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View Diary: Germany now has 1.3 million solar energy systems which generated 28 billion kilowatt hours in 2012 (139 comments)

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  •  Ignorant question: (12+ / 0-)

    1) if solar is providing 5% of Germany's power generation needs,
    2) if 50% of generated power is lost in transmission (I don't know the real number, but it is in this ballpark),
    3) and solar can be used at point of generation;
    then are Germany's power generation needs also dropping by 5% due to transmission efficiency of solar?

    I have wondered about this and haven't seen much discussion. It might not be as big a problem in Germany, where they have invested in a modern transmission network. Here in the US, where we have routine catastrophic failures of our transmission network, it should be a major issue. I saw a report a few days ago that said that most of the cost of electricity in the US was from transmission, not generation.

    In developing countries like India probably most of the rural areas will never be wired for electricity- it will all be point of use solar. Just like they skipped land line telephones and went directly to cell.

    •  Transmission losses are 8 to 10% max (12+ / 0-)

      nothing like 50% for sure.

    •  Transmission losses are proportional to distance (7+ / 0-)

      I believe.

      Long-line transmission has been a limiting factor for solar so far, with great expectations for the potential of upgrading to  High Voltage Direct Current transmission lines.

      A few years ago, I saw a Scientific American article boosting that with more efficient long-line transmission breakthroughs an area of the Sahara desert which seemed to me to look approximately the size of Span could supply all the electrical needs of Europe.

      But, of course, these "theoretical" illustrations overlook the vast dust storms that often black out the Sahara desert and would probably require some way of wiping off, or digging out sand covering collectors.

      Many other advantages accrue with improvement on long-line transmission as collectors can be further south, or as in San Francisco, entirely different climate zones just 50 miles away.

      Rural areas have more space.

      Plus statistically, the more diverse the collection areas the more natural resilience against local weather variation, desert dust storms, natural break down, attack (in case of war zones, or terrorism).

      One can build natural redundancy into the system.

      The means is the ends in the process of becoming. - Mahatma Gandhi

      by HoundDog on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 02:52:43 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  AC 7% (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        HoundDog, Andrew F Cockburn

        DC 3%

        Regardless of distance.

        FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

        by Roger Fox on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 06:06:52 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Really? Thats sort of counter-intuitive. Then (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Andrew F Cockburn

          why are they not putting collectors in tropical deserts and sending the electricity to northern cities?

          The means is the ends in the process of becoming. - Mahatma Gandhi

          by HoundDog on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 06:57:54 PM PST

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          •  HVDC has only recently (3+ / 0-)

            come down in inverter prices. HVDC is only cost effective for IIRC 35 miles or longer.

            We are at the start of the HVDC explosion, last 5-8 yrs utilities are installing more and bigger HVDC projects.

            Proposals include NYC to Canada, Maine Express: Maine to Boston, Atlantic Wind Connection, NJ to Virginia offshore for wind.

            why are they not putting collectors in tropical deserts and sending the electricity to northern cities?
            Cause solar PV LCOE is 21 cents kwh. Wind is under 3-6 cents, nat gas 6-7 cents, coal 8-9 cents, nukes 11 cents.... for new construction. Solar just isnt that competitive yet.

            http://www.eia.gov/...

            FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

            by Roger Fox on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 07:10:21 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Careful with the figures on solar. (6+ / 0-)

              Solar prices are dropping so rapidly that figures on the cost of solar are badly outdated within a year.

              In Germany, the feed-in-tariff rates for solar currently are between 13 and 18 eurocents, with the low rate being paid for large-scale, free-standing solar parks and the high rate being paid for small scale rooftop systems.  For those systems to be profitable the actual production price has to be lower than that by a few cents.

              So, with large scale systems in often cloudy Germany the LCOE for solar already is down to about 11 to 12 eurocents.  The only  systems that still cost up to 21 U.S. cents a kwH are the small pv systems on the roofs of homes.

              "A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle" - Mohammed Nabbous, R.I.P.

              by Lawrence on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 03:32:19 AM PST

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              •  Right, that EIA study used 2009 prices. (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Lawrence, Andrew F Cockburn, HoundDog

                And solar and wind are both trending down, will do so for the long term, while the down trend for nat gas is a different situation, a more mature market.

