Re: Carbon Neutral Solar Gasoline?

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If they reliably develop a way to pull carbon in quantities out of the air (besides planting trees, that is), then the only remotely sensible thing to do is sock it away in the ground for eternity.


Posted by: marichiweu | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 9:02 AM
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The Saudis do not have lots of energy industry expertise, unless you count running a cartel.

It'd be funny if they ended up still selling us gas even after the wells ran dry.

Yeah. That would be hilarious.


Posted by: Michael Vanderwheel, B.A. | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 9:07 AM
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I balked at that for a couple of reasons. It's a huge engineering effort, and it seems like that same effort would be better directed at electric vehicles, which feel like they're within reach. It's not as ideal for desert solar as you might think, because there's also a need for water - you're starting with CO2 and want to get a *hydro*carbon.

It might make sense as a second-stage cleaning effort to remove carbon already in the atmosphere, but in terms of fuel I think we have a shorter path to not emitting carbon from ground vehicles in the first place.

(also, any time I see a new idea that needs some chemical, I wonder how much of it there is. Peak potash, anyone?)


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 9:12 AM
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3 is right. This would be awfully tough to scale. Electric cars are a better plan.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 9:14 AM
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It's not as ideal for desert solar as you might think, because there's also a need for water - you're starting with CO2 and want to get a *hydro*carbon.

Ocean pipeline? Would you need fresh water?

but in terms of fuel I think we have a shorter path to not emitting carbon from ground vehicles in the first place.

I was kind of thinking of it as solving the battery problem -- what do you do with solar power that can handle the non-constant nature of it. I said gasoline, but the concept's the same for heating oil, cooking gas, power plants, and so on.

I mean, it's still in the fantasy stage, of course, but if practical this sort of thing could make all of those calculations about how much solar energy hits the state of Nevada actually meaningful.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 9:20 AM
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in the ground for eternity
to produce diamonds?
air vacuum cleaner, how nice if it's workable


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 9:23 AM
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Burning hydrocarbons is still rather a dirty reaction. I'd rather just see us use that power to generate hydrogen from water. Nice clean combustion there.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 9:24 AM
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re: 5

We don't really have an energy storage problem in that way, though. There are hydrogen based solutions, for example.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 9:24 AM
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Ocean pipeline? Would you need fresh water?

Probably a hell of a lot easier to shuttle electricity around than water.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 9:25 AM
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7: Depends on the hydrocarbon, no? Alcohol burns to water and CO2.

8: I thought storing hydrogen was still a huge technological problem, although I don't know much about it. And of course this has the plus that any excess production can be pumped back down a well to sequester the carbon.

Look, I'm daydreaming about a world where technology saves everything. Don't harsh my mellow. (Or, go ahead and harsh my mellow. But be prepared to listen to me whine about it.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 9:29 AM
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9: Really? Again, my technical knowledge here is very limited, but I thought that there was a real technical problem with storing electricity -- you need to make it as it's used in the amounts needed. Batteries suck.

Water, on the other hand, you can move around and it'll stay where you put it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 9:31 AM
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There's been a lot buzz in recent years about nanotechnology's potential to make solar power viable, speaking of technology saving everything.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 9:34 AM
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Really? Again, my technical knowledge here is very limited, but I thought that there was a real technical problem with storing electricity -- you need to make it as it's used in the amounts needed. Batteries suck.

I'm just saying, why pipe water to the electricity? Build your hydrogen/hydrocarbon generating plant near the water and shoot the electricity over the grid.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 9:36 AM
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13: Oh, duh. Yeah, that does make perfect sense.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 9:38 AM
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well creating a hydrocarbon needs a lot less hydrogen as a ratio to carbon as producing pure hydrogen would. So not nearly as problematic as hydrogen production woudl be.

