"Can you have too much solar energy?"

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Re: "Can you have too much solar energy?"

#21  Postby hoopy frood » Apr 01, 2013 1:22 pm

The point I was making in general is we have far better forms of energy providers right here on this planet. This planet which is composed mostly of billions of tons of seawater going about it's ceaseless tidal business. This planet which has a heat source far greater than that of the Sun, right under our feet.


Energy crises? I laughed so hard I almost bought shares in the company.
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Re: "Can you have too much solar energy?"

#22  Postby Loren Michael » Apr 01, 2013 4:20 pm

hoopy frood wrote:The point I was making in general is we have far better forms of energy providers right here on this planet. This planet which is composed mostly of billions of tons of seawater going about it's ceaseless tidal business. This planet which has a heat source far greater than that of the Sun, right under our feet.


1) So... you're affirming the notion that we can have too much solar energy?
2) Are you considering the notion that it takes energy to make energy? Facilities that make wind, tidal , geothermal, whatever power don't magic themselves into existence, they take considerable investments in resources and have their own benefits and problems.
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Re: "Can you have too much solar energy?"

#23  Postby OlivierK » Apr 02, 2013 12:03 am

The_Metatron wrote:This is describing an engineering problem, not an economic problem. It has to do with balancing production with demand on the power grid. This balancing problem appears everywhere stochastic sources of power are used such as wind and solar power. Nuclear and coal plants don't have a volume control. That is, their power output is not particularly modulatable.

This means, they can't easily adjust to match demand on a grid that contains a bunch of uncontrolled stochastic generators, such has home solar and wind stations.

There are solutions, and the steampunk train idea is not far off. It just doesn't have a lot of capacity. What does the trick is pumped hydroelectric plants. It turns out there are more of these than I realized, a couple of them right here in Belgium.

When demand is low, use the excess nuclear power to fill up a big dam reservoir. When power demand is high, drain that reservoir back through the same equipment that pumped it up, using the power so produced to balance the grid.

Denmark does something similar with their wind turbines' power. They send excess over a DC link to Norway, which then simply dials down the demand on their own hydroelectric plants. When Denmark needs some power back, Norway simply opens up the valves a little farther on their hydroelectric plants. Hydroelectric is very modulatable, from nearly full shutdown to maximum capacity, and it can be done quickly.

Another approach is smart grid technology, which allows control of the stochastic solar and wind generators. While such a situation can't command power from a solar plant in the shade, it can shut down output from solar stations when it is causing a power imbalance on the grid.

I think the pumped hydroelectric is a better solution, but it's a hell of an infrastructure component to build.

Yes and no. Compared to other energy storage solutions it's not particularly expensive to build or maintain. People always go on about evaporation losses, while neglecting the fact that open storage reservoirs will also fill from rainfall, and that additional water supply also has value. Hydro is the most responsive energy source we have - it doesn't take long to turn on or turn off a tap, even a big one. For demand-matching, nothing else comes close.

I do like the steampunk solution, but while trains don't evaporate, they do rust. I'd be surprised if the maintenance costs of such a storage system were lower than hydro, but about the same seems possible, and there are places such a system would suit well, no doubt. Frankly, I sort of want one as a home system now :lol:
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Re: "Can you have too much solar energy?"

#24  Postby JoeB » Apr 02, 2013 8:21 am

hoopy frood wrote:
JoeB wrote:
hoopy frood wrote:The simple expedient of drilling a few KMs into the crust would provide you with a long-term heat source four times hotter than the surface of the Sun, which as it happens is rather cool in terms of area. And 91/4 million miles away.

Exactly where do you find heat sources in excess of 20000 degrees C a few KM into the crust?


A few kilometres is all you have to drill in order to harness that heat source.

which is all I said.

What's the heat source then?
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Re: "Can you have too much solar energy?"

#25  Postby tuco » Apr 02, 2013 9:14 am

Loren Michael wrote:
hoopy frood wrote:Only in a capitalist system where it might fuck up the profiteering on energy.


See above for the problems the article talks about.

