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Existing Solar Tech Could Power Entire US, Says NREL 589

Posted by Soulskill
from the could-but-won't dept.
derekmead writes "A new report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory finds that solar holds more potential to generate more power (PDF) than any other clean energy source. The NREL broke things down into four groups: urban and rural utility-scale photovoltaics (giant solar plants, basically) as well as rooftop solar and concentrated mirror arrays. Between those technologies, which are all already on the market, the NREL reckons there's a proven potential for solar to hit a capacity of 200,000 gigawatts in the United States alone. For some perspective, 1 gigawatt is what a single nuclear power plant might generate, and it's more than most coal plants. A gigawatt of capacity is enough to power approximately 700,000 homes."
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Existing Solar Tech Could Power Entire US, Says NREL

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  • by fustakrakich (1673220) on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @06:06PM (#40849009) Journal

    In a capitalist society, abundance is not a feature.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @06:12PM (#40849099)

      ...and if every home can generate their own power at point of usage.. Well there is no long term market in that except panel cleaning.

      • by zlives (2009072) on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @06:41PM (#40849435)

        replacement, repair, also sun goes down and sometimes is cloudy. so you still need power infrastructure just not so much of it... so accordingly price adjusted for the power companies

      • by Penguinisto (415985) on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @07:40PM (#40850135) Journal

        ...and if every home can generate their own power at point of usage.. Well there is no long term market in that except panel cleaning.

        Well, not exactly:

        * inverters blow out, occasionally needing replacement
        * sometimes you use more power than the panels can provide (especially if you have a garage)
        * a home with north-facing roof or on the north side of anything bigger than it doesn't fare so well.
        * as sibling said - the sun goes down every day.
        * if you have kids, odds are good they're going to throw something onto the roof. Odds are better that it'll be hard enough to crack the glass on a panel.
        * even top-end panels last about 25 years max before peak output drops below 80% of rated Wp.

        Finally, to make a panel, you have to burn an unholy amount of electricity just to feed the CZ furnaces for the wafers/cells (letting alone wafering, cell processing, panel construction, etc). It has to come from *somewhere*...

        • by Mike_EE_U_of_I (1493783) on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @08:26PM (#40850563)

          * inverters blow out, occasionally needing replacement
          * sometimes you use more power than the panels can provide (especially if you have a garage)
          * a home with north-facing roof or on the north side of anything bigger than it doesn't fare so well.
          * as sibling said - the sun goes down every day.

          True.

          * if you have kids, odds are good they're going to throw something onto the roof. Odds are better that it'll be hard enough to crack the glass on a panel.

          Not true. Panels are designed to withstand pretty heavy hail hitting it at terminal velocity. Unless your kids are shooting at your roof with a gun, the panels should be fine.

          * even top-end panels last about 25 years max before peak output drops below 80% of rated Wp

          Not true. Standard guarantee is that panels will be at the 80% mark or higher at 25 years.

          Finally, to make a panel, you have to burn an unholy amount of electricity just to feed the CZ furnaces for the wafers/cells (letting alone wafering, cell processing, panel construction, etc). It has to come from *somewhere*...

          True. But energy payback time is down to between .5 and 1.4 years depending on exact technology used. That's from the EPIA March 2011 white paper, and things are surely better now.

        • by Maury Markowitz (452832) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @07:58AM (#40854339) Homepage

          > * even top-end panels last about 25 years max before peak output drops below 80% of rated Wp.

          Nope. That's when their warrantee expires, but that don't actually "do that" in the field. My car didn't magically stop moving when it hit its 80,000 km power train warrantee either.

          Arco started serial production of panels in the early 1970. Those that can be found (most were scrapped, some sank in the ocean) are producing an amount not easily distinguishable from 100% of their post-burn-in power rating. That's after 40 years. This is not atypical. Study after study after study has shown that there is no real degradation after burn-in, and the warrantee is really covering mechanical failures.

          The same is not true of inverters. Most of them have a 10 year warrantee and last 12 to 15. That is something everyone expects to improve as operational frequencies increase. Microinverters almost all come with 25 year warrantees now.

          > you have to burn an unholy amount of electricity just to feed the CZ furnaces

          The panels "pay off" their energy in 2 to 3 years. Thin-film versions in 1 or less.

