Tag Archives: solar panels

Solar farm up-date economic

 

Solar is on the edge of economic without government support. This is potentially an important source of dependable, long term income for landowners.

The cost of solar panels is coming down and “solar farms” are on the edge of becoming economic without government support.I f you are a land owner, you might be offered £750 to £1400 per acre in rent for 25 years, plus an RPI escalator, to cover a hundred acres or so with solar panels.  That is pension fund stuff. However, is it environmentally sustainable and does it matter anyway?

 It is almost certainly true that the energy put into making all the solar panels so far manufactured will not be recovered in the productive life of those panels.  If the energy put into manufacture, packaging, transport by sea (most are made in China), in road transport, in mounting on frameworks, in making the frameworks (all the same actions over again), and maintenance, and decommissioning, …  All of a sudden, it does not seem possible that “PV”, photovoltaics, or just “solar panels”, could possibly be genuinely environmentally sustainable.

There is at least some research which gives a useful guide. Much of that research suggests an energy payback period, on the panels themselves, of 2 to 10 years.  The US Department of Energy quotes in one of its published documents several pieces of research from all over the world where researchers of some academic standing looked at the question and showed a wide range of results but they were all presented by the Department as positive.  The summary of research indicated that crystalline modules were significantly better than a few years ago and their efficiency would improve still more.  The conclusions were also that thin-film technology was currently more efficient than crystalline and would continue to keep its lead over crystallines.  Further, as new technologies develop, this is very likely to increase efficiencies again.  For example, the sun emits a much wider range of energy wavelengths than just the visible spectrum.  New panel technologies will collect infrared and ultra violet and maybe wider.

Nevertheless, reading between the lines, most of the quoted research appeared to be limited to the energy cost of manufacture of the panels themselves. There was limited or no indication that the total energy cost of a working installation had been taken into account. One of the bits of research even admitted that they had not even included the thin frame that surrounds the panel before putting into its packaging. So, there is some doubt about whether the research figures cover all the energy costs, not just of manufacture, but also of packaging, shipping, land transport, installation, site infrastructure, site works, supporting frame construction, commissioning, maintenance, cleaning and failures.

DOES PAY-BACK MATTER?

Maybe not.  It depends on where you sit. If it makes money for everyone involved; maybe that is good enough?  Only the taxpayer might not agree.  One thing “renewable” (but not necessarily sustainable) might be seen to deliver is less reliance in future on imported oil, gas and electricity. (Yes, we import significant amounts of electricity from France.)  There is another plus.  Whatever the energy cost, it is paid for at today’s cost.  The energy produced over the life of the installation pays back at tomorrow’s energy values; it is an investment in tomorrow.

What it comes down to is, as usual, money.  If a detailed financial study says it makes cash, then read the small print, cover the “what ifs” over the next 25 years and go ahead.  However, tone down the environmental benefit; you might be on thin film, sorry, ice.

 

 

Solar Buildings???

 

Website Rainbow 001

Promises of new, sustainable energy sources.

 

My spies tell me that there is a rumour that TATA Steel are about to launch and added value steel sheet which really is a step forward.  It is intended to be used to cover the rooves and walls of buildings and, this is the clever bit, it I covered with thousands of solar cells.  A building covered in these sheets becomes a power station.

I have often taken the view that government should insist that all new buildings, ALL new building should be fitted with solar panels on the roof.  More than that, what is the point of building a roof and then adding another of solar panels?  Why not just clad a roof in solar panels only?

Bill Butterworth, Land Research Ltd, 12 August 16

For a frightening but good technical read, try “Survival! – Sustainable Energy, Wastes. Shale Gas and The Land” in  electronic version on Kindle.

Shale gas is BEO

 

P1000991

Do you heat your home by gas? How long would it take to change your house and several million others to renewable electricity – if we had it? (Which we don’t.)

Why is shale gas BEO (Best Environmental Option) and an environmental necessity in the UK? There is a stark choice looming.  Solar and wind turbine farms do not produce gas. Around two thirds/ three quarters of UK homes are heated by gas. Just suppose we had the renewable energy capability which was also sustainable (you get more out then you put in), which we do not have yet, but even if we did, how long would it take to change all those domestic properties to renewable and sustainable electricity?  Never mind the cost (which would be substantial), how long would it take to change several million households? Without any doubt, any doubt whatsoever, several generations.