                Wind is just coming of age in the market place, solar will soon catch up and likely pass wind by the end of the decade, Re: LCOE.

                IMO Thin film, when it hits 20% efficiency it will take off. Magnolia solar did 20% in the lab 2-3 yrs ago, currently IIRC Magnolia sells thin film at 10% eff. GE at 12%.

                My gut says that if thin film can start to generate early in the morning (eastern facing windows), and western facing windows can generate later in the evening, maybe thru 7:30pm. The potential for thin film to open up the generation window for solar, from 10am-4pm to 7am to 7pm just makes solar an even better match to demand.

                And with regular PV moving up in efficiency (Spectrolab 39%) solar will soon break out like wind is now and start to attract more capital. Then solar and wind will be the cheapest, and start pushing everything else out of the marketplace.

                Finally.

                FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

                by Roger Fox on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 09:33:56 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Oh yeah, 2009 is incredibly outdated in regards to (3+ / 0-)

                  solar.

                  If I remember correctly, the price for solar systems has been halved in Germany in just the last 3 years.

                  Yep, thin film is really coming along.  Oerlikon has 12% silicon thin film modules already and they perform far better in cloudy conditions, when hit with partial shade, and in hot climates.  These types of modules are great where space is not a big issue.

                  Wind basically already is the cheapest, after hydro, in many parts of the world and, as you say, solar is decreasing in cost at a rapid clip.

                  "A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle" - Mohammed Nabbous, R.I.P.

                  by Lawrence on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 10:05:51 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

          •  Fox is wrong (0+ / 0-)

            Javelin, Jockey details, all posts, discontinue

            by jam on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 10:21:31 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  This is, um, not correct (0+ / 0-)

          loss is a function of distance. Power dissipated in a transmission line is I^2R (current squared times resistance). The resistance of a wire is based on the cross sectional area of the wire (gauge) and the length.

          AC has slightly larger losses due to skin effect, but that can be mitigated using braided instead of solid core wire.

          Javelin, Jockey details, all posts, discontinue

          by jam on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 10:20:07 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Germany's power grid is pretty modern, so I doubt (11+ / 0-)

      that power losses due to transmission are a big issue.

      One thing that solar does do, however, is dampen the need to expand the grid since it is, indeed, used near point of generation.

      "A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle" - Mohammed Nabbous, R.I.P.

      by Lawrence on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 02:53:38 PM PST

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    •  Point of use can take care (8+ / 0-)

      of an awful lot of our non-urban electricity needs in this country, especially as batteries and other storage technologies improve. Homes supplying themselves, with a locally based 'extra' capacity that is hooked to the grid - wind turbine (these can come in vertical arrays that take up no more room than a radio antenna collection and make virtually no noise) and/or micro-hydro. Undershot turbines - even a series of these - on free-flowing waterways all around this country could generate quite a lot and wouldn't block navigation or require impoundment. Malls and shopping centers and office parks and factories and metal megachurches in the country could go with rooftop and parking lot solar, provide a hefty chunk of their overall usage. And most of these land taker-uppers are closed overnight, don't even need much storage capacity. And for goodness sake, require roofs not covered with solar panels to go white.

      Heck, they've even got solar paint these days that can collect in indirect light. Still in development, we could put a rush on that and so long as it's daylight the walls of your house and outbuildings would be channeling 'trons!

      Alas, with the middle class quickly becoming working poor and the working poor quickly becoming destitute, we'll need some honest support to make any of that happen.

    •  germany (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Andrew F Cockburn

      Actually burned MORE fossil fuel last year.

    •  AC loss is 7%, DC 3% (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Andrew F Cockburn

      FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

      by Roger Fox on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 06:02:35 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Transmission line losses are not that large (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lawrence, Andrew F Cockburn

      but there is also the very real issue of grid infrastructure. In some places, (often for good geographical reasons), there are grid bottlenecks that can only transfer so much power. Having point-of-use generation significantly eases some of these headaches and makes the grid more disaster-resistant.

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 09:12:29 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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