          And before you say it, do you know where concrete comes from?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      <quote><p> In a capitalist society, abundance is not a feature.</p></quote>

      True, its actually a bug!
    • In a capitalist society, abundance is not a feature.

      "Since the beginning of time man has yearned to destroy the sun. I will do the next best thing...block it out!" - Montgomery Burns

  • by MightyMartian (840721) on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @06:06PM (#40849011) Journal

    Don't bother us with your pathetic alternative energies. We have to burn every fucking ounce of long-chain hydrocarbons, use up every ounce of radioactive ore, burn every ounce of methane and other simple hydrocarbon, before we even consider your pathetic green hippy alternative energy sources. Only fags and Commies believe in generating electricity by anything other than CO2-vomiting power plants. Oh, and CO2 is totally harmless, no matter how fucking much of it you puke out.

    God bless oil! The only way oil could be better is if I could fuck or eat it! Now get off my lawn, you pathetic Marxist hippies.

    • by Hadlock (143607)

      We just have to burn more than we can pull out of the ground and you'll immediately see prices spike, as governments ration oil to make sure that farms, commerce, and armies get first grabs at it. Personal automobiles may bid up to $10/gallon for whatever's left over.

      • Cost is important! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by xzvf (924443) on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @06:35PM (#40849373)
        I've looked at putting solar panels on my house, and it will cost $30K after tax breaks and credits. The life span of a solar panel is 15-20 years with a denigration of efficiency of about 25% over that period. Then they will have to be replaced again. The payback period is roughly 10-12 years, so I'd come out ahead, but I have to make a significant capital purchase and live in the house for over a decade. What happens if I get a new job that requires me to move next year? The $30K investment in the house doesn't raise it's value that amount. For this to work, the payback period will have to drop to 5-6 years, and solar panels will have to be considered a viable option. Geo-thermal heat pumps, vertical wind turbines, efficient appliances, zone cooling and heating, tankless water heaters and (to channel Jimmy Carter) sweaters have more reasonable payback.
        • by ceoyoyo (59147) on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @06:43PM (#40849453)

          No, it doesn't. So long as the solar panels pay for themselves, they're viable. It may not be viable for an individual to put them on his roof (mostly because they are undervalued in the market, if what you say is true) but that has nothing to do with whether you can go and build solar power plants to replace coal, nuclear, gas and oil.

          Just because one specific type of solar installation might not be perfect (for you) doesn't mean solar itself won't work.

          • by MarcQuadra (129430) on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @07:30PM (#40850027)

            I'm in the northeast, a very low-end power user (bottom quartile), and the math still doesn't work out for me on PV. What DOES work is solar thermal to warm up a tank in the basement that sits before the hot water heaters (preheating water) and pumping heat into the living space via baseboard radiators. Unfortunately, those systems are not as cookie-cutter, so getting someone to put them in is almost impossible.

            Unfortunately, all the energy saving stuff I see seems geared for newer homes or homes in sunny and hot areas. Where I am, people generally don't even have Air Conditioning, they have 110 year-old homes that aren't well insulated (and often can't be without $15K of asbestos remediation and $5K of rewiring, neither is subsidized). I have yet to meet a contractor who understands that I want windows on the south and that ALLOW lots of infrared in.

            • by afidel (530433)

              I looked into solar hot water and a double tank system with drainback (the first needed for safety for drinking water, the second for areas with hard freezes) just didn't make economic sense against electric, let alone cheap natural gas. My calculated payback period without electricity for the drainback pumps or installation was in excessive of 20 years. Now if you don't have natural gas then solar hot water for floor heating might make sense (no need for a double tank, though I'd think you'd still need dra

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by elrous0 (869638) *

          Wish I had mod points for you. I had a similar experience when I looked into it. The numbers just didn't add up and the upfront cost is crazy. If you could get solar panel costs down to about 10% of where they are now. you could get some traction. But right now, it's just too much for most of us.

        • When I looked at it this spring, properly-sized solar panels on my house (to cover baseline load, not summer peak) would cost me about $5k after all the local and federal tax credits. The payback period would be about 5-6 years, so I'd come out very far ahead with the 20-year life. And the $5k investment in the house would absolutely raise the value of the house by at least that much. It all totally made sense.