And you need to build these things in the desert southwest where there is lots of sun consistently. Unfortunately theres lots of suburbs there using water instead.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 9:43 AM
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Although we ship oil from the other side of the world. Building a big powerline from arizona to chicago can't cost as much as that does.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 9:44 AM
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The electricity-storage mechanisms I've read about have all been hydro-power or compressed air based -- basically you power a pump to move water uphill in a resevoir or fill up a cavern a little more, then tap that potential energy when needed.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 9:45 AM
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12: The sort of nanotechnology I've heard about that could help solar power is kinda lame nanotechnology though. I believe most of the big gains would come from using cheaply-produced quantum dots, which are just extremely tiny dots of silicon that excite more easily and (provided they are produced in a variety of sizes) at a greater range of frequencies than current sensors.

IMO, until we're talking about tiny, tiny robots, it's not cool nanotechnology.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 9:46 AM
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Yeah, that sort of thing sounds to me like materials science. If there's no potential for a programming error to reduce the planet to gray goo, it's not nanotechnology.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 9:48 AM
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18: All the nanotechnology that will make a difference will be lame and uncool. It's like, we finally have videophones now, and are they cool in any way? No, they are not.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 9:49 AM
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well creating a hydrocarbon needs a lot less hydrogen as a ratio to carbon as producing pure hydrogen would. So not nearly as problematic as hydrogen production woudl be.

What? Electricity can be used to generate hydrogen from water. No carbon involved.

And you need to build these things in the desert southwest where there is lots of sun consistently. Unfortunately theres lots of suburbs there using water instead.

Been through the western states? Believe me, space is not a problem.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 9:51 AM
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basically you power a pump to move water uphill in a resevoir or fill up a cavern a little more, then tap that potential energy when needed.

Lame. Even lamer than learning that nuclear power works by boiling water.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 9:51 AM
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The electricity-storage mechanisms I've read about have all been hydro-power or compressed air based -- basically you power a pump to move water uphill in a resevoir or fill up a cavern a little more, then tap that potential energy when needed.

The thing is, we already use a lot of combustion plants to power the grid as it is. You can burn hydrogen instead of coal, gas, or whatever.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 9:54 AM
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Also, the problem with battery powered cars is that battery technology is still pretty dependent on exotic metals that are toxic as hell. A combustion based car can be built to run on hydrogen instead of gas. Steel and aluminum are plentiful, recyclable, etc.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 9:56 AM
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20: That's totally true. At least until Apple comes out with a video version of the iPhone that works seamlessly. Then everyone will gasp about "The Future is here! Isn't this awesome!".

And I guess it will be kinda cool then.

But this is wintertime. For me right now, cool nanotechnology would be tiny robots that crawl into my sinuses and form a bucket brigade to cart all the mucus out in 5 minutes.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 9:57 AM
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It seems like the major advantage of this scheme would be that it avoids the need to retrofit our fleet of internal combustion engines. But I think that's an advantage we shouldn't be chasing -- it's just a very inefficient technology. Still, hydrocarbons can store a lot of energy in a small space, and can be used as a hydrogen source for fuel cells. So it might make sense to use them for mobile applications -- cars, laptops, that sort of thing. But it seems unlikely that any hydrocarbon-based process will be maximally efficient for more general needs -- the grid will work better for transmission, and systems like the ones snarkout mentions will work better for energy storage.


Posted by: Tom | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 10:00 AM
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Hydrogen is really a crappy motor vehicle fuel. The density is way too low and the liquid phase is way too cold. Making lower hydrocarbons or alcohols might work, though.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 10:02 AM
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Even lamer than learning that nuclear power works by boiling water.

Oh wow, yeah, I remember how pissed I was when I heard that.

"So... It took us centuries of physics, and Einstein and Fermi and all those other guys, to figure out how to boil water and turn that into usable energy? Wasn't Mark Twain doing that like 150 years ago?"

The energy storage that Snarkout's talking about at least seems cool just from an elegance standpoint. With water, it may even be super-efficient as a storage method in terms of later output versus input into the system, though it would probably require far too big a volume of water to store sufficient energy.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 10:03 AM
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Joseph Romm's take on this at Climate Progress is pretty harshly critical. So far I haven't found any other posts by people who regularly blog about this sort of thing and who seem generally reasonable.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 10:15 AM
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Hydrogen is really a crappy motor vehicle fuel. The density is way too low and the liquid phase is way too cold.

