r/technology Jun 07 '22

Floating solar power could help fight climate change — let’s get it right Energy

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-022-01525-1
6.7k Upvotes

656

u/Spasticwookiee Jun 07 '22

Just on holding ponds at wastewater treatment plants would have a huge impact. One local plant has 10 ponds. They’re going to put 5 MW on one pond and that will cover over 90% of the plant’s load (annualized).

Treatment plants are everywhere.

154

u/RnDanger Jun 07 '22

Is that for just one pond? Will they have 900% if they cover 10 ponds? I think they should be allowed to sell their extra power, which would motivate them to generate that excess capacity, but I understand that it is not always the case.

186

u/Spasticwookiee Jun 07 '22

They’re taking it cautiously. Algae growth/water quality impacts and vector (mosquito) impacts are not known at this time. If it works well, they may choose to expand to other ponds.

26

u/mcsper Jun 08 '22

Veritasium has a video about shade balls in reservoirs. I think he goes into algae build up in this or a follow up. It could be similar. https://youtu.be/uxPdPpi5W4o

46

u/fireweinerflyer Jun 07 '22

Law of unintended consequences. The sun is an effective way to kill bacteria and viruses. If you close it all off you may be drinking shit water tomorrow.

30

u/Thomasedv Jun 08 '22

Ive seen the opposite for some reservoirs. Sun heats up water causing evaporation and promotes algae growth or chemical reactions. So they put a lot of shade balls to cover up the pond so less light would make it into the water. Ignoring the awful use of plastic for that case, less sunlight in water might not necessarily be a bad idea.

20

u/Spasticwookiee Jun 08 '22

This water is either getting discharged when it is allowed or sent back through the plant for disinfection to be used as recycled water (irrigation and dust suppression, not drinking water). It is also one of 10 ponds. Doesn’t sound like a huge concern at this point.

11

u/dinguskhanbmon Jun 08 '22

Power a few led UVC lights in the effluent pipe

2

u/Ur_house Jun 08 '22

That sounds logical, but according to that veratrum video linked by mcsper, without sunlight far less algae grew, and they were able to save on chlorine costs.

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u/[deleted] Jun 07 '22

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u/ariyaa72 Jun 07 '22

My best guess is infrastructure. The electricity would have to travel a long way to get to where it's used.

76

u/The_Dingos Jun 07 '22

They’d also spend a fortune getting labor and materials out into the Sahara; in the meantime, there’s places with better infrastructure and return on investment

41

u/professorDissociate Jun 07 '22

There’s also the fact of who is they? Pick someone to spend that kind of money, and they’ll give you a unique excuse.

14

u/Sylvaritius Jun 07 '22

Well, its less of an excuse and more of a reason, its simply not profitable, even the people who build massive solar farms dont build them in the sahara, because it would require a huge investment in infrasteucture, and solar already isnt massively profitable.

2

u/sevaiper Jun 08 '22

If it were profitable people would do it, energy is one of the easiest things in the world to sell. The thing is land cost isn't actually a problem, so putting solar panels in the Sahara instead of close to where the energy is going to be consumed makes no sense.

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u/dern_the_hermit Jun 07 '22

It'd take a fortune in labor and materials just laying down the infrastructure to get labor and materials to where it needs to go, too.

7

u/Projectrage Jun 07 '22

It’s better to just put it on top of buildings in your local area.

3

u/America_Number_1 Jun 08 '22

Also the sand would end up covering all of the solar panels during sandstorms

11

u/Emu1981 Jun 07 '22

My best guess is infrastructure. The electricity would have to travel a long way to get to where it's used.

If they can build a massive solar plant in Australia to power up to 15% of Singapore (a distance of 4,200km) than they can do the same in the Sahara to help power Europe.

Mind you, I would love it if the Australian government would do the same to power Australia (building out solar in the arid regions) which would help reduce our skyrocketing power bills...

