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Green Energy Problems?

CommunistCowCommunistCow Registered User regular
edited September 2009 in Debate and/or Discourse
This post was prompted by this image from digg showing how much area of the world we would have to cover with solar or wind power to power the world:
Spoiler:

I have a big problem with this image because I recently did a calculation on how much space we would need to power the entire US with solar power and came up with a VASTLY different conclusion. From my understanding solar and wind power honestly don't produce that much power and are more expensive. I'm not saying we should try to use green energy I'm just saying it might take a combination of lots of different sources to get even close to the power we get out of coal. I also think in the interim(next 25-50 years) we could use nuclear power to make up the difference while cutting back CO2 and only producing about 3 cubic meters of spent fuel waste per year.

Note the original calculation and assumption were wrong because I had the US area off by a few orders of magnitude thus I think the above map is close to right and this thread may just need to be locked/deleted.
Can someone check my calculation here and see if I'm doing something wrong or making an incorrect assumption(I could be fucking something up with MWh and MW):
The largest (thermal) solar array in the US is from Solar Energy Generating Systems and has a capacity of 354MW and takes up 561 acres of land. For reference the average coal power plant has a capacity of ~600+MW and nuclear power plants produce in the range of 600-1200+ MW.

The US had an average total power consumption of 3.34TW in 2005 or 3,340,000MW of power.

Thus I did a simple calculation 354MW/561acres = 3,340,000MW/ X acres.
x = 5,293,050 acres.
For reference the US is roughly 2.428 [strike]million[/strike] billion acres.

While I haven't done as much research it seems like wind power has similar issues.

Edit:
Spoiler:

Edit2: corrected the above from Feral's comment below.

CommunistCow on
No, I am not really communist. Yes, it is weird that I use this name.
«13

Posts

  • ObsObs __BANNED USERS regular
    edited September 2009
    The chart is full of shit.

    To power the United States alone with Solar Power you require an area the size of Alaska.

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  • durandal4532durandal4532 Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    It's got to, at minimum, be assuming optimum positioning.

    On the topic, I've heard plans for a Sahara Solar Farm for forever, but it never seems to materialize. Possibly because it wouldn't do much to help people living near the Sahara so much as it would Europe.

  • JebusUDJebusUD Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Joke map is wrong?

    You haven't given me a reason to steer clear of you!
  • mrdobalinamrdobalina Registered User
    edited September 2009
    Wind power always bugged me.

    Isn't that wind needed somewhere else farther down the line?

    I imagine it screws up weather when it's absorbed before it can make it past the windmills.

  • FeralFeral Who needs a medical license when you've got style? Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    For reference the US is roughly 2.428 million acres.

    That's 2.428 billion acres.

    Edit: So, no, you're not looking at 2.3 times the surface area of the US. You're looking at roughly 1/450th of the surface area of the US. Basically New Jersey.

    every person who doesn't like an acquired taste always seems to think everyone who likes it is faking it. it should be an official fallacy.
    the "no true scotch, man" fallacy.
  • ObsObs __BANNED USERS regular
    edited September 2009
    How many acres are there in the world?

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  • SyphonBlueSyphonBlue Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    oh dear god no

    no god why

    metroid_sig.jpg
  • CommunistCowCommunistCow Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Feral wrote: »
    For reference the US is roughly 2.428 million acres.

    That's 2.428 billion acres.

    ah Yes...thank you sir.

    No, I am not really communist. Yes, it is weird that I use this name.
  • ProPatriaMoriProPatriaMori Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    If your problem is energy density, there's always nuclear.

    ...sigh...

    EDIT: What projection is that map in? I likes it.

  • Eat it You Nasty Pig.Eat it You Nasty Pig. tell homeland security 'we are the bomb'Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Am I wrong to think that the "joke map" doesn't really look that bad?

    I mean looking at it, a lot of that area is uninhabitable desert anyway.

    gkcmatch_zps97480250.jpg
    remember pluto? Once a planet but now a pseudo
    funny how information changes the facts that you know
  • Eat it You Nasty Pig.Eat it You Nasty Pig. tell homeland security 'we are the bomb'Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    mrdobalina wrote: »
    Wind power always bugged me.