I think there's ways around this. I haven't followed the hydrogen thing as closely as I would like, but I remember seeing this a few years back. The tests are awesome. "What happens when we shoot the tank with an armor piercing bullet?"

https://www.llnl.gov/str/June03/Aceves.html


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 10:18 AM
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It's still crappy. Read the part about how liqufeying hydrogen takes 30% of the energy value of the hydrogen itself? Methane is something like ten times as dense, boils at a warmer temperature, and has a way lower specific heat (so is easier to cool).

The continued mixing of units in that article, comparing liters of hydrogen to gallons of gasoline, makes it harder to tell what's going on.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 10:24 AM
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Hydrogen-fueled vehicles are not going to be in a position to have much impact on greenhouse gas emissions for decades, and we have to start making a big change now. For now, the way to go is toward plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 10:28 AM
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Hell of electric vehicles. As well as better development patterns. Never gonna get anywhere trying to upgrade the existing infrastructure. An interesting analogy could be made to the difficulty Microsoft had implementing robust security in Windows, were analogies not banned.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 10:30 AM
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Methane is something like ten times as dense, boils at a warmer temperature, and has a way lower specific heat (so is easier to cool).

I likes me some methane, but I haven't heard of a carbon neutral method to generate that kind of volume.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 10:33 AM
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Yeah, H2 sucks. It's way too hard to get enough of it to power anything, and the electrolysis of water is not as efficient as you'd think it should be. Burning H2 isn't any cleaner than burning hydrocarbons, except for the CO2 part. Hydrocarbons/ethanol are still going to be the most useful form of fuel; it's just that we're going to have to make them rather than digging them up. So turning CO2 into hydrocarbons is a very worthwhile goal.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 10:37 AM
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I'm not a "hydrogen is the solution to everything forever". If we're talking a clean burning alcohol or something with the process being powered by solar, wind, etc., now we're talking good solutions. But using that kind of process to churn out gasoline and jet fuel? Gah.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 10:42 AM
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36: I've heard the major problem with alcohols tends to be that you just can't get enough carbon groups onto most of them to get an energy density equivalent to oil derivatives.

Thinking about electric cars, which I think is the way to go ultimately, the major problem really seems to be the batteries/fuel cells and the difficulties of sufficient energy density. Has anyone seriously proposed wireless energy supplied from under the roads themselves (induction or something similar)? It'd be a massive infrastructure investment, but seems like the best way to prevent large amounts of time spent charging. Any sort of charging station would be a bit of a pain, even if capacitors can massively reduce the charge time itself, because the range of electric cars is limited enough that the frequent stops would be a pain.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 10:48 AM
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37: Speaking of electric cars, this documentary is a must-see.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 11:00 AM
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Energy densities:

ethanol: 27 MJ/kg
hydrogen: 130 MJ/kg
gasoline: 44 MJ/kg


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 11:05 AM
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By volume:

ethanol: 30000 MJ/m3
H2: 13 MJ/m3 (even at 200x atmospheric pressure it's only 2600)
gasoline: 47000 MJ/m3


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 11:09 AM
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I'm really pissed though that we're not at least ramping up the solar production. For fuck's sake, the conversion efficiency on that solar cell from Boeing is 40 percent. Plaster the sunblasted west with that shit. Reduce use of fossil fuel plants, maybe other stuff like power to desalinize water in CA, whatever. How much have we spent on Iraq so far? Imagine a few hundred billion spent on solar panels in the right areas of the west.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 11:13 AM
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It will be interesting to see how this technology potential plays rhetorically, specifically who claims this option as "theirs"

One of the frustrating things about people who are pro-oil economy is that they are vague about what counts as the oil economy. The world is full of people who like to quote Sheikh Zaki Yamani: "THE Stone Age did not end for lack of stone, and the Oil Age will end long before the world runs out of oil." The argument behind this is always that as oil prices rise, there will be a financial incentive to find new sources of it. "We will never run out of oil, we will just mine it in Alberta!"

