnia solar farm will be enormous by comparison, stretching across nearly 365 hectares, the equivalent of 419 Canadian football fields.

For you metric-challenged Americans, that equates to about 25.74 Libraries of Congresses.

Re:Translation (1)

ma6ic (1093905) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917203)

It's assumed Americans can't convert metric but somehow we know how big the library of congress is.

simcity (4, Funny)

avoision (622708) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917113)

I sure hope that they didn't enable disasters or the space monster might take the solar plant out. Anyway, it'll fall down in exactly 10 years, so what's the point?

d.i3k (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18917149)

and mortifyin6 sAme worthless

free sunshine no so free. (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917177)

solar reminds me of the japanese business model of charging nothing for printers then raping you on the refills. they scream FREE SUN SHINE... subtitle "cost of setup wil bankrupt you". until a dramaticly cheap and cleaner to produce solar panel comes along, it's just a pipe dream

No way! (1)

crhylove (205956) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917183)

Somebody figured out that sand is cheap!!

OptiSolar (1)

pipingguy (566974) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917199)

Not much is known about OptiSolar, though many of its private investors are Canadian. It was co-founded by Randy Goldstein and Phil Rettger, who previously founded the Calgary-based oil sands technology and project developer Opti Canada Inc.

This is interesting, as Opti is currently finishing their Long Lake facility [opticanada.com] which uses new technology for heavy oil upgrading and energy-saving in addition to the SAGD [wikipedia.org] extraction method. Part of the $5 billion project is a huge oxygen plant which will help cleanly burn otherwise wasted tailings. I'm hoping that the recent cost overruns are not due to the fact that I worked on the project.

Well (4, Insightful)

ShooterNeo (555040) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917233)

I think I need to inject some common sense into the arguments here. Yes, with current technology and costs, nuclear power may be cheaper.

But think about it for a moment : in the long run (as in next 10-20 years), what form of energy is subject to the biggest reduction in costs?

Solar : You make the panels. As soon as the technology stabilizes and we finally agree on a dirt cheap, efficient form of panel (there's about 20 different methods talked about) you build a plant that makes acres of it all day long. Every piece exactly like all the others. Fully automated. You truck them to a spot in barren wasteland, and dump them. Plug them in. A simple robot washes the grit off every now and then.

I don't think it is unreasonable to expect a factor of TEN reduction in cost. After all, the raw materials are low grade silicon wafers and energy (which can be supplied by panels produced by the plant itself...)

As for land : I calculated that at 10% net efficiency, we would need a 200x200 mile area of Arizona to power the entire United States. That includes all the energy used for transportation, and losses used in spinning up energy accumulator devices. That land currently sits idle, and while is a lot of area, there's still plenty of Arizona left (I used google earth to check this)

Nuclear : while solar requires only a handful of educated people, and can't be screwed up catostrophically, nuclear will ALWAYS require a lot of skilled labor to handle and high liability. Even the most dummy proof pebble ped reactor design would still need all sorts of care to handle the fuel and maintainence on the plant. You can't cut corners on nuclear. You can't mass produce
the plants as easily.

Everything that comes into proximity of the reactor becomes nuclear waste. It all has to be carefully handled. There's hazardous environments, especially for a plant that does reprocessing, where hot spent fuel has to be handled and worked with.

I like nuclear power : it's complex and cool and involves all sorts of neat things. Fusion is even cooler. But realistically, for the forseeable future solar is a MUCH better prospect. I believe had a few billion been sunk into a robotic factory to manufacture solar panels, we would not even be having this debate.

(when I say forseeable...I mean it. There's actually a VASTLY more efficient way to do interplanetary, and even interstellar, travel that doesn't involve fusion or fission plants...)

Re:Well (1)

IQgryn (1081397) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917293)

(when I say forseeable...I mean it. There's actually a VASTLY more efficient way to do interplanetary, and even interstellar, travel that doesn't involve fusion or fission plants...)
What is this method? Are you talking about using the solar wind?

Re:Well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18917859)

Fold space.

Re:Well (1)

ShooterNeo (555040) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917913)

No, and it's a high acceleration method. It's so far superior to any other proposed rocket technology that I am not sure why anything else is even being discussed. True, it cannot be used for a near future manned mission to mars...but anything beyond that, it's more effective.

The idea is simple. You leave your propulsion system anchored to the start point. The spacecraft is just a receiver.

For rocket launches into orbit, you build an array of pulsed LED diode lasers. They vaporize an inert block of material bolted to the spacecraft. The spacecraft needs no guidance system or any aerospace components.

For interplanetary travel, you build a magnetic accelerator at the pole of the moon. It fires small iron projectiles weighing anywhere from a few kilograms to 1 ton each. The spacecraft has a magnetic accelerator track as well that decelerates the projectile when it reaches it, stores the energy in an accumulator (and uses some of it to power the spacecraft) and fires the projectile back the way it came.

You do need a nuclear reactor and power generator aboard the spacecraft if you wish to deccelerate, or have a similar magnetic accelerator station located near the destination planet (say on one of the moons of mars) to fire projectiles the other way to slow you down.

No propellant or reaction mass or power has to be generated on the spacecraft. The rocket equation is completely avoided. Unlike a laser system, there aren't losses due to beam divergence over interstellar distances : the projectiles have a tiny guidance system, and almost always reach their destination.

The spacecraft/accelerator system could be constructed to allow for full G or better acceleration continuously, if one so desired.