    Isn't that wind needed somewhere else farther down the line?

    I imagine it screws up weather when it's absorbed before it can make it past the windmills.

    The answer to this is that there is such a massive amount of energy flying around the world every day in the form of wind that whatever tiny, tiny amount our little turbines pull out isn't enough to ever be noticed.

    gkcmatch_zps97480250.jpg
    remember pluto? Once a planet but now a pseudo
    funny how information changes the facts that you know
  • CommunistCowCommunistCow Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    This thread seems kind of moot since I was off by an order of magnitude in my original calculation. Do you guys think there is anything to discuss here or should I just delete it / have the mods lock it?

    No, I am not really communist. Yes, it is weird that I use this name.
  • FeralFeral Who needs a medical license when you've got style? Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Dyscord wrote: »
    Am I wrong to think that the "joke map" doesn't really look that bad?

    I mean looking at it, a lot of that area is uninhabitable desert anyway.

    The top map is actually serious and as far as I understand it pretty accurate. I'm hoping moniker or ELM might be able to corroborate that.

    every person who doesn't like an acquired taste always seems to think everyone who likes it is faking it. it should be an official fallacy.
    the "no true scotch, man" fallacy.
  • Eat it You Nasty Pig.Eat it You Nasty Pig. tell homeland security 'we are the bomb'Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Honestly the wind power map doesn't look that unreasonable either, but a lot more of that land looks like it is prime real estate, so it might be harder to get away with.

    I feel like there ought to be a combination of the wind and solar maps that pretty much the whole world could get behind. Throw in some underwater human battery farms and we're set

    gkcmatch_zps97480250.jpg
    remember pluto? Once a planet but now a pseudo
    funny how information changes the facts that you know
  • shrykeshryke Member of the Beast Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    1) Is this map assuming current technology?

    2) The map ignores that the main problem with power is not generation, but distribution.

  • JebusUDJebusUD Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Feral wrote: »
    Dyscord wrote: »
    Am I wrong to think that the "joke map" doesn't really look that bad?

    I mean looking at it, a lot of that area is uninhabitable desert anyway.

    The top map is actually serious and as far as I understand it pretty accurate. I'm hoping moniker or ELM might be able to corroborate that.

    The map that includes powering the world with people batteries is serious? You'll excuse me if I don't take such a map as the definitive source.

    You haven't given me a reason to steer clear of you!
  • KastanjKastanj __BANNED USERS
    edited September 2009
    It's one hell of a problem. What we have to do is to basically reconsider, rethink, restructure and in some cases rearrange the basic structure for energy matters, which has been in development under the illusion of sustainability and timelessness for a long time. Simply, the graph is reversing much too quickly for there to be sufficient readiness to make the necessary changes on all the needed levels. If the current equation were to become less profitable and less comfortable over a longer period of time, the market and the political context would adapt, but what we have now is a problem caused by human short-sightedness which has to be solved with a long-run approach, in conflict with all the short-run structures and impulses our societies are based on. It's essentially the singular evolutionary adaptation that made us this successful locked in fierce conflict with our ferrety and petty origins.

    Personally, I'm way too 20-years old to give a toss about humanity, but I am fundamentally irked by the thought of letting the stupid people win by default on this one. It is incongruous with every libertarian, free-market, liberal or even Christian principle to let non-polluting and already suffering nations take the majority of the repercussions of our non-internalized externalities. If somehow the pollution would only affect the country in which it was produced everything would be different. But what we will be looking at in a decade or more is essentially murder but with populations in place of individuals. It's like we are smoking ourselves to death but we refuse to admit that the wind carries all the tar over into the impoverished asthmatics next door. It's psychopathic. Copenhagen or bust, it seems like.

    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
  • IncenjucarIncenjucar QA Tester -> Game Producer Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    edited September 2009
    JebusUD wrote: »
    Feral wrote: »
    Dyscord wrote: »
    Am I wrong to think that the "joke map" doesn't really look that bad?

    I mean looking at it, a lot of that area is uninhabitable desert anyway.