This always happens though, in the context of arguing against funding solar research. So who claims this technology? Will the oil people say: "see we will never run out of oil, because we can make it from the sun"? Or will the solar people say "See at last the solar age is dawning."


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 11:16 AM
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Hell of electric vehicles. As well as better development patterns. Never gonna get anywhere trying to upgrade the existing infrastructure.

Eventually, we probably do need a new infrastructure. But for now we need cars pulling power from the grid, which would be a hell of a lot cleaner than running on gasoline. The more the grid comes from wind and solar, the better, but even if the grid is completely coal, electric cars are so much more efficient that it's far better than gasoline.

Solutions that don't begin helping until 2040 are not solutions at all. Stabilizing CO2 levels at 550 ppm is not an option.

I would love to argue about this all day and dig up references, but unfortunately I have too many other obligations today....


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 11:19 AM
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40, btw, is the favorate statistic of any pro oil economy person.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 11:19 AM
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41 - At a talk by a big water guy last week, he said he had his staff calculate how many solar panels it would take just to take the Edmunston Pumping Plant (which is the plant that lifts water over the Tehachapis to LA) off the grid. By their calculations, they would have to float solar panels on the surface of the California Aquaduct all the way back up to the Delta. It wasn't worth it yet.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 11:22 AM
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I will point out one key reference, though: Pacala and Socolow, "Stabilization Wedges: Solving the Climate Problem for the Next 50 Years with Current Technologies. To quote from their introduction:

"We agree that fundamental research is vital to develop the revolutionary mitigation strategies needed in the second half of this century and beyond. But it is important not to become beguiled by the possibility of revolutionary technology. Humanity can solve the carbon and climate problem in the first half of this century simply by scaling up what we already know how to do."


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 11:25 AM
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Has anyone seriously proposed wireless energy supplied from under the roads themselves (induction or something similar)?

Like slot cars! *That* would be cool.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 11:30 AM
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45: "not worth it yet"

isn't that how most technologies are that aren't implemented on a large scale? the exceptions are ones that are so much better than the previous generation that en the small-scale prototypes are competitive.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 11:50 AM
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The overall impression I got from my brief trip through technology studies was that most technologies are adopted well before they are actually superior to the existing technology. This is true both for "early adopter" consumers and for big purchasers like governments. People are driven by the cool, not the cost.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 12:02 PM
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There's also a lot of wiggle room when calculating worth, i.e. there's a lot of fossil fuel costs not being addressed in that 3 bucks a gallon we pay at the pump.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 12:14 PM
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42: According to shivbunny (who works in oil exploration), the Saudis are getting a little nervous because they haven't discovered any significant oil deposits since the 70s. This is leading them to consider commission serious exploration studies, but I wonder if it could be turned to something besides looking for more oil.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 12:19 PM
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Yeah, externalities for sure. Fwiw, there are some reasonably serious efforts on the part of state government to calculate all those costs for the power it purchases to run the state water project.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 12:19 PM
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Whatever happened to putting solar panels on the MOON and having MICROWAVE ENERGY shot directly into LAKE SUPERIOR causing it to boil for our pleasure?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 12:19 PM
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it to boil for our pleasure?

I knew you were twisted, Ben, but this is a kink unfamiliar to me.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 12:22 PM
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He's just pissed about that nuclear energy thing.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 12:27 PM
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Hey, that new ultra-black material will make solar that much more efficient.