Countries with extremely high levels of government intervention in the economy have historically been some of the dirtiest and poorly managed. See: China, Russia, Cold War-era Eastern Europe.


That is for a fact, however, the reason why they were dirty, as you say, is not because their economies were centrally planned, but simply because those in power, communist parties, did not consider damage to environment to be a factor to care about. In other words, we can imagine system with high levels of government intervention in the economy yet such system to be environmentally friendly. Its about priorities. 30 years ago environment was not on the agenda, those who had it as agenda were not able to influence anything due to undemocratic principles in place, and information about environmental impact were either not available at all or were not allowed to be freely accessible.

There is no correlation between high levels of government intervention in the economy and negative environmental impact.
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Re: "Can you have too much solar energy?"

#26  Postby Macdoc » Apr 02, 2013 9:26 am

Yup see Love Canal et al.
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Re: "Can you have too much solar energy?"

#27  Postby Clive Durdle » Apr 02, 2013 5:01 pm

This is not a new problem. Nuclear power and coal fired stations have the same problem - demand fluctuates! Noone remember electric storage heaters, too cheap to meter and the one that works - Dinorwic?
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Re: "Can you have too much solar energy?"

#28  Postby Loren Michael » Apr 02, 2013 5:27 pm

tuco wrote:
Loren Michael wrote:
hoopy frood wrote:Only in a capitalist system where it might fuck up the profiteering on energy.


Countries with extremely high levels of government intervention in the economy have historically been some of the dirtiest and poorly managed. See: China, Russia, Cold War-era Eastern Europe.


That is for a fact, however, the reason why they were dirty, as you say, is not because their economies were centrally planned, but simply because those in power, communist parties, did not consider damage to environment to be a factor to care about.


I am skeptical of non-capitalist systems in general, but I wouldn't rule out the possibility of something working out.

There is no correlation between high levels of government intervention in the economy and negative environmental impact.


I think government intervention tends to go hand-in-hand with industrialization, so that's probably not the case. It depends on what we're considering "government intervention" and "negative environmental impact" though.
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Re: "Can you have too much solar energy?"

#29  Postby tuco » Apr 02, 2013 6:03 pm

Another lets say cause of negative environmental impact, in the countries mentioned except China I know little about, was a lack of private property and lack of rule of law. I am sure you can imagine what such conditions imply in the context being talked about as I am lazy to go into details. Indeed, as you noted we would have to be more specific as our statements are too general. Still, ethical capitalism is either an oxymoron or a capitalism were state intervention and control is inevitable in my opinion.
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Re: "Can you have too much solar energy?"

#30  Postby Loren Michael » Apr 03, 2013 2:17 am

tuco wrote:Another lets say cause of negative environmental impact, in the countries mentioned except China I know little about, was a lack of private property and lack of rule of law. I am sure you can imagine what such conditions imply in the context being talked about as I am lazy to go into details. Indeed, as you noted we would have to be more specific as our statements are too general. Still, ethical capitalism is either an oxymoron or a capitalism were state intervention and control is inevitable in my opinion.


I tend to agree with all that, but with resepct to "ethical capitalism", I do think a society gains quite a bit by having certain norms. Having more honesty and trust as factors in the economy makes for a much more efficient bureaucratic state, and allows economies to work some magic that countries with low trust and honesty could never get away with.

I do think it's possible for norms to gradually encroach on the realm of the state, and to change the nature of the state over time (consider how the historically incredibly unusual norms of willingly relenquishing power have enabled democracy), but I don't know about how likely or to what extent that could be.
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Re: "Can you have too much solar energy?"

#31  Postby Macdoc » Apr 03, 2013 7:48 am

Nuclear power and coal fired stations have the same problem - demand fluctuates!


Baseload with predictable power allows the grid to work.
The problem is not fluctuating demand with wind but fluctuating supply.