    The top map is actually serious and as far as I understand it pretty accurate. I'm hoping moniker or ELM might be able to corroborate that.

    The map that includes powering the world with people batteries is serious? You'll excuse me if I don't take such a map as the definitive source.

    It's serious in that human batteries are absurdly useless and the Matrix is a stupid movie.

    freefallagentad_zps635a83ed.png
  • HonkHonk Registered User, __BANNED USERS regular
    edited September 2009
    SyphonBlue wrote: »
    oh dear god no

    no god why

  • ObsObs __BANNED USERS regular
    edited September 2009
    At the rate they reproduce, much of those impoverished people are going to benefit from more deaths before they start benefiting from reduced pollution.

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  • KiplingKipling Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    This is why we should all learn metric.

    576 acres = 2.2 km2 or about 160 W/m2 (or MW/km2).

    Nevada is 286,367 km2, so multiplication gives me somewhere in the 4,600,000 MW range. More than the number you just gave for the U.S, and the U.S. uses so much of it inefficiently. It is roughly the size of Oklahoma with that level of efficiency. People assume much greater levels are possible, in the range of 250 to 300 W/m2. So that would reduce the size accordingly.

    3DS Friends: 1693-1781-7023
  • FeralFeral Who needs a medical license when you've got style? Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    JebusUD wrote: »
    Feral wrote: »
    Dyscord wrote: »
    Am I wrong to think that the "joke map" doesn't really look that bad?

    I mean looking at it, a lot of that area is uninhabitable desert anyway.

    The top map is actually serious and as far as I understand it pretty accurate. I'm hoping moniker or ELM might be able to corroborate that.

    The map that includes powering the world with people batteries is serious? You'll excuse me if I don't take such a map as the definitive source.

    The TOP map.

    It's based on this: http://www.landartgenerator.org/blagi/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/AreaRequired1000.jpg

    every person who doesn't like an acquired taste always seems to think everyone who likes it is faking it. it should be an official fallacy.
    the "no true scotch, man" fallacy.
  • MelokuMeloku Ask me about my Illusions Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Regardless of if the map's area used is correct, the sheer amount of materials needed to cover that area with energy-producing products is completely infeasible, as well as distributing it from that area to the rest of the (world, US, whatever). It doesn't matter if it only takes up 490,000 square kilometers, covering that land would take a ridiculous amount of materials such that it's currently impossible to pursue meaningfully.

  • TheMarshalTheMarshal Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Is there any information on how much land mass is used for current energy generation methods?

  • MrMisterMrMister Valuing scholarship above all elseRegistered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Meloku wrote: »
    Regardless of if the map's area used is correct, the sheer amount of materials needed to cover that area with energy-producing products is completely infeasible, as well as distributing it from that area to the rest of the (world, US, whatever). It doesn't matter if it only takes up 490,000 square kilometers, covering that land would take a ridiculous amount of materials such that it's currently impossible to pursue meaningfully.

    Also, I'd imagine there are installation and maintenance issues with giant structures in the middle of uninhabited deserts.

  • FeralFeral Who needs a medical license when you've got style? Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    MrMister wrote: »
    Meloku wrote: »
    Regardless of if the map's area used is correct, the sheer amount of materials needed to cover that area with energy-producing products is completely infeasible, as well as distributing it from that area to the rest of the (world, US, whatever). It doesn't matter if it only takes up 490,000 square kilometers, covering that land would take a ridiculous amount of materials such that it's currently impossible to pursue meaningfully.

    Also, I'd imagine there are installation and maintenance issues with giant structures in the middle of uninhabited deserts.

    Well, nobody is actually suggesting we build one gigantic plant the size of New Jersey.

    every person who doesn't like an acquired taste always seems to think everyone who likes it is faking it. it should be an official fallacy.
    the "no true scotch, man" fallacy.
  • KiplingKipling Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    MrMister wrote: »
    Meloku wrote: »
    Regardless of if the map's area used is correct, the sheer amount of materials needed to cover that area with energy-producing products is completely infeasible, as well as distributing it from that area to the rest of the (world, US, whatever). It doesn't matter if it only takes up 490,000 square kilometers, covering that land would take a ridiculous amount of materials such that it's currently impossible to pursue meaningfully.