          The only problem was that we have no south- or west-facing slopes that aren't tree covered yet.

        • by hey (83763) on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @07:24PM (#40849965) Journal

          There are companies that will own the panels and charge you for them monthly like a utility. No upfront cost.
          eg -
          http://sanjosegreenhome.com/2010/01/27/secrets-of-residential-solar-lease-sweet-deal-or-disastrous-rip-off/ [sanjosegreenhome.com]

    • by ackthpt (218170)

      Don't bother us with your pathetic alternative energies. We have to burn every fucking ounce of long-chain hydrocarbons, use up every ounce of radioactive ore, burn every ounce of methane and other simple hydrocarbon, before we even consider your pathetic green hippy alternative energy sources. Only fags and Commies believe in generating electricity by anything other than CO2-vomiting power plants. Oh, and CO2 is totally harmless, no matter how fucking much of it you puke out.

      God bless oil! The only way oil could be better is if I could fuck or eat it! Now get off my lawn, you pathetic Marxist hippies.

      I'm sure I've been past a few places in the last month where the people are entirely off the grid. I think they are laughing at everyone who doesn't have the luxury of a location suitable for wind or solar, because it really can cut our generated needs. I'm pretty sure at least one was a commune.

    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      "The only way oil could be better is if I could fuck or eat it!"

      RealDoll? Edible oil product?

      (yes, I know that last one is not petroleum, but... are you sure?)

  • by CrowdedBrainzzzsand9 (2000224) on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @06:11PM (#40849073)

    1 gigawatt is what a single nuclear power plant might generate, and it's more than most coal plants

    On the other hand, that's barely enough for one jump back to the future.

  • Thorium (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @06:14PM (#40849125)

    We could just design and build thorium reactors for a lower cost.

    They are safe.

    They do not take up valuable farm space or displace native creatures and plant life.

    • by drwho (4190)

      Yes, I think Thorium is the way to go. Of course, the DoE join-development project of LFTR with China should just about kill US ability to use it.

    • by bunratty (545641)
      The thorium fuel supply is limited, however. We'll eventually need to go directly or indirectly (wind, hydroelectric) to solar anyway. Well, either that or fusion, if we can get it to work at large scales with only deuterium (as opposed to tritium). Still, fission might be worthwhile as a stopgap measure.
      • Re:Thorium (Score:5, Informative)

        by tmosley (996283) on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @08:13PM (#40850445)
        No, it isn't. A typical rare earth mine produces enough thorium to power to planet over a given year, and there are thousands of such mines, many of which are currently uneconomical because of thorium contamination (thorium isn't useful for much other than nuclear fuel, and is expensive to store/dispose of without reactors to burn it).

        The fact is that there is so much thorium in Earth's crust, you hardly need another energy source. If we ran out after 100,000 years, we would start mining other planets and moons for the stuff. It is so energy dense that such operations would be economical, even with our current primitive technology.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P9M__yYbsZ4 [youtube.com]
      • The thorium fuel supply is limited, however.

        Far less limited than fossil fuels, however. If we use thorium breeder reactors only for all of our energy needs, I believe the sources I have read have suggested that we have identified only 50,000 years worth of thorium deposits....

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rmstar (114746)

      We could just design and build thorium reactors for a lower cost.

      They are safe.

      Of course they are not. Extracting a lot of energy from something with high energy density is never safe. This is particularly so when the scheme involves radioactive goo.

      This is of course compounded by your standard array of corrupt, stupid and greedy nuke plant operators. And you don't get a different brand of them unless you drop your libertarian wet dreams.

      So, no. Thorium reactors are currently not an alternative.

      • Re:Thorium (Score:4, Informative)

        by Mashiki (184564) <mashiki@gmai l . c om> on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @08:14PM (#40850455) Homepage

        Well you could even be using free-breeder reactors, or well anything in between too until it becomes cheaper? So what's stopping you besides wacknut environmentalists and NIMBY nuts? CANDU reactors can use anything for fuel, nice huh?