53: Chairface! I should've known it was you.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 12:28 PM
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Hey, that new ultra-black material

A Spinal Tap quotation goes here, I believe.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 12:30 PM
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I'm surprised wind hasn't come up yet in this thread (though it was mentioned in the post). It's at a much more advanced stage than solar.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 12:33 PM
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There's already starting to be a backlash against wind power due to all the dead birds.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 12:37 PM
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Gotta break some eggs.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 12:37 PM
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Wind is great, but can at most only satisfy a fraction of our needs. We should still maximize it, though.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 12:38 PM
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58: I really, really, really, really don't know what I'm talking about. But I have a vague, uneducated belief that wind's going to be harder to scale up than solar -- solar needs empty sunny land, and there's as much of that as we could possibly need, but wind has more specific requirements.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 12:39 PM
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I have a vague, uneducated belief that wind's going to be harder to scale up than solar -- solar needs empty sunny land, and there's as much of that as we could possibly need, but wind has more specific requirements.

Quite so, but the difference is that we're in a position to harness most of the energy we can get from wind right now, while solar is still a good ways off.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 12:42 PM
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51: It's not clear why the Saudis would have any advantage in alternative energy sources over anyone else, and they probably have a lot of disadvantages due to being conditioned to think that money comes oil being taken out of the ground by foreigners.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 12:44 PM
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Gotta break some eggs.

You'd think so, but people disagree and aren't afraid to sue.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 12:45 PM
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59: newer, bigger turbines have allegedly solved that problem.

One interesting thing I've heard about wind power is that if were to put up enough capacity to provide for some significant part of our energy needs we'd dramatically change global weather patterns.

Really, we need to be more efficient about using energy. Gotta start there.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 12:48 PM
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You know who's a bizarrely fanatical opponent of wind power? Lamar Alexander.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 12:49 PM
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wind could meet a lot of the energy demands, but it is variable. Solar is too, but less so in the desert southwest, and peaks during the day, when energy use is highest.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 12:49 PM
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To be clear, I think we should be full speed ahead on wind, but it's only a piece.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 12:54 PM
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67: I demand more information. Anything that involves "bizarrely fanatical" and "Lamar Alexander" is going to be hilarious.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 12:54 PM
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There was an article in the SF Chronicle about the lawsuit a few weeks ago, which is why it's in my mind. The thinking was that bigger turbines would solve the problem, but turning off the smaller ones in the area in question (the Altamont Pass) didn't decrease the number of birds killed. Or so said the lawsuit.

The most energy generation for minimum environmental change would probably come from space solar power, as all that happens on Earth is comparatively efficient DC rectification. Expensive, though.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 12:55 PM
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Has anyone seriously proposed wireless energy supplied from under the roads themselves (induction or something similar)?

Like Fred Flinstone feet?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 12:56 PM
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70: Here.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 1:23 PM
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Solar does appear to be the long-term answer. Interestingly, however, the energy costs of making solar cells are such that in order to replace a significant amount of our energy generation with solar, we would actually have to put more energy in than we take out. In other words, solar doesn't realize any energy advantage at all for almost a century.

Also, nuclear has to be part of the answer as well.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 1:53 PM
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The wind issue is really what separates environmentalists who are sustainability advocates from environmentalists who like pretty views of natural landscapes.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 2:03 PM
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74: well, unless solar becomes both more efficient and vastly cheaper to produce, as seems probable. But yes, nuclear should be part of the story, particularly the refinement of pebble bed reactors.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 2:06 PM
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51: I've heard Shivbunny's claim made far more strongly, as in "The Saudis know the whole country is past peak production, and they are just bluffing to hold on to power for as long as they can."


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 2:12 PM
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The most energy generation for minimum environmental change would probably come from space solar power

SEE?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 2:16 PM
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Right, but there's no boiling of water involved, just wiggling electrons back and forth real fast.

I also think that energy payback calculations are by and large bullshit.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 2:22 PM
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Cheaper is irrelevant from an energy perspective. And more efficient than 40% will be difficult. It's just a long-term investment we have to make.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 2:24 PM
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79: yeah, true. Discount Rate is perhaps not the right analytic cudgel to wield here.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 2:27 PM
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Discount rate is also irrelevant. We're not talking economics; we're talking physics.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 2:28 PM
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80: Manufacturing methods for photovoltaic cells can become much cheaper in terms of energy used. That's the relevant technological advance that I believe Sifu was talking about.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 2:31 PM
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but there's no boiling of water involved, just wiggling electrons back and forth real fast.