A significant proportion of our gas is imported.  No other country in the world has technology as good as the UK drilling industry.  No other country in the world is as well regulated and inspected as the UK.  There are British drilling fluids you can drink. (Not too much at once – you would get constipated but not poisoned.)  Logically, if we have a higher degree of environmental friendliness, have our shale gas not someone else’s.  Shale gas is a clean burn “transition fuel” which will buy us the time and give us the cash to develop sustainable renewable energy – provided we do not squander the cash on something else. (Not to mention North Sea oil?) Keeping jobs here is a bonus and not an insignificant one.

Want some more figures?  Go to www.shalegas.co.uk.

Bill Butterworth 6th February 2016

 

 

Political significance of batteries and renewable energy

“We get the government we deserve”

Churchill

  • Solar-powered batteries change global political power.
  • Solar-powered batteries will change the way we live.
  • The fact that no-one is talking about this in the UK election demonstrates the inadequacy of government which is not technology-based.

By Bill Butterworth

3 April 15


 

P1000873

Energy bis power. If democracy is to be meaningful, the people must have energy. Renewable energy is changing everything. 

Which is more important to the families of the UK; the outcome of the UK parliamentary election or the announcement by Tesla of the USA of a battery that stores electrical power from the solar panels on the roof of a house and allows at least a level of less need of paying the electricity bill from the big suppliers and maybe, with solar, wind and other forms of renewable energy, complete independence?

Well, democracy is fundamentally important.  However, one wonders whether a change of government does anything more than tinker at the edges. The truth is that there are very bright people in elected government and the Civil Service.  However, there are very few, very very few, scientists or technologists.  The truth is that government has no structure at the top level that makes decisions (never mind the “advisors”) that understands the impact and consequences of technological developments.  So here are some thoughts to ponder.

  1. On the face of it, the development of batteries could, in the long run, allow the building of power-independent domestic households. The step by Tesla is dramatic but batteries will have to improve (in time they will) to give complete independence.
  2. This will change the business of power distribution.
  3. For the majority of us, this will take a very long time, generations in fact.
  4. This particular technology is currently based on Lithium. There is not enough in the face of this earth to put a battery in every household and, bear in mind, the Chinese control about 80% of the known world supply.

How much are the politicians wishing to be elected into the new parliament are talking about this?  At the time of writing this post, I have of heard none.  What can be done about, yet again, the Chinese out-thinking us in planning the future of its industry?  The fact is that our democracy is not science and technology based and, therefore is fundamentally weak.

By the way, this blog has talked about micro-organism-power batteries – see April 6 and 15.  Science is just about common dense and evidence.  Without that, democracy flounders.

Solar Impulse , batteries and the national grid

  • Solar panels take to the air to prove “sustainability”
  • Batteries will change how electricity is generated and used
  • This will postpone the day that demand exceeds generation capacity
  • Government should be supporting battery research

By Bill Butterworth

6 April 15


The departure of Solar Impulse on its attempt to fly round the world on solar power may or may not succeed without a hitch.  Succeed or not, it already has chalked up the long lasting effect it was set up for; marking a cross roads, a sea change, in where solar power is.

This event is important for one fundamental reason; the aircraft uses batteries to be able to fly at night. It is the ability to store electrical power which will change the way power is distributed.  The UK national grid was designed to take electricity from very large and remote power stations to the point of use. What batteries enable is the storage and use of power on a local basis.  This allows small scale power generation to reduce peak loads on the grid and that in itself will postpone the day when peak power demand exceeds the capacity of the grid and large areas shut down.  It would also allow local power generation and use to be used without the grid.

There is also an embarrassment for Edison who might turn in his grave.  Edison had a choice between DC and AC and went for the latter.  The possibility of an continental super grid, working on DC, plus most renewable energy being actually produced as DC, may mean he was wrong as far as current circumstances are involved.

Interesting times ahead.

Pickles in a pickle over “renewable” energy

  •  Appeal for 24MW solar farm granted.
  • Secretary of State ill-advised.
  • Energy security is better excuse.

By Bill Butterworth

13 March 15


 

PV Devizes

National energy security is hidden in this picture. Solar panels may or may not be sustainable but we do need our own power supply.

It is not just a pity that government is sometimes dishonest and ignorant, it is an affront to democracy. An appeal for a 24MW solar farm on a former World War II airfield site in Suffolk has been approved by communities secretary Eric Pickles, who originally refused the scheme in 2013. Pickles, who had his initial decision quashed by a High Court ruling, has now said that the development would provide a “considerable amount” of clean, renewable and sustainable energy. He added that the scheme would make a “valuable contribution” to cutting greenhouse gas emission and help tackle climate change.