Energy Revolution Hiccups: Grid Instability Has Industry Scrambling for Solutions

By Catalina Schröder

Sudden fluctuations in Germany's power grid are causing major damage to a number of industrial companies. While many of them have responded by getting their own power generators and regulators to help minimize the risks, they warn that companies might be forced to leave if the government doesn't deal with the issues fast.


snip

It was 3 a.m. on a Wednesday when the machines suddenly ground to a halt at Hydro Aluminium in Hamburg. The rolling mill's highly sensitive monitor stopped production so abruptly that the aluminum belts snagged. They hit the machines and destroyed a piece of the mill. The reason: The voltage off the electricity grid weakened for just a millisecond.


This does not happen with baseload power plants to anywhere near the degree that a high percentage of renewables engenders with their fluctuating supply.
It's a good read
http://www.spiegel.de/international/ger ... 50419.html

••••

There is no oxymoron in ethical capitalism, one is a personal or corporate approach to responsible operation ( be the ethical issues treatment of staff, environment or adherence to the spirit of a law for instance. )
The other is employment of capital to produce real wealth with capital earning a return.

Mores emerging over time backed by laws ( ie child labour was moral and legal at one time and is not now ) and the real wealth that allows the finer aspects of work versus leisure...ie shorter work weeks, maternity leave, pay equality etc.

A materially wealthy society can support many marginally productive but enjoyable activities, music, arts , sports etc while poor or emerging societies struggle to feed, clothe and house.
Mores and expectations change over time and with circumstance and I'm sure in a future where say 13 year olds were found to the best defenders against cyberattacks,,,,,they would be gainfully employed ...or drafted :D
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Re: "Can you have too much solar energy?"

#32  Postby zoon » Apr 03, 2013 9:30 am

tuco wrote:ethical capitalism is either an oxymoron or a capitalism were state intervention and control is inevitable in my opinion.

Surely the only political system that doesn't require overarching state intervention and control would be ongoing clan warfare? Capitalism needs at least tight state control of the currency and of property laws, backed up in the last resort by the threat of force from a centrally controlled army, so further controls for environmental or social purposes don't change the system fundamentally.
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Re: "Can you have too much solar energy?"

#33  Postby Panderos » Apr 03, 2013 9:39 am


Bryan Caplan wrote:Why bring this up? Because like the democrat of a thousand years ago, I advocate a radical political change: anarcho-capitalism. After we've privatized everything else, I think we should privatize the police and courts, and abolish the government.

Er...no.
Bryan Caplan wrote:Since we've never had anarcho-capitalism, this peaceful equilibrium sounds like wishful thinking. But it's no more wishful thinking than stable democracy. Both systems sound crazy when first proposed. Neither can be stable as long as people expect them to be unstable. But both can be stable once people expect them to be stable.

No. Norms are not everything. He is assuming his conclusion which could be applied to any theoretical system. People believed in communism too. Or did that just fail because all the children stopped believing in the communist fairies? He is assuming that anarcho-capitalism would actually work as a system. Big melon farming assumption right there.
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Re: "Can you have too much solar energy?"

#34  Postby Loren Michael » Apr 03, 2013 4:54 pm

Panderos wrote:

Bryan Caplan wrote:Why bring this up? Because like the democrat of a thousand years ago, I advocate a radical political change: anarcho-capitalism. After we've privatized everything else, I think we should privatize the police and courts, and abolish the government.

Er...no.

I didn't link that for his assumptions about the future, just his observations about the past, which I think are sound at least in that post.
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Re: "Can you have too much solar energy?"

#35  Postby Panderos » Apr 03, 2013 6:53 pm

Hmm ok but I think the point he is missing is that norms/behaviour and the state and laws etc we create go round in a circle. Beliefs about a particular system being important are reinforced when the system works, and break down (sometimes too slowly) when it doesn't.

So if you teleported 5 million modern day English people back to medieval England and removed all the occupants, and said to us, OK, set up a state. And we'd all go 'well lets just continue with our one person one vote democracy'. And that democracy would probably fail because the reality of medieval England - it's technology etc, could not support that democracy. Even though we all believed in it.

Not sure if that affects the points being made about ethical capitalism though...
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