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Earth Technology

Solar Could Lead In Power Production By 2050 167

Lucas123 writes Solar power could be the leading source of electricity compared with other renewables and conventional sources of power, such as oil and coal, according to a pair of reports from the International Energy Agency. PV panels could produce 16% of the world's electricity, while solar thermal electricity (STE) is on track to produce 11%. At the end of 2013, there had been 137GW of solar capacity deployed around the world. Each day, an additional 100MW of power is deployed. One reason solar is so promising is plummeting prices for photovoltaic cells and new technologies that promise greater solar panel efficiency. For example, MIT just published a report on a new material that could be ideal for converting solar energy into heat by tuning the material's spectrum of absorption. Ohio State University just announced what it's referring to as the world's first solar battery, which integrates PV with storage at a microscopic level. "We've integrated both functions into one device. Any time you can do that, you reduce cost," said Yiying Wu, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Ohio State.
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Solar Could Lead In Power Production By 2050

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  • by hansoloaf ( 668609 ) <hansoloaf@nOSPaM.yahoo.com> on Friday October 03, 2014 @07:19PM (#48060153)
    of making it difficult for homeowners to utilize this technology thanks to the regulatory capture of giant utility companies. http://www.law360.com/articles/573896/enviros-blast-pa-limits-on-customer-solar-generation [law360.com] http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/as-hawaii-demands-utility-reform-thousands-of-solar-installers-are-laid-off [greentechmedia.com] This along with downgrading of utilities stock by one of these banks or analysts (I can't recall which right now), we are going to see utility companies use their political connections to stifle this until they can have full control of the solar electricity production.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      It's not "regulatory capture"; it's the very real cost of maintaining the infrastructure that you count on when it's dark out for a few days. I know you're a special penny, but why do you deserve to get paid more for power than other generators? That is exactly what happens with net metering.

      • by tlambert ( 566799 ) on Friday October 03, 2014 @09:31PM (#48060789)

        It's not "regulatory capture"; it's the very real cost of maintaining the infrastructure that you count on when it's dark out for a few days. I know you're a special penny, but why do you deserve to get paid more for power than other generators? That is exactly what happens with net metering.

        So tax us honestly.

        Tax us on energy production and again on consumption -- grid usage -- to maintain the grid, instead of hiding the cost of the grid. Don't let some corporate behemoth charge us what they want based on "Think of the grid!"; the argument is no more valid than "Think of the children!".

        Of course, if we do this, I must insist that the grid be owned by the public, as well, rather than some corporate behemoth, and it can be maintained by the lowest bidder. If the corporate behemoth *happens* to be that bidder, good on them. If it doesn't, good on whoever wins instead.

        Just like the gas tax or bridge tolls, and public roads.

        • by FlyHelicopters ( 1540845 ) on Friday October 03, 2014 @10:47PM (#48061023)

          Amen...

          The grid is no different than public roads, we don't allow private companies (well, we do, but we shouldn't) to control roads, we shouldn't do it with our power grid...

          Generation and power delivery need to be separate, so you pay to have grid tie and pay for power delivery. You can also sell your power back at some rate that the market will bear. At some point, they'll pay you so little that installing batteries makes more sense than grid tie and selling it back. :)

          • by mpe ( 36238 )
            Generation and power delivery need to be separate, so you pay to have grid tie and pay for power delivery. You can also sell your power back at some rate that the market will bear.

            The structure of the grid depends very much on the kind of power plants used though. In terms of are they generating full time or part time. If that latter is it to a schedule or effectivly random.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 03, 2014 @11:31PM (#48061133)

        "I know you're a special penny, but why do you deserve to get paid more for power than other generators?"

        Because it doesn't pollute, it's more sustainable, it makes our country less reliant on outside dealers, it de-incentivizes using the military to confiscate international lands and resources, it increases the national security.