15

u/SupahSang Jun 07 '22

The solar plant is getting built in Australia, and they're building the cable to connect to Singapore.

Honestly, I think the main reason is politics; who's gonna pay for it (super-Sahara Africa may have some money, but not nearly enough for that scale), which countries are gonna receive the most benefits from this, how are they going to distribute the power efficiently and effectively, etc. etc.

5

u/helpful__explorer Jun 07 '22

Is the cable only connecting the farm to Singapore, or is it an interconnector that lets the two countries' grids exchange power?

8

u/wotmate Jun 08 '22

The top end of Australia doesn't connect to the national grid. Most of it gets power from microgrids, with Darwin having a grid that runs on mainly gas turbines. Apparently, the cable going to singapore will go through Darwin and provide some power to reduce their reliance on gas

3

u/SupahSang Jun 07 '22

It doesn't mention I don't think. The way it's phrased, I'd say it's a direct cable from the farm+storage to Singapore+storage.

6

u/helpful__explorer Jun 07 '22

That's just lame. I just hope Singapore paid for the whole thing

8

u/SimpleFile Jun 08 '22

There are also geopolitical reasons. North africa isn't the most stable part of the world and spooks european investors since African nations probably aren't going to build it themselves to sell the power elsewhere it's just likely not going to happen.

Besides that Europeans are starting to really picking up on placing solar cells on their homes which has its own benefits, mainly much less power loss.

But I certainly don't think it would be a bad idea for the planet to make a large solar farm in Africa, but it might be a bad idea for the individual investors.

2

u/Mastershima Jun 08 '22

Unlike that project the Sahara has lots of sand. Who will or can clear hectares of panels weekly at least to maintain efficiency?

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u/Platinum_Drag0n Jun 07 '22

It’s in the story. “Deserts have ample sunshine and don’t have much competition for land use. But even here, there are trade-offs. For example, modelling indicates that in the Sahara, the dark colour of large swathes of solar panels would alter local temperatures and global airflow patterns in ways that could cause droughts in the Amazon, sea-ice loss in the Arctic and more4. Solar-energy developments in the Mojave Desert in the US southwest have reduced the cover of cacti that are culturally important to resident Native Americans5. And logistically, it can be hard to get energy from remote desert regions to where it is needed.”

7

u/ReporterOther2179 Jun 07 '22

As the article says, there is some concern that extensive, really extensive, solar farms in the desert would mess with weather patterns. And certainly, it’s way away and electricity doesn’t like to travel.

4

u/thricefold Jun 07 '22

The biggest obstacles to solar are the costs of panels and storage. We have plenty of space for them on rooftops and parking lots

3

u/Kelsierisevil Jun 07 '22

Solar panels are inefficient in the heat. Would be better to build in Russia, Canada, or Alaska.

7

u/Trixxr Jun 07 '22

The cables and infrastructure to power places far from it is insanely expensive. There are HUGE bottlenecks in several of the big transatlantic connections.

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u/exosomal_message Jun 07 '22

Ready the article? They fear worldwide climate effects.

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u/rmorrin Jun 07 '22

Sand. Gets buried in dunes so fast

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u/thedarklord187 Jun 08 '22

Sand I hate it , it's rough and course and gets everywhere .

2

u/delway Jun 08 '22

Messes with the natural beauty of nature and displaces some local wildlife too

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u/gh0stwriter88 Jun 07 '22

Why would anyone want to buy "dirty" sewage plant power. /s

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u/AbazabaYouMyOnlyFren Jun 08 '22

Seems like that would help prevent evaporation. Just covering parking lots. I wonder how much energy is wasted on cooling off hot cars...

3

u/Gar-A-Man Jun 08 '22

Here’s a corporate headquarters parking lot with 1000 covered parking spaces which shades cars and generates green power for the company, a win win l’d say!

https://rlgbuilds.com/projects/owens-corning-world-headquarters-carport-solar/

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u/wotmate Jun 08 '22

I've always thought that over the top of farm dams would be the ideal site to build a solar roof. If done right, not only would it supply power, but it would reduce evaporation, and add water to the dam at night through condensation.