    Also, I'd imagine there are installation and maintenance issues with giant structures in the middle of uninhabited deserts.

    If you can get solar cost competitive with coal and natural gas, economics will force it. The other problem with your view is that you are looking at it with dimensions that make it sound impossible.

    If you look at CIGS solar cells, Nanosolar can produce production line quality cells only a few microns thick. That means your one square kilometer of film area takes only a few cubic meters of actual volume. A cheap polymer grocery bags covers a huge amount of 2D area for the weight of the bag, and that is thicker than some of the solar cells now on the market. The biggest problem with CIGS is the cadmium indium gallium in the name, because that stuff isn't cheap. You can back that cell with whatever you need to make it structurally sound.

    There is a race to see who can get CIGS and other print process solar cells out to market first in large quantities. Nanosolar uses CIGS, Konarka uses polymer films, and there are others whose names escape me at the moment.

    3DS Friends: 1693-1781-7023
  • Gnome-InterruptusGnome-Interruptus Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Dyscord wrote: »
    mrdobalina wrote: »
    Wind power always bugged me.

    Isn't that wind needed somewhere else farther down the line?

    I imagine it screws up weather when it's absorbed before it can make it past the windmills.

    The answer to this is that there is such a massive amount of energy flying around the world every day in the form of wind that whatever tiny, tiny amount our little turbines pull out isn't enough to ever be noticed.

    The only reason you should worry about the Turbines "using up" the worlds wind, is if you also fear that large buildings and mountains are also decreasing the amount of available wind.

    Wind is created by air moving from high pressure to low pressure systems, along with tidal forces and other factors. It really cant run out.

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  • ScalfinScalfin __BANNED USERS regular
    edited September 2009
    Dyscord wrote: »
    mrdobalina wrote: »
    Wind power always bugged me.

    Isn't that wind needed somewhere else farther down the line?

    I imagine it screws up weather when it's absorbed before it can make it past the windmills.

    The answer to this is that there is such a massive amount of energy flying around the world every day in the form of wind that whatever tiny, tiny amount our little turbines pull out isn't enough to ever be noticed.

    The only reason you should worry about the Turbines "using up" the worlds wind, is if you also fear that large buildings and mountains are also decreasing the amount of available wind.

    Wind is created by air moving from high pressure to low pressure systems, along with tidal forces and other factors. It really cant run out.

    Fact: the oceans dried up during the industrial revolution due to the overuse of watermills.

    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
    The rest of you, I fucking hate you for the fact that I now have a blue dot on this god awful thread.
  • electricitylikesmeelectricitylikesme Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    MrMister wrote: »
    Meloku wrote: »
    Regardless of if the map's area used is correct, the sheer amount of materials needed to cover that area with energy-producing products is completely infeasible, as well as distributing it from that area to the rest of the (world, US, whatever). It doesn't matter if it only takes up 490,000 square kilometers, covering that land would take a ridiculous amount of materials such that it's currently impossible to pursue meaningfully.

    Also, I'd imagine there are installation and maintenance issues with giant structures in the middle of uninhabited deserts.
    It'd be a like a mining town but more sustainable. If we can setup whole townships in the desert to get at iron then we can damn well setup whole towns who's economies are based around the construction and maintenance of solar panels.

  • shrykeshryke Member of the Beast Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    The problem, again, is distribution.

    Electricity is a huge fucking pain in the ass to move around.

  • electricitylikesmeelectricitylikesme Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    shryke wrote: »
    The problem, again, is distribution.

    Electricity is a huge fucking pain in the ass to move around.
    Why do people keep saying this? Electricity has to be one of the easiest power sources in the world to move around, provided your targets are stationary or travel on fixed paths.

    It's also completely inapplicable to solar power, since unlike coal power no one cares if you build it close to population centers.

  • ScalfinScalfin __BANNED USERS regular
    edited September 2009
    shryke wrote: »
    The problem, again, is distribution.

