Which is more environmentally friendly — an energy source that uses one unit of land to produce one unit of electricity, or a source that uses 100 units of land to produce one unit of electricity?
The answer should be obvious.
Nevertheless, “green” energy advocates call for a huge expansion of wind, solar and other renewables that use vast amounts of land to replace traditional power plants that use comparatively small amounts of land.
Vaclav Smil, professor emeritus at the University of Manitoba in Canada, extensively analyzed the power density of alternative sources used to generate electricity. He defined power density as the average flow of electricity generated per square meter of horizontal surface (land or sea area).
Today the massive Sun Cable project collapsed into voluntary administration four years after promising to build the world’s largest solar power plant in the Northern Territory. Sun Cable was a $35 billion project supposedly to collect those sacred green electrons on a 12,000 hectare “farm” in Australia (120 square kilometers) and send them to Singapore via an 800 km land cable and then a 4,200km undersea cable. It was theoretically going to be nine times bigger than the largest solar plant in the world, and use a cable 6 times longer than the longest one ever built.
The solar electric I installed on the house nine years ago is down. It’s supposed to feed that monster called the grid. Since April, I noticed that the electric bill is creeping up way beyond the usual seventeen bucks that the electric company charges home solar producers for the privilege of feeding their system — which, let’s face it, has a downside for them because the intermittency of so-called alt-energy disorders their operations.
It’s counter-intuitive. Many people, I’m sure, assume that the more solar units feeding the grid, the better. Strangely, not so. Electric companies work much better when the production and flow of current is absolutely predictable and under their control — like, when they decide to fire up the natgas on generator number three or tune down the hydro turbines. It’s much harder to run the system with little dribs and drabs of electricity trickling in from hither and yon. But alt-energy is good PR for the government, so they do whatever they can to promote or even compel its use.
Although much lauded as the future “clean” power generation, wind and solar present serious problems in their unavoidable variation in performance on every time scale.
The extent of that constant variation is hidden neatly (and deeper and deeper) as time-series data are summated into weekly/monthly/annual power generation reports.
Hidden or not, that variation is a serious problem and a major source of inflated costs as more and more “renewables” are added to the grid.
The reality of that variation is glaringly obvious in the base data recorded in the NEM web-site. That source provides a detailed list of every power generation facility connected to the grid together with maps showing precise location and hour by hour performance details over the last few operating days for each and every facility.
The data for solar, wind and battery power is summarised in the link below (click the image to read the full PDF document) and appears to show admirably, the weakness of constant and largely unpredictable variability in both solar and wind power generation across all locations within Australia.
Richard Blayden – Founding Member of the Saltbush Club, Engineer, BSc Hons – Engineering/Thermodynamics (UK) and avid blogger in on-line climate discussion forums.
I keep hearing that since solar power is cheap it pays to add it to the generation mix. Sometimes this claim is caveated, saying that it only pays up to a certain fraction of total generating capacity. Typical limits range from 30% to 60%. Moreover this claim that it pays to add solar is made by conservatives as well as liberals. We are, after all, just talking about money, not principles.
In reality this “solar pays” claim is like saying it pays to add a small, high mileage car as a second car. It ignores the added cost of buying two cars instead of one. With two car payments to make, you would only save money under very unusual conditions. For example, where you mostly drove the small car, drove a lot, and fuel was very expensive. None of these conditions hold when it comes to adding solar to the grid.
By the time solar energy reaches Earth’s surface it is spread very thin – even midday sunshine will not boil the billy or make toast. And solar collectors will only convert about 20% of that weak energy into electricity. Thus thousands of solar panels are needed to collect significant energy, and lots more to charge the expensive batteries needed to maintain electricity supply overnight and during cloudy weather. Despite these disadvantages, force-feeding of “green” energy by all levels of government has given Australia nearly three million solar collectors (mainly imported from China).
It requires scads of land to generate significant electricity from the sun’s weak rays. But even in sunny weather they produce nothing for 16 hours every day. And a sprinkling of dust, pollen, ash or salt, or a few splatters of poop from birds or flying foxes can reduce output by 50%, while night, snow or heavy cloud cover snuffs them out completely. Continue reading “Australia’s Giant Green Gamble on Solar Energy Toys”
Solar panels have compounds that are semiconductors, the physics that governs these components do not “like” extremes in temperature.
And the solar energy has to get to the semi-conductors. Who is going to clean off the snow?
The Institute for Energy research (IER) reports:
“Record cold temperatures have hit parts of Europe and Asia causing electricity prices to spike as the normal generating supplies of electricity could not keep prices in check. Spain registered its coldest temperature on record, at -35.6 degrees Celsius, and several areas of the country, including Madrid, are under 18 inches or more of snow and may get record-breaking snowfalls. The electricity price in Spain soared to nearly €95 ($116) per megawatt hour—up 123 percent from prices the previous week and nearly three times higher than the 2020 average.”