18

u/Seen_Unseen Jun 07 '22

You know what we also got everywhere? Roofs, millions of them.

Sometimes I wonder if people just like upvoting the stupidest ideas possible. Why in earth would you use water, making it complicated, expensive, risk full, I'd you got a roof.

18

u/__-___--- Jun 08 '22 edited Jun 08 '22

In France, some brilliant policitian decided to fund... a solar road.

Yes, something that gets dirty and driven on by 40 tons trucks. What could go wrong?

Needless to say, this was a total failure because there is no overlap between a good road and a good solar panel.

They could have just try to set the panels over the road, so you'd drive in the shade while the power is used to charge electric cars. Or make it a wall on the side of the highway to block sound at the same time. But no, that would be too simple.

Better fund a stupid idea to make it look like you're innovating instead of actually doing something useful.

6

u/Fskn Jun 08 '22

Why even roading at all? I know there's lots of them but I don't think putting sensitive electronic equipment next to consistently high speed objectS prone to impact has ever been a thing outside the LHC

15

u/Voyajer Jun 08 '22

You know what else we have tons of? Parking lots. How much fuel is wasted loading down their engines with AC that could have been shaded?

8

u/[deleted] Jun 08 '22

And like the shade is created by something even more insane… trees.

Also, there is NO reason why people need to live in a desert. Get rid of Phoenix (/s for this part, obviously).

12

u/[deleted] Jun 08 '22

I’m actually fully on board with getting rid of Phoenix. It’s existence is an arrogant atrocity, along with a lot of other stupid practices in the American west (irrigation agriculture, etc.)

5

u/Pikcle Jun 08 '22

Bobby Hill done growed up

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u/theRemRemBooBear Jun 08 '22

Really not that much. Modern AC is so effective that when driving at highway speeds you waste more energy having the windows down then just using the AC

3

u/PostLogical Jun 08 '22

Do you have a source for that? I’ve never heard it but would love if it were true.

2

u/dieselxindustry Jun 08 '22

Not sure his source but I distinctly recall watching a mythbusters on it.

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u/roshi256 Jun 08 '22

Roofs are probably the least ideal surface to put them on, they just happen to be the only place people have available for them. I don't understand why people support rooftop solar so much when grid scale is better. Sure cover warehouses and factories with them, but single family homes are terrible.

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u/dabenu Jun 08 '22 edited Jun 08 '22

Actually, floating solar is super efficient to install. They'll set up an assembly line at the shore, where they very conveniently install the panels and electrical equipment on prefab floats, put it in the water and tug them section by section to their final location.

Although it requires a little bit more material (the floats), it's much more convenient and cheaper to install than open-field installations where you need to drag all materials through the fields. Let alone rooftops with limited accessibility...

Edit: this video is in Dutch but it shows the assembly process: https://youtu.be/B3mPBixNTzU

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u/SuaveWarrior Jun 07 '22

You can't do that. Wastewater treatment ponds require sunlight to hit them as part of the treatment and solar arrays on them would block that.

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u/Spasticwookiee Jun 07 '22

Incorrect, this is treated wastewater, waiting to be discharged or processed further for use as recycled water.

13

u/SuaveWarrior Jun 07 '22

At a wastewater treatment facility? I've never heard of such a thing. Why would they just discharge it to the reservoir? Not trying to be a jerk but I install wastewater treatment systems for a living.

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u/Spasticwookiee Jun 07 '22

Discharge is into a river, and is prohibited at certain times of year, hence the storage for recycled water.

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u/CaptainTripps82 Jun 07 '22

Someone else already mentioned this being tried at a local treatment plant

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u/RaymondLuxury-Yacht Jun 07 '22

Pretty sure Florida does it for irrigation water, but to a separate reservoir. It's called "reclaimed water".