        But here you are complaining about "greedy nuke plant operators" and yet we have greedy *insert other power plant operators* and we have even worse super-greedy wind/solar operators. Who get lovely feed-in-tariffs of 40-80c/KWH to sell their electricity. That's what we pay for in Ontario right now. Oh yeah, really good. Right on track by 2015, most expensive power in North America.

        Hey, it's so bad in Germany that there's over 1m people that can't even afford their power anymore. And the price per/KWH is now over 20c.

        Thorium reactors are an alternative, but they're a stepping stone, like other nuclear technologies. Technologies that environuts, and nimbys' get their panties in a twist over.

  • The raw materials (silicon and trace elements) are virtually unlimited and highly recyclable, so that's not a problem. The problem is that photovoltaics have a limited lifespan.

    What's the energy input to replace a panel? I do believe it's favorable. In other words, I think it's worthwhile to make the cells whereas ethanol is actualy a net loser. I just don't have numbers. Google time...

    • by raygundan (16760)

      The problem is that photovoltaics have a limited lifespan.

      Well, yes-- everything does. Off-the-shelf consumer photovoltaics typically come with 25-year warranties guaranteeing 80% of original capacity at year 25. They'll gradually degrade at about 0.5%-1% of original capacity per year-- they'll last more than four decades.

      What's the energy input to replace a panel?

      Depends on the type of panel and how much sun it gets when you hang it up, but construction energy payback is generally 1-2 years. Given the a

  • Pshaw (Score:5, Funny)

    by PopeRatzo (965947) on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @06:18PM (#40849165) Homepage Journal

    Like these so-called scientists know anything. I heard on the radio today that solar energy is baloney and if the radio says it, then that's plenty good enough for me and anybody who says different is obviously biased.

  • Scenery (Score:3, Insightful)

    by verifine (685231) on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @06:18PM (#40849169)
    I for one am looking forward to that day when I can see nothing but solar cells. Desert? Heck no, solar cells! Mountains? Nope, amorphous silicon as far as the eye can see.
    • by raygundan (16760)

      This is a valid concern-- but until we run out of houses, wal-marts, and parking lots to put them on, it shouldn't be an issue. We have plenty of already-spoiled scenery that can do double duty. ASU is all over this-- their campus parking garages and parking lots are all growing solar covers. Intel's fab on the south side of town has solar panels on top of all their shaded parking.

  • 700,000 homes (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @06:18PM (#40849173)
    Not that I think solar's a bad idea, but there's an assertion made in this (stated as if it were a fact) that a gigawatt of electricity is enough to power 700,000 homes which I think may not bear scrutiny.

    First, you need more peak energy production with solar than with fossil fuels or nuclear, because you also have to be storing up energy for dark hours/cloudy days.

    Second, that sounds like it's estimating some pretty low consumption per household, which probably isn't realistic. Electric consumption per household is on the increase, and I'd expect this to continue. More so if there's a move toward electric/hybrid vehicles recharged at night.
  • The NREL broke things down into four groups: urban and rural utility-scale photovoltaics (giant solar plants, basically) as well as rooftop solar and concentrated mirror arrays. Between those technologies, which are all already on the market, the NREL reckons there's a proven potential for solar to hit a capacity of 200,000 gigawatts in the United States alone.

    oh great. i guess all we need is the bazillion dollars needed to build and maintain these massive solar arrays.

    duh.

    • Re:duh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Fished (574624) <amphigory@gmaCOMMAil.com minus punct> on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @06:22PM (#40849239)

      Seriously, building such things is not a "cost" but an investment. Just allocate the whole cost of the past several Middle-Eastern wars to your power bill and see how it goes for ya.

      • Those wars weren't about oil, they were about pumping two and a half trillion dollars from taxpayers to the well connected.
    • Re:duh (Score:4, Informative)

      by stevew (4845) on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @06:24PM (#40849257) Journal

      I did a quick calculation. Using 100W = 3 square feet.

      That is roughly 3.2 square miles/gigawatt of solar cells.
      200,000Gigawats would be 640,000 square miles, or roughly 16.8% of the US land mass.

      I'm just saying - the numbers they are throwing around are a bit amazing. Further - what happens at night? Do they have a decent storage system for this juice?