But we could still boil Lake Superior if we want to, right? Just position some magnifying glasses and mirrors in the right spots, et voila!


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 2:32 PM
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A lot of the prime windpower landscapes are really, really boring and also agriculturally pretty unproductive. (Though you can buy $7,000 houses there).


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 2:33 PM
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83: yep.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 2:37 PM
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85: This seems to be best publicized in the Great Plains and Australia.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 2:43 PM
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83, 86

Oh, yes, you're right. In fact, I read something about being able to use less pure silicon in solar cells that would be exactly what you're talking about.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 2:45 PM
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I'm also really excited about paintable solar, in part because it seems like it could be less wasteful to produce and in part because it seems like more-ubiquitous solar raises the possibility of really chipping at the edges of individual energy demands.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 2:48 PM
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Yeah. Right now pretty much every industrial process on earth is optimized for "cheap" rather than "energy efficient". When the cost of energy changes, processes will move to a different point on the cost-energy curve.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 2:50 PM
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The wind issue is really what separates environmentalists who are sustainability advocates from environmentalists who like pretty views of natural landscapes.

Word. Hearing people talk about how wind farms ruin beautiful views makes me want to ask them if they've ever seen a coal mine.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 3:27 PM
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Do people really complain about wind farms ruining the view? Have they ever been to eastern Oregon? There the wind farm is the view.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 3:32 PM
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92: do they ever. Google "Cape Wind" sometime.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 3:35 PM
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In upstate NY the nature preservationists into "pristine views" get into big fights with historical preservationists into rutting piles of metal about whether old unused fire lookouts on mountaintops should be taken down.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 3:36 PM
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Also cell phone towers. I had NY students argue that cell phone towers should not go up, even if they can the save lives of people stranded in snowstorms, because if you are stupid enough to get stranded in a snowstorm, you don't really deserve to be outdoors anyway and should suffer the consequences.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 3:38 PM
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Rutting piles of metal? Is there an epidemic of robot sex in upstate New York? Hot!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 3:39 PM
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Rusting.

I used to think that moving to a world of typing would spare me embarrassment, because no one would see my handwriting.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 3:40 PM
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96: Things have gotten a lot better for lonely robots since the mid-60s.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 3:41 PM
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73: Awesome, thank you. "These wind turbines are not your grandmother's windmills, gently pumping water from the farm well," may be the funniest fucking thing I read all week. I wish he'd come right out and said, "These wind turbines are not your grandmother's windmills, these are Decepticons who will transform into malicious robots and fuck our shit up real bad with their giant fan-blade hands."


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 3:47 PM
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The "coal mine" response is particularly appropriate to Alexander, who is talking about Eastern Tennessee, ffs.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 3:49 PM
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Work it like your body does.

Electricity for immediate energy needs (like ATP)

Store it over the short term using supercapacitors and batteries (like Glycogen).

If your supply seriously exceeds demand, process atmospheric CO2 into Methanol using excess electricity to store for later (like lipids).

Use a superconducting DC grid to tie your generating sources together, making sources like wind and solar more useful.

If you want to use solar to power the grid, nanosolar has a cool product on the market already, and the next generation will be even better.


Posted by: Adam | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 10:49 PM
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Work it like your body does.

Electricity for immediate energy needs (like ATP)

Store it over the short term using supercapacitors and batteries (like Glycogen).

If your supply seriously exceeds demand, process atmospheric CO2 into Methanol using excess electricity to store for later (like lipids).

Use a superconducting DC grid to tie your generating sources together, making sources like wind and solar more useful.

If you want to use solar to power the grid, nanosolar has a cool product on the market already, and the next generation will be even better.


Posted by: Adam | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 10:49 PM
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Work it like your body does.

New mouse-over? Or an Unfogged-produced pop hit that will sweep the nation?


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-20-08 10:52 PM
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