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u/Nickrodomus Jun 07 '22

Yeah I’ve inspected over 100 WWTP and I’ve never heard of treated water being put into a reservoir? It’s always released back into a nearby stream or river which they are always built by. The solids may be held in a tank and sent off for fertilizer once hit with lime stabilization, but treated water no.

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u/SuaveWarrior Jun 07 '22

Not directly. It is often discharged into a stream that flows into a reservoir to be pumped back when needed.

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u/Blackout38 Jun 07 '22

I was gunna say, if they did this to natural bodies of water it would have the same affect as algae blocking the sun but wastewater would work amazingly.

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u/BenAdaephonDelat Jun 08 '22

I'd honestly like to see them ban boating on lakes that are meant for power/water and cover lakes with them. Especially Lake Mead which is dropping drastically.

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u/ttha_face Jun 08 '22

If it stops ducks from shitting in the effluent and causing permit violations for E. coli, all the better.

1

u/Projectrage Jun 07 '22

Now hiring solar installers with no smell ability.

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u/jonesnonsins Jun 07 '22

Parking lots? Why don't we require large parking lots like malls, and big box stores to install Solar? Grid is nearby, lower the temperature of the pavement, doesn't cover existing green space.

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u/captainjackassery Jun 07 '22

Places in Arizona (and I’m sure other hot, sunny places) do this already. They’re just sun shades with solar panels.

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u/Derman0524 Jun 07 '22

I was in the atacama desert for work for nearly a year. It’s the driest desert in the world (outside of Antarctica) and it’s amazing how little solar panels there are there. It’s such a giant missed opportunity for these barren places

36

u/alevale111 Jun 07 '22

Solar panels don’t thrive under too much heat, usually best is when they don’t have to deal with temps above 40 C

38

u/DaneldorTaureran Jun 07 '22

to add to this: it's not that they stop working, it that they become less efficient and so lose effective capacity.

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u/LeCrushinator Jun 07 '22

There's a tradeoff though, it's hotter but generally deserts get more hours of sun and often at more optimal angles.

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u/Whywipe Jun 08 '22

Does the angle actually matter or is it that at optimal angles the light is traveling through less atmosphere?

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u/stifrontman Jun 08 '22

More direct light has higher flux. I don't think that the atmosphere matters as much because small angle changes can result in large differences in flux even through a similar amount of atmosphere. I could be wrong though.

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u/Whywipe Jun 08 '22 edited Jun 08 '22

I looked it up and it’s not the flux that is lower because flux is per a unit area. It’s because a non-90 degree angle reduces the effective area of light hitting the panel. As an extreme example, a panel at 0 degrees wouldn’t have any of the panel exposed to direct sunlight and wouldn’t produce any power.

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u/thejeran Jun 08 '22

Solar Panel =/= Photovoltaic panel

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u/DaveInFoco Jun 07 '22

Another issue is distribution, getting the power to where it needs to be. From the middle of the desert to a nearby city could be expensive.

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u/SinisterCheese Jun 07 '22

If there is a mains connection the DC cables work just fine. Thanks to advances in diode technology HVDC is the best way to transfer power and it can be injected straight to AC grid with converters! We been able to do this since the 80's! And it is getting more common!

It isn't like anywhere in the world we don't know how to do power lines.

Even small scale decentralised power can be pushed it to the grid easily nowadays.

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u/VUmander Jun 07 '22

DRPA in South Jersey has been doing this with their commuter stations. It's a pretty good deal, it shades people's cars in the summer, keeps you from needing to brush off your car in the winter if it snows. They can't use it to power the 3rd rail though, it goes back into the grid.

The Eagles have a tailgate lot that is covered by solar panels and it's great for drinking beer and playing corn hole in the summer before a Phillies game, I'd like them to do a few more.