        • "Because it doesn't pollute, it's more sustainable, it makes our country less reliant on outside dealers,"

          Unfortunately that common sense answer will be lost on the fossil fuel advocates
        • The energy disinfo trolls are all over solar threads. Gee, i wonder why.
        • it de-incentivizes using the military to confiscate international lands and resources, it increases the national security.

          Unless your talking about Libia [wikipedia.org] and it's resources [wikipedia.org], of course that doesn't count because it was the Europeans that started that brouhaha and dragged us in as an after-thought, and because their Industrial-military complex contractor changed their mind [nature.com]. Just because we told that dirtbag Gaddafi, that we would leave him alone if he gave up his WMD ambitions and quit sponsoring terrorism isn't any reason to actually leave him alone when he did.

    • of making it difficult for homeowners to utilize this technology thanks to the regulatory capture of giant utility companies.

      Hawaii's solar energy industry (like most) is in a "precarious situation" because they depend on regulatory capture for their survival.

      Demanding the end of regulatory capture and subsidies isn't regulatory capture.

      This along with downgrading of utilities stock by one of these banks or analysts

      Why would banks or analysts give a f*ck whether people invest in green energy or purple energ

  • by Anonymous Coward

    That's messed up... Only 40 years of oil supply left, compared to 160 years natural gas and 400 years of coal.

    No electricity should be generated via oil right now, and definitely not in 2050.

    • There is a 800MW plant in my region that burns heavy oil (bunker oil). It's used for peaking and as backup capacity for when one of the two nuclear plants goes offline.
    • by dj245 ( 732906 )

      That's messed up... Only 40 years of oil supply left, compared to 160 years natural gas and 400 years of coal.

      No electricity should be generated via oil right now, and definitely not in 2050.

      The amount of electricity generated using oil in the US is less than 1% and has been that way for decades. Oil is too expensive to burn compared to any other way of making electricity. The 1% used in the USA is generally in emergency cases where there is a heat wave / cold snap and demand outstrips the normal supply.

  • This prediction was made on nonsensical assumptions and optimism, including doubling of efficiency on mass produced panels and absurd lowering of costs.

    • > This prediction was made on nonsensical assumptions

      The article said "IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven stressed in a statement that her agency's two reports do not represent a forecast. "

      The reports are not predictions of what will happen. They are a statement of "if bureaucrats wanted to increase the use of solar electric, here's how they could try, here's how much magical technology would be required, and here's what some of the (disastrous) consequences would be. It doesn't say that any

    • by K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) on Friday October 03, 2014 @08:10PM (#48060427)
      Absurd? [wikipedia.org]
  • by tomhath ( 637240 ) on Friday October 03, 2014 @07:29PM (#48060223)
    FTFA:

    The Executive Director also stressed that the two reports do not represent a forecast.

    The linked article also misstates what the U.S. Department of Energy report contains (no, it doesn't say solar will go from .2 to 10%). People post this kind of nonsense and then wonder why they have a credibility problem.

  • by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Friday October 03, 2014 @07:43PM (#48060295) Journal

    From the article. "IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven stressed in a statement that her agency's two reports do not represent a forecast. "

    The report said "if you wanted to try to have more solar, here's what you would try, and here's what the (devastating) consequences would be. They absolutely did not in any way say that would happen or should happen.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Solar Could be 50+% of production, but only around 35% of energy usage. AKA, we'd be wasting power because we are installing too much solar power while we have no good way to store the power, a new solar station only reduces hydrocarbon use by around 60% per watt in places with existing solar power usage due to the need to idle hydrocarbon plants but the inability to fully shut them down. These returns are diminishing. We need to end all solar subsidies and instead focus on energy storage, not tomorrow but