      • by minvaren (854254)
        The calculations at http://www.ez2c.de/ml/solar_land_area/ [ez2c.de] with optimal array placement came up with slightly different numbers, fwiw.

        Though granted, the overnight storage would definitely be a challenge if solar scaled that high, and a lot more long-distance transmission lines would be needed.
    • by rrohbeck (944847)

      Yeah, we should rather spend all that money on importing oil! At least that does something for those poor Arabs and we get rid of that pesky money for good. And we even get some CO2 out of it!

  • by drwho (4190) on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @06:27PM (#40849289) Homepage Journal

    I am very skeptical. Maybe I'll be more convinced when I finish reading the report. But 1) what about when it's dark? 2) there's significant losses when transmitting electricity over long distances. This can be minimized by the use a very-high voltage transmission lines, but that requires greater expense, and bigger, uglier towers. 3) What land use is going to be lost when we have so much of the country covered with solar panels? 4) photovoltaics don't work as well in the heat as the do in the cold. How are you going to fix the problem of their heating? 5) some of the newer technologies use Indium and other rare metals - are these going to become even more scarce? 5) China has killed the PV cell business in the US. 6) wind 7) nuclear

    • by Eightbitgnosis (1571875) on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @06:43PM (#40849463) Homepage
      1) Today's systems are cheep enough that the lack of production at night doesn't keep them from being profitable to install. In addition solar's best energy producing hours are peak energy drawing hours when electricity can be more expensive.

      2) Residential solar systems can be grid tied into local power systems, or a system of batteries at the place of installation.

      3) The United States Government owns huge tracks of land. Google "government land map" and you should see. Those desert areas would be perfect for solar plants.

      4) Eather the drop in solar panel prices will be enough to offset their loss of efficiency in high heat, or a new design that will be efficient in the heat will come out.

      5) Maybe

      6(2nd 5?)) They've caused the price to fall like rock. That's awesome from the home solar installer's perspective. I've seen systems as low as $0.82 per max watt output most recently, and prices are falling even further. The business isn't over, but it's a bloodbath of companies getting out classed.

      7(6?)) Unless there are amazing drops in prices I see solar staying the more economical option.

      8(7?)) Nuclear reactors take 20+ years to build. The cost of solar will long since be cheaper than nuclear by the time any plant could be built.
  • by tp1024 (2409684) on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @06:31PM (#40849325)

    Spirit and Opportunity were powered by solar panels delivering 140W.

    Curiosity, 5 times heavier, has a radionuclide battery delivering 125W.

    Despite being much heavier, Curiosity will be faster and more effective than either Spirit or Opportunity.

    The difference, of course, is that nuclear power is being delivered constantly, while solar power needs sun shine, varies over the day and depends on weather and season.The 1GW of propaganda power is what you get under ideal conditions - in other words, never. A nuclear power plant rated at 1GW will deliver this and is capable of delivering it for months without a break. On a yearly basis, 1GW in the shape of a nuclear power plant will deliver 10 times as much energy as 1GW of solar power in Germany (about 5 times more for solar power in deserts/arid areas).

    And that's without considering the need to store energy from solar power plants in order to use this power when it is needed. Both in terms of the cost in money and energy.

    If you compare solar power with anything else in the way this article does, you're deliberately deceiving the readership and nothing else.

    • by tp1024 (2409684)

      Funny the first rating is "troll". I'm merely taking the exact same position as the article and explain what's wrong about it, but all of the sudden, I'm a troll. Maybe the article is.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Also the comparison number in the article is wrong. A typical nuclear plant produces 2-4 GW power, not 1 GW. 1GW might be the amount per generator for a multi-generator plant. These sorts of articles would be more convincing if the advocates of solar power didn't understate the amount of power produced by competing sources, or underestimate the amount of power required per household, or (in this case) both.
    • by spitzak (4019)

      Actually Curiosity will be slower than Spirit/Opportunity, according to the pdf I read. However it is able to get over obstacles that would have stopped the older ones.