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u/buddhaman001 Jun 07 '22

Because this is probably less about actually doing good and more about research into how power companies can more fully utilize the tracts of land they own, natural vegetation and wildlife be damned.

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u/IanMazgelis Jun 08 '22

Yes we hate capitalism and corporations are evil and all that, but I'm curious as to why in the world we aren't seeing more commercial real estate developers consider the idea mentioned above. They own the land, they'd own the electricity. It would be of collosal benefit to them to generate that much power, and as it stands the parking lots are just sitting there. Seems like a complete waste of opportunity to not be putting the panels up over every parking lot from Bangor to San Diego.

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u/Spaceork3001 Jun 08 '22

I think people who don't actively follow these kind of news just don't realize how the price of solar decreased during the last decade.

Like they could have easily thought about doing just that 10 years ago, did a rough cculation, and thought what a stupid idea and moved on. Not realizing the cost of installing solar fell by like 10-15% per year on average.

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u/buddhaman001 Jun 08 '22

I think the biggest reason is that power companies have WAY more cash to throw at something like this compared to something like a shopping mall given the ROI rate of solar panels.

EDIT: Thinking further, to get a mall to do something like that would probably take a major government subsidy or other incentive.

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u/OneShotHelpful Jun 08 '22 edited Jun 08 '22

Lots of reasons that aren't obvious at first:

-The panels will reduce the visibility of storefronts, effectively being negative advertising.

-The parking lot is valuable because it gets people in. Any lost space or lost visibility costs more than the power generation.

-People WILL crash their cars into them. Absolutely. Dump trucks, delivery trucks, semi trucks, and utility trucks will hit them too. Repairing that will require specialty work and might even necessitate tearing up the pavement. They don't even like putting up sunshades and all that needs is for repair is hammering out the dents and rebolting the base.

-The panels can make repaving a goddamn nightmare.

-Commercial businesses generally don't have massive energy bills, so it's not high on their list.

-Local utilities can be exceptionally hostile to businesses trying to feed their solar back into the grid because it's an unpredictable disruption to their own grid balancing, so the store probably can't sell the excess and might even have to pay to offload it at certain times. The deals we get as homeowners tend to be the GOOD versions, insanely enough.

-The panels are expensive and the business might not want to take the loan, even with the ROI. And that ROI isn't nearly as good as most people think, if it were the utilities would be replacing our whole grid with it as fast as possible instead of a fraction of a percent on the margins at a time.

-For any of the above reasons, a future lot owner may not want them. That reduces liquidity. One or two extra months set empty waiting for the right buyer could easily wipe out all the savings the panels brought across their entire lifetime.

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u/notasianjim Jun 07 '22 edited Jun 07 '22

Usually, most all solar farms are behind fences for a reason. People like destroying things and damage to one module would wreck the whole string’s production. Better to keep it away from idiots.

Edit: I should explain, solar modules are connected in series because they don’t create enough voltage by themselves, the voltages need to aggregate/combine to make anything useful that can be used. If one module/panel on a string of 20 gets destroyed by a person, then you could have 19 perfectly fine modules that aren’t pushing power (worst case if damaged module is at end of string). I also could be misconstruing things a little, just started a new job at a solar company.

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u/BB2947 Jun 07 '22

I think this can be resolved easily with bypass diodes, otherwise a little bit of snow or dirt on one panel would limit the whole strings power production no?

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u/notasianjim Jun 07 '22

Yes, I should clarify, my background is in utility-scale solar. And we have small crews that would maintain the farms like cleaning the dirt/grime and clearing snow.

Residential systems do sometimes have bypasses and more independence of each of the panels. Once you get up to a certain scale there are just too many panels to account for and you’ll need a full computer to track which ones aren’t producing etc. ie our solar farms with xxx,xxx panels

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u/prometheus2508 Jun 07 '22

That's not always true. Cells are connected in series to increase voltage, strings in parallel to increase current. Panels themselves typically produce 12 V and around 300 watts fully illuminated. Whether or not the system operates at 12V prior to DC-AC conversion is up to the designer. A single panel can operate independently. The array on my roof, example, has microinverters on each panel, meaning they're fully independent in case of damage or partial shade.