    • by K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) on Friday October 03, 2014 @08:17PM (#48060465)
      Smart appliances with "on-supply" operation, charging vehicle batteries, improved stationary storage, and solar thermal plants with large heat storage could significantly close the gap. Well, could...they most likely will. It's not like we have much of a choice, is it? Also, those hydrocarbon plant will be using gas turbines at that point in time. Again, it's not like their designers will have a choice, what with an energy market with volatile demand.
    • Wow, I have no idea what your opinion is on renewable energy and man-made global warming is but I completely agree with you. We're throwing so much energy into the ether because we have no reliable storage. Solar subsidies are evil. They distort market equilibrium and hurt the poor. DARPA and NASA can receive 100% of the solar subsidies and practically create a new Manhattan project for batteries. The below commenter also mentioned smart appliances. I agree. What if our appliances had these new super batter
      • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
        Fossil fuel companies get billions more in subsidies than solar. But you don't complain about those. Why?
    • AKA, we'd be wasting power because we are installing too much solar power while we have no good way to store the power

      I'm pretty sure the "good" way to store the power will not be at central stores, but in people's houses. If the storage of solar energy is in the hands of energy companies, then we've failed.

      Hell, if the production of solar energy ends up in the hands of energy companies, then we have failed. The future is off the grid, or it's going to suck.

      • Solar is unrealistic for everyone. There are areas of the country where it is overcast for days or weeks at a time. No central power and they're screwed if they're solar. In the long run a combination of larger central and smaller local nuclear power units is the better scenario.

        • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Friday October 03, 2014 @10:13PM (#48060929) Journal

          There are areas of the country where it is overcast for days or weeks at a time.

          It's a shame that no solar energy reaches earth when there are clouds.

          I never thought about it, but I guess Germany must be as sunny as Phoenix, Arizona. Plus, I guess you're right that we reached the pinnacle of technology in 2010 and the collection of solar energy will never get any more efficient. Too bad. I guess we'll just have to suck it up and stick with proven technologies like cold fusion.

        • Perhaps you need to do some research about solar before making comments like that
        • Areas of the country that are very cloudy tend to have more wind and hydro energy, cause clouds tend to be associated with storm fronts. You are correct that solar varies in usability by location, but typically other renewables compensate. Hydro in Seattle, solar in Phoenix. And grid operators know this. They aren't stupid.

    • Don't let help them open more solar power plants till we can store the power.

      Then fill the reservoirs up with desalinated water so we don't have to hear all the crying about the droughts. We waste because we are wasteful, not because we produce too much.

    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      Wasting power we're currently throwing away anyhow seems like an odd concern. You could even store the excess energy in a really inefficient storage medium and still come out ahead -- provided that excess power was cheap enough to produce in the first place and the storage mechanism was cheap enough. It's the *financial* return that will determine behavior; the physical efficiency is only a contributing factor.

      The real limiting point for percentage generated by solar will be the result of a complicated mix

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )
      Think about it - most industry runs when the sun in shining. Since thermal base load runs around the clock if it can we currently have cheaper energy rates at night to encourage using that up which is why usage doesn't drop towards zero at three in the morning, which it would do without that financial encouragement. So we could get a fairly big chunk (not all) of electricity requirements from solar thermal and photovoltaics without having to keep enough steam to run all night or huge batteries/pump storag
  • How silly (Score:5, Funny)

    by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Friday October 03, 2014 @10:46PM (#48061015) Journal

    They act like they think there could be technological advancements in the next 35 years.

    We know better. Technology stopped progressing early last decade and solar will never be useful. In fact, solar energy is bad for you, causes cancer and creates 100 times more pollution than fracking in a nuclear waste site. Being part of the grid is double-plus good. It ties us together as a society and fosters love and understanding. In the long run, fossil fuels save money and keep the environment clean, because we dig that nasty oil and coal out of the ground where it could hurt animals and burn it off safely.

    This has been a paid advertisement, and may not represent the opinions of the proprietors of this Slashdot account.

  • I think areas highly suited for solar power generation--southwestern USA, around the Mediterranean Sea, much of the Middle East, and much of Australia--will be the areas where rooftop solar panels and large-scale solar power plants start to dominate in terms of power generation. Mind you, they may be competing against future forms of nuclear power, especially if the technology for molten-salt nuclear reactors fueled by thorium-232 dissolved in molten fluoride salts become practical.