Why is that dishonest and ignorant? Well, solar farms might help reduce the production of Carbon dioxide and hence “make a valuable contribution” at a local, installed, level but it is unlikely if looking at the whole of the supply chain. The independent research on energy input and return on the manufacture, packaging, transport, erection, commissioning, maintenance and decommissioning of solar panels really does suggest that we will probably not get back what we have put in so far in energy terms and, it must be remembered, the energy in is quite likely to have been produced by burning brown coal. So, sorry Eric, either you or your advisors are likely to be ignorant, dishonest or both.

There are, however, positives about solar power. Like all new technologies it needs time and in the short run may well be a step back. So, firstly, it is getting better in efficiency terms and will almost certainly continue to do so. Secondly, there is a very good reason to generate here in the UK by whatever means and that is that we need energy security. With a rising tide of population, we need more energy and security of supply seems prudent in a world where trust is not dependable. Thirdly, the advent and launch of the solar-power plane, Solar Impulse, shows that large scale storage of solar and other energies is now a real possibility. When that is possible and economic, it will revolutionise the distribution of electricity.

The dilemma of more people and more power not only remains, it is getting more pressing and we react with ostrich-like abandon.

Are solar panels sustainable?

  •  Return on investment is far higher than farming can deliver from land
  •  Sustainability in terms of energy in delivering more energy out is questionable
  • Research figures are available
  • Energy security is an issue

By Bill Butterworth

12 December 2014


photo

There is a dawning light behind the power pole – but will solar panels give us a sustainable “renewable” power supply?

If you are a land owner, you might be offered £750 to £1400 per acre in rent for 25 years, plus an RPI escalator, to cover anything from half an acre to over hundred acres with solar panels. That is pension fund stuff. However, is it environmentally sustainable and does it matter anyway?

It is almost certainly true that the energy put into making all the solar panels so far manufactured will not be recovered in the productive life of those panels. If the energy put into manufacture, packaging, transport by sea (most are made in China), in road transport, in mounting on frameworks, in making the frameworks (all the same actions over again), and maintenance, and decommissioning, if all of that were added up, then all of a sudden, it does not seem possible that “PV”, photovoltaics, or just “solar panels”, could possibly be genuinely environmentally sustainable. This is almost certainly right and, unfortunately, it applies to most “renewable” energy sources.

There is at least some research which gives a useful guide. Much of that research suggests an energy payback period, on the panels themselves, of 2 to 10 years. The US Department of Energy quotes in one of its published documents several pieces of research from all over the world where researchers of some academic standing looked at the question and showed a wide range of results but they were all presented by the Department as positive. The summary of research indicated that crystalline modules were significantly better than a few years ago and their efficiency would improve still more. The conclusions were also that thin-film technology was currently more efficient than crystalline and would continue to keep its lead over crystallines. Further, as new technologies develop, this is very likely to increase efficiencies again. For example, the sun emits a much wider range of energy wavelengths than just the visible spectrum. New panel technologies will collect infrared and ultra violet and maybe wider.

Nevertheless, reading between the lines, most of the quoted research appeared to be limited to the energy cost of manufacture of the panels themselves. There was limited or no indication that the total energy cost of a working installation had been taken into account. One of the bits of research even admitted that they had not even included the thin frame that surrounds the panel before putting into its packaging. So, there is some doubt about whether the research figures cover all the energy costs, not just of manufacture, but also of packaging, shipping, land transport, installation, site infrastructure, site works, supporting frame construction, commissioning, maintenance, cleaning and failures

Maybe not. It depends on where you sit. If it makes money (because of government subsidy) for everyone involved; maybe that is good enough? Only the taxpayer might not agree. One thing “renewable” (but not necessarily sustainable) might be seen to deliver is less reliance in future on imported oil, gas and electricity. (Yes, we import significant amounts of electricity from France.) There is another plus. Whatever the energy cost, it is paid for at today’s cost. The energy produced over the life of the installation pays back at tomorrow’s energy values; it is an investment in tomorrow.

What it comes down to is, as usual, money. If a detailed financial study says it makes cash, then read the small print, cover the “what ifs” over the next 25 years and go ahead. However, tone down the environmental benefit; you might be on thin film, sorry, ice.