    Electricity is a huge fucking pain in the ass to move around.
    Why do people keep saying this? Electricity has to be one of the easiest power sources in the world to move around, provided your targets are stationary or travel on fixed paths.

    It's also completely inapplicable to solar power, since unlike coal power no one cares if you build it close to population centers.

    How durable can we make the panels? It would be really nice to pave over our roads with something photoenergetic if it could take the abuse.

    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
    The rest of you, I fucking hate you for the fact that I now have a blue dot on this god awful thread.
  • KiplingKipling Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    shryke wrote: »
    The problem, again, is distribution.

    Electricity is a huge fucking pain in the ass to move around.
    Why do people keep saying this? Electricity has to be one of the easiest power sources in the world to move around, provided your targets are stationary or travel on fixed paths.

    It's also completely inapplicable to solar power, since unlike coal power no one cares if you build it close to population centers.

    Why is the distribution problem still brought up? Solar is a fixed position generator, like wind or hydro. People don't have to transport fuel to it to keep it functional. I'd be interested in meeting the people who would complain if their neighbor put solar panels on their roof.

    Oh no, black 1 inch thick panels on the roof of my neighbor's house!

    3DS Friends: 1693-1781-7023
  • shrykeshryke Member of the Beast Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    shryke wrote: »
    The problem, again, is distribution.

    Electricity is a huge fucking pain in the ass to move around.
    Why do people keep saying this? Electricity has to be one of the easiest power sources in the world to move around, provided your targets are stationary or travel on fixed paths.

    No, it's not. Power loss is a HUGE issue.

  • DaedalusDaedalus Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Wind and solar are completely inappropriate for base load power. The energy you get is unpredictable and fluctuates wildly; you can't use them to replace coal plants. We need to start building a bunch of nuclear power plants, and start funding fusion power research so it isn't perpetually "the energy source of the future." There's a carbon-free source of tons of electricity that we already have.

    The real problem here is that we've got mainstream conservatives, who want to pretend there isn't a problem in the hopes that that'll make the problem not exist (seems to be a recurring theme, come to think of it) and mainstream liberals, who acknowledge that there is a problem and then propose hilariously inadequate and unworkable solutions. Nothing's gonna get done until the sea levels start noticeably rising, and by then it's too late to really fix anything.

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  • shrykeshryke Member of the Beast Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
  • ArchArch HELLO YES THIS IS BUG Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Daedalus wrote: »
    Wind and solar are completely inappropriate for base load power. The energy you get is unpredictable and fluctuates wildly; you can't use them to replace coal plants. We need to start building a bunch of nuclear power plants, and start funding fusion power research so it isn't perpetually "the energy source of the future." There's a carbon-free source of tons of electricity that we already have.

    The real problem here is that we've got mainstream conservatives, who want to pretend there isn't a problem in the hopes that that'll make the problem not exist (seems to be a recurring theme, come to think of it) and mainstream liberals, who acknowledge that there is a problem and then propose hilariously inadequate and unworkable solutions. Nothing's gonna get done until the sea levels start noticeably rising, and by then it's too late to really fix anything.

    I know this is coming right after Shryke, but really the nuclear-power chest thumpers still ignore another large problem- fuel disposal.

    There is no easy solution to this. "Sticking it in a mountain" is a really really shitty idea. Ask any geologist.

  • Eat it You Nasty Pig.Eat it You Nasty Pig. tell homeland security 'we are the bomb'Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    I thought the biggest issue with yucca mountain was transportation, not safety once the stuff got there.

    gkcmatch_zps97480250.jpg
    remember pluto? Once a planet but now a pseudo
    funny how information changes the facts that you know
  • CmdPromptCmdPrompt Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    shryke wrote: »
    shryke wrote: »
    The problem, again, is distribution.

    Electricity is a huge fucking pain in the ass to move around.
    Why do people keep saying this? Electricity has to be one of the easiest power sources in the world to move around, provided your targets are stationary or travel on fixed paths.

    No, it's not. Power loss is a HUGE issue.

    Compared to the efficiency of solar panels (~28%, IIRC), the ~92% efficiency of power lines is a godsend.

    GxewS.png
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