  • From an energy companies perspective the big problem with solar is that you need to think about what happens on a cloudy day or at night. Basically that means you need to have altenative capacity to produce energy that is in most cases 100% of the installed PV capacity, as the power storage technologies that are available now just aren't up to storing the PV from sunny days for later use. For example PV represents upto 40% of the power for the French operator SEI (sei.edf.fr) who supply power to Corsica, Ma

    • by AK Marc ( 707885 )

      From an energy companies perspective the big problem with solar is that you need to think about what happens on a cloudy day or at night. Basically that means you need to have altenative capacity to produce energy that is in most cases 100% of the installed PV capacity, as the power storage technologies that are available now just aren't up to storing the PV from sunny days for later use.

      And energy use goes down on cloudy days (less A/C used). You are looking for a problem that doesn't exist. There are plenty of battery technologies out there. They aren't used because they aren't economical, not because they don't exist. There isn't enough solar production to make storage save anything.

      For example PV represents upto 40% of the power for the French operator SEI (sei.edf.fr) who supply power to Corsica, Martinique, Guadoloupe, etc. However, they have enormous diesel generators they replace the PV at night and cloudy days.

      And it's what, about 80% of usage during the day? So until that 40% approaches 80%, they obviously don't have over-production of solar that would allow storage. If they had "perfect" storage now, it woul

      • Understand I work for a power company, and as I said I'm giving the electric companies perspective.

        And energy use goes down on cloudy days (less A/C used). You are looking for a problem that doesn't exist. There are plenty of battery technologies out there. They aren't used because they aren't economical, not because they don't exist.

        I'd say you live in a warm climate.. Cloudy days means more energy in colder climates. France uses at its peak about 100 GWatts of electricity. Say you'll need at least 10 hours of battery storage, then you are talking about 1 TWh of power storage for 100% replacement by PV. You can't seriously imagine that any current battery technology can supply that type of storage. Hydro can get you part of the way there,

        • by catprog ( 849688 )

          I'd say you live in a warm climate.. Cloudy days means more energy in colder climates. France uses at its peak about 100 GWatts of electricity. Say you'll need at least 10 hours of battery storage, then you are talking about 1 TWh of power storage for 100% replacement by PV. .

          So a peak that lasts 10 hours?

          If fact the 40% peak PV is for a Sunny Sunday afternoon, so a lot further away from 80% than you think. .

          So storage is even further away from being needed?

          • So a peak that lasts 10 hours?

            Again this is not about the peak power source but the replacement of a base power source by an intermittent one. The 10 hour number is a number that wouls allow the lack of an intermittent source to be replaced by battery for a reasonable period of time.

            So storage is even further away from being needed?

            As the title of the article is "Solar Could Lead In Power Production By 2050" and the only way Solar can do that is to replace a base power source then storage is needed to make an intermittent source like Solar look like a base source from the grids persepe

  • Almost every article I read says "efficiency" (% of photon energy converted to electricity) is the problem with solar panels, and there is all this focus on higher-efficiency panels. But let's get it straight: It won't be rising efficiency (watts/m^2) that make solar panels really take off; it's not like limited roofspace is the bottleneck that we're all fighting here. It's cost: dollars per watt. As cost drops, solar panels should further proliferate.
  • So, solar generating 50% of world's electricity by 2050.
    And what about the rest ? We need 100% renewables by then, are you telling me that wind+hydro+biomass+geothermal will produce the balance ?
    Honestly, how much coal and natural gas will still be burned by then ?
    Per the usual, the anti nuclear wind+solar only ignore the real problems and focus only on the pleasant side of their ideas.
    We could get rid of 100% of coal and 50% natural gas far before that if we start adopting nuclear in mass scale right now.
    I

  • Here in Wisconsin, USA have only one electricity provider, WE-Energies. If you install solar and are connected to their grid they charge a higher rate. WTF is up with that?

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