    • by downhole (831621)

      Exactly, the power output definitions are completely different. A 1GW-rated nuclear plant will produce 1GW 24/7/365, rain or shine. The solar panels are rated 1GW peak. Real instant output depends on a bunch of stuff, like sunlight intensity and angle and how dirty the panels are - were they installed with a 2-axis gimbal system to keep them constantly pointed directly at the sun, or just sitting on the ground? And is there some mechanism to clean them off regularly? Take that stuff into account and the nee

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @06:42PM (#40849443)

    The nuclear plant outside Phoenix produces over 3.3 GW. Stating that a nuclear plant "might produce" 1 GW to make your photovoltaic inefficiency sound better is disingenuous at best. Also, last time I checked urban rooftops are already cluttered with equipment, not just sitting there waiting for someone to exploit that real estate, and rural areas are often full of food producing, recreation having, wildlife harboring land. Why you'd want to cover that with vast arrays of shiny glass and metal I can't say. Just remember, all those arrays need plenty of grease, and petroleum products to keep them operational. They'll still result in plenty of pollution of their immediate footprint, which is enormous.

  • This:

    "A new report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory finds that solar holds more potential to generate more power (PDF) than any other clean energy source."

    and this:

    "The NREL broke things down into four groups: urban and rural utility-scale photovoltaics (giant solar plants, basically) as well as rooftop solar and concentrated mirror arrays."

    don't jive. They're leaving out a lot of other technologies such as wind, hydroelectric (micro through major), wood (which is very clean), etc. Solar's grea

  • by SternisheFan (2529412) on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @06:47PM (#40849513)
    Wouldn't it be great if the U.S. started a public works program (not unlike the Hoover Dam project) that provided unemployed Americans jobs building solar/battery systems? Wouldn't that be a fantastic use of taxpayer's dollars? Why isn't that already happening to help out of work Americans?
  • What if during the housing boom, there was a mandate in place that all new homes had to be built with solar panels? Imagine how much power those acres upon acres of vacant homes around Vegas would be producing right now.

    In order for solar to be viable on a large scale, it needs to be mandated by the government and the utilities need to be coerced into allowing homes to feed back into the grid. During the day when people are at work, their homes can be powering their offices. When they are home at night,

  • by urusan (1755332) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @03:59AM (#40853215)

    I'm a proponent of nuclear power and I'm a bit skeptical about the practicality of renewables in the short term, but I believe that in the long run solar is going to dominate the energy scene. The amount of energy the Earth recieves from the sun is staggering, and the amount of solar energy we could generate if we created huge sun-orbiting solar power plants is pretty much unimaginable in modern terms (the sun outputs enough energy to sustain a population of 24 trillion billion humans at present rates of consumption). As such, I have no doubt that we will one day be able to meet our basic needs using solar power. It would be conservative to predict that eventually we will be drawing in massively more energy from solar power than we consume today from all sources.

    In particular though, solar is the most direct and efficient power source that does not suffer from Jevons Paradox. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jevons_paradox [wikipedia.org] If we perfected fission and fusion power, we'd simply amp up our power usage massively. Cheaper energy means we can afford to do more with it. Suborbital commuter flights? Launching city-sized spacecraft? Colonizing the solar system and maintaining the colonies with regular shipments of supplies? Not a problem...but with such massive energy consumption, we'd eventually face yet another energy crisis. Although it may seem rediculous now, supplies of easily obtainable, high yield fusion and fission fuel would probably be depleted to worrying levels within the timeframe of a human lifetime.

    This doesn't apply to the sun. You can't mine the sun, it's simply too hot. Plus, it's already a fantastic fusion power plant, so there's no need to try it. The only "downside" is that the sun has a production limit, which is fairly stable and not easily increased. However, this is really a blessing in the long run as we can't consume more than what the sun gives off in a given time period, leading to long-term stability. Therefore solar is the only notable power source in the long run.

    That said, non-solar nuclear still has an important place. In the short term, fission can help reduce our reliance on coal during the gap between fossil fuels and solar. In the medium term, nuclear has an important place in space colonization and turning the sun into a giant fusion power plant. In the long run, it may still have a place as a high-density energy storage medium. The point here is that the energy we use doesn't just vanish. What we make out of it can have a big impact. We wouldn't have gotten to the point where we could make the leap to nuclear and solar without fossil fuels...or at the very least it would have taken much longer to get where we are now. The use of "consumable" nuclear power will jumpstart our next big push.

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