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View Full Version : HELP, emergency, need un-biased energy expert for an article about alternative energy sources!



Kris
08-27-2010, 07:27 PM
Hi! I need a quick one-line quote from an expert on energy costs.

This person CANNOT work for a solar energy company.

A scientist, a venture capital investor, an alternative-energy blogger or journalist.

The issue I need to address is: When will solar be cheaper than coal-burning energy? I need someone who can factor in government subsidies, etc.

I don't need a definitive answer-- I know it's a complex picture -- just a well-informed opinion about "grid parity."

THANKS!

Oh and if possible I need this today! :D

petec
08-27-2010, 08:42 PM
Hi! I need a quick one-line quote from an expert on energy costs.
The issue I need to address is: When will solar be cheaper than coal-burning energy?

:D

One word answer.

Never.

I am not an expert but I lived for 15 years plus on a boat with only solar power (500 watts per day).

I still needed a backup generator ( 5 Kw. 2.5 litres of diesel per hour)for large loads such as washing machine

Kris
08-27-2010, 08:44 PM
Does that really address the cost, though? You couldn't have mined and burned coal on your boat, right?

petec
08-27-2010, 08:54 PM
OK

Coal was never viable as a mining project. My heating was wood and in my experience that was always available.

I did experiment with a steam engine to drive a 2 Kw generator!

ETA. Failed. it required too much wood

Kris
08-27-2010, 08:58 PM
This sounds pretty damn interesting. How big of a boat was it? Maybe I should write an article about you, too.

Were there other people on the boat?

petec
08-27-2010, 09:02 PM
27 metres by 5 metres.

I write about it but in French

ETA. I have a lady partner who is as mad as I am. I bought her a chain saw as a birthday present once.

Hallen
08-27-2010, 11:50 PM
I am also no expert, and I'm really not trying to be flippant here, but ...

The answer is: When we run out of coal.

If you consider societal costs (pollution, danger in mining, jobs, transport, efficiency, availability, etc), there might be a crossover point. However, solar won't ever work by itself unless suitable storage can be created. That, in itself, is going to be horribly expensive if it is ever possible. If solar isn't used by itself, then you need to add in the costs for whatever other power source you use to supplement solar.

I hope you can find the real answer you are looking for.

Stew21
08-28-2010, 12:02 AM
I'll discuss your question with a friend of mine who owns an alternate fuels company and give you contact info if he can give you an answer.

maryland
08-28-2010, 12:07 AM
If it's any help, one solar panel, fixed on the south-east facing roof,(i.e. not the south) provides hot water all year except sometimes on cold January/February days in England.
Result - lower electricity bill and sometimes refunds.

Kris
08-28-2010, 12:41 AM
I'll discuss your question with a friend of mine who owns an alternate fuels company and give you contact info if he can give you an answer.

Thank you!!!

shaldna
08-28-2010, 12:31 PM
I actually work in this feild ATM, so hopefully I can help



The issue I need to address is: When will solar be cheaper than coal-burning energy? I need someone who can factor in government subsidies, etc.

honestly? probably never. the issue with solar is that it's unreliable, particularly in northern climates. lots of things here are powered by solar, including street signs etc, and it's a legal requirement of new build homes to have solar panels, but as a energy source they are low yeilding and unreliable.

they are also expensive to fit, and there are no real subsidies available. there was, for a while, some iniciatives for people to instal renewable energies in their homes, but even that has a cost, and it amounts to high millions and has to be funded somewhere.

the issue with governmetn subsidisation is that it doesn't actually make anything cheaper. that money still has to come from somewhere, and if it's being pumped into renewable energy, then something else has had it'sd funding slashed.

coal is also very expensive, and is subject to a heavy carbon tax - a standard 3 bedroom semi home can easily spend close to 1600 a year on coal to heat their homes - four or five 25kg bags a week @ 7 a bag.

Honestly, if you are looking for cheap fuel then natural gas is the way to go. it's cleaner too and is subect to a tax exemption (the climate change levy) which makes it cheaper. it's worth bearing in mind that electricity is produced by burning natural gas or coal or oil at a powerstation. i don't know the figures for the rest of europe off hand, but in ireland around 60% of the electricity produced by powerstations is fueled by natural gas.

it's worth noting that 70% of domestic users still use oil as their primary fuel source.

the other option, if renewables is really the way to go, is to look at something like a woodchip boiler - Brites do a very popular model, but it's large and only really suitable for rural or semi-rural areas

there is also biogas, a renewable source of gas which could, ultimately, be supplied through the existing pipelines.

or wind.

wind in ireland is pretty constant, and we are in the hills, so even better. a small turbine will easily power all your lights and some of your other home energy costs, and there was a grant available for installation fo these - but i'm not sure if it's still running.

in fact here in Ireland wind farms are becoming a very prominant part of our landscape, because they are clean and efficient and cheap.

there are marine turbines too, which use the tides coming in and out to turn the trubine and prodcuce energy - this is probably the most reliable source of renewable energy - and Seagen has a great example of one in Strangford lough if you wan tto look it up.

nuclear energy is a real hot topic, here we aren't so fond of it after sellafeild, but what most people in teh UK and Ireland don't know, is that alot of their domestic electricity is powered by nuclear energy, even in ireland where we don't have any NPP's - this is because of the way electricity is 'bought' by distributors. There is a lot of stigma about nuclear energy, but the fact of the matter is that it's clean and cheap. it has virtually no impact on the environment.

sorry to go off on a tangent, but, in answer to your original question, solar is unlikely to ever be comparable with oil/coal/gas/nuclear simply becuase of it's unreliabiliy.

shaldna
08-28-2010, 12:36 PM
solar won't ever work by itself unless suitable storage can be created. That, in itself, is going to be horribly expensive if it is ever possible. If solar isn't used by itself, then you need to add in the costs for whatever other power source you use to supplement solar.


exactly.

energy storage is a big problem, and something like solar energy would need to be stored in batteries, which is expensive and highyl inefficient and sort of defeats the purpose.

it would be worth noting that SMART grid technologies allow for the integration of alternative fuel sources into the national grid, this means that some of the energy you would use at home is produced by wind, some solar, some nuclear, some oil etc.

there is an option for people who produce thier own energy - via wind etc - to sell it back to the grid.

i'd be happy to answer any questions on this via PM, and if I can't help you I will take them to the good folks I work with

Kathie Freeman
08-28-2010, 07:43 PM
The one thing no one has addressed is future advances in solar technology. Today's panels are cheaper and more efficient than those of a few years ago, and better ones are in development. One company is working on panels that are literally printed on paper. The person who answered "never" is being unnecesarily pessimistic. The "correct" answer is "we don't know yet."

PeterL
08-29-2010, 05:50 PM
Kathie Freeman is right. If there are developments in solar that will allow it to produce much more electricity at a cost that is similar to present panels, then it will become less costly than coal. Of course, when the price of coal goes to $100 per pound, solar will be cheaper, but that proce for coal is not likely.

Kathie Freeman
08-31-2010, 07:59 PM
Something else I just thought of: high-profile mining accidents could result in stricter regulations which would in turn result in higher costs to the coal mining industry.