For interstellar distances : same thing, just a much bigger scale. I've done the math : with a self replicating factory that can churn out the components you would need for the REAAAAAALLLLY big accelerator and a solar array larger than the surface area of the earth, you could readily send out interstellar ships at 90% of lightspeed.

Re:Well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18917663)

I like nuclear power : it's complex and cool and involves all sorts of neat things. ...and works at night.

Re:Well (1)

Kopretinka (97408) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917857)

You're thinking Arizona, but forgetting Nevada - seems to be bigger and emptier. Or better yet, just cover the whole of Utah. And then there are other places in the world, like the Sahara, and we know Africa's economies could use abundance of cheap power (think refrigeration available everywhere, for instance).

Re:Well (1)

ShooterNeo (555040) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917923)

Thank-you for the reminder. I picked Arizona because I know there isn't much there throughout most of the state, and it is a little closer to the equator. But realistically, a real system would be distributed - I just wanted to point out that we could get away with a patch of Arizona alone to power everything.

Re:Well (1)

DougWebb (178910) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917875)

I read that nuclear engineers at a university in Oregon are developing a reactor that is a sealed box that can be transported on a flatbed rail car. You transport it from the factory to where you want power, and install it in a pool of water. It lasts for five years, at which time you send it back to the factory for maintenance and refueling, and you replace it with a new one.

The reactor can generate enough power for 35000 homes, which I guess is 140MW. It costs 3.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, including fuel, maintenance, leasing, and shipping.

Not only is this much cheaper than the solar array in the story, I estimate you can put 30000 of these reactors in the 1.4 square miles that the array would take up, enough to power over 1 billion homes rather than just 10000.

it's ur pricipals1 (1)

ma6ic (1093905) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917235)

It's the principle of the thing if nothing else. Canada has continually taken steps to try to reduce dependency on fossil fuels. Is it impossible to go without completely? Probably. Is it going to be a perfect solution to built one small solar field? Probably not. However it does set a precedent that a government can successfully become involved in solar electricity and encourage citizens to take action. It provides the public with a way to act instead of just having enviro-bookmarks.

Re:it's ur pricipals1 (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917961)

This is a simple subsidy. Pay someone enough, and they will do anything. If there were a enough subsidy for drinking horse piss, you'd find a lot more horse farms.

Seriously, though, this is the modern, capitalist equivalent of paying for research. They pay a special premium in hopes that someone will take the bait and build the product. If they do, then there is a chance that the process will become more efficient, and the eventual cost will come down.

For those who have posted that the electricity rates are the same to the consumer, that's a red flag to keep close tabs on your wallet. While this one project may not necessarily change the rates on the electric bill, many projects of this type might. And for every extra dollar paid in premium for clean energy there's a dollar added to the government's budget. And we all who knows who pays for the budget costs, right?

I'm not saying this is bad...but it's really just a government test project. An industry is putting up the capital, but they are nearly guaranteed a handsome return. A properly managed government pilot would be more cost effective - but I'm not sure that "properly managed" is possible for any government body.

Guilt (1)

kmac06 (608921) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917239)

So some people feel so guilty about using power, they are willing to pay 4x as much?

Re:Guilt (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18917285)

some people are willing to spend 4x now, so that in the future when oil costs 10x thanks to scarcity, or war, or what have you, they won't be screwed

Solar thermal beats solar cells (1)

geomark (932537) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917497)

1,000 watts per square meter of direct normal solar radiation strike the earth's surface at sea level. That's a lot of raw energy hitting roof tops. Then the issue is converting it. Solar cells have been stuck at 15% or less conversion efficiency for decades with no real breakthrough on the horizon to improve upon that. Still, an average house with perhaps 100 square meters of roof area could generate far more engergy than it needs (during the day). Problem is, solar cells are still very expensive to manufacture, with no cost breathroughs significant enough to really change the economics.

Solar concentrating power is far cheaper. For example, the system from Stirling Energy Systems http://www.stirlingenergy.com/ [stirlingenergy.com] once in production will produce electricity that is very cost competitive with electricity from fossil fuel fired plants. The technology is quite cool. A sun-tracking parabolic dish concentrates sunlight on the heater head of a Stirling engine. Each system produces 25kW and is about the same mass, complexity and materials as a mid-size automobile - in mass production it would cost about the same as a car. Pilot installations of the systems have been running for more than a decade. It's not suitable for roof tops, however, since it is a bit large and noisy. San Diego Gas and Electric and Southern California Edison both have contracts now to build large installations using this system.

It seems strange to me that most of the attention is still on non-economical solar cell based systems when a truly viable solution is already available.

real cost (2, Interesting)

EaglemanBSA (950534) | more than 6 years ago | (#18917901)

Isn't 1.4 square miles of land a bit ridiculous for 10,000 homes? I mean - that's a powerplant half the size of my hometown to power an area not even twice as big. Solar technology still has a long way to go in terms of energy density. At least with coal there are some options to make it really quite a clean, reliable process - and for now, it's also a good way to get the US off of foreign fuel sources (we have enough to power the entire country for the next 150 years easily). See these links:

Fischer-Tropsch Reactions [wikipedia.org]

The Ohio Coal Research Center at Ohio University [ohiou.edu] , and their biosequestration project (bacteria eats the SOx and NOx out of the emissions, down to the PPB level (PDF warning) [ohiou.edu]

Coal Gasification plants are going in in Ohio and elsewhere in the country. [gasification.org] - PDF Warning
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