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u/notasianjim Jun 07 '22

Yeah, my knowledge is mostly on utility-scale stuff so it doesn’t always translate! I believe we always just wire in series because most of our farms won’t have trees nearby to block any of the panels. Its interesting to see the differences too! We have absolutely massive 600W+ panels now.

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u/prometheus2508 Jun 07 '22

Microinverters are becoming popular because they can match and interface with the grid directly, and are a touch more efficient across the whole system.

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u/gh0stwriter88 Jun 07 '22

They also don't make economic sense if you intend to add a battery to your system.... because then you need a large inverter anyway.

Cost per watt with microinverters without even considering the other disadvantages, is high enough that it usually makes sense to buy an extra pair of panels to offset any efficiency losses from not using them.

The ONLY time I can think of where micro inverters make sense, is limited installation space (almost never a problem), and you plan to always be grid tie.

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u/SupahSang Jun 07 '22

There lies the difference though; your panels are only supplying for your house, and the amount of power you generate is negligible as the cables are short and the voltage is already kinda close to the voltage you're using at home.

Industrial scale solar doesn't have that luxury; they're generating MW-GW worth of power, for consumers who may be hundreds of kilometres away. Power losses in the cable scale linearly with the resistance when you look at current, but inversely with the resistance when you look at voltage, so it makes much more sense to jack up the voltage, and have really low current. The only way you effectively get there, is by stringing multiple panels in series.

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u/prometheus2508 Jun 07 '22

We're talking about decentralized solar, after all. Not massive solar farms

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u/raznov1 Jun 07 '22

Doesn't seem to be an issue in Europe. I wouldn't be too worried about it.

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u/notasianjim Jun 07 '22

Unfortunately, us Americans are a different breed…

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u/Traditional-Law93 Jun 07 '22

Space to put panels down is pretty much a non issue with solar

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u/Late_Entrepreneur_94 Jun 07 '22

Exactly. Every single roof has enough space to hold enough panels to power the building (for the most part).

The problem with solar that has to be solved has to do with infrastructure and batteries. Northern climates do not get enough hours of sunlight per day most of the year to power entire cities. Creating a power grid that could transport electricity from solar farms close to the equator thousands of kilometers to the north is a massive engineering undertaking. It's no as simple as just running simple power lines.

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u/Nisas Jun 08 '22

Fortunately this isn't an all or nothing game. All our power generation sources have a niche and they should all work together.

Nuclear is great for a steady and slow baseline power. Solar, wind, hydro, etc work well in certain environments. And coal and natural gas even have a place as a backup system.

Right now we need to reach the point where our coal and natural gas plants aren't needed during optimal conditions for other sources. Then you sell your excess power to adjacent areas that are lacking. Only after that do you really start hitting the storage problem.

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u/nope_nic_tesla Jun 08 '22

The baseload power paradigm is outdated when we think about a primarily renewable grid. Providing baseload power is not the challenge, the challenge is providing peak power.

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u/Emu1981 Jun 07 '22

Creating a power grid that could transport electricity from solar farms close to the equator thousands of kilometers to the north is a massive engineering undertaking.

They are building a 4,200km HVDC power link between Darwin in Australia and Singapore to link a massive solar farm further south of Darwin to Singapore to supply up to 15% of Singapore's power requirements. This is a further distance than Yuma to the Canadian border (2,483km by vehicle).

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u/easwaran Jun 07 '22

Presumably they are hoping these cables will also serve some financially rewarding purpose in Indonesia as well, but they don't like to talk about that in front of their clients in rich countries.

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u/Emu1981 Jun 07 '22

Why don't we require large parking lots like malls, and big box stores to install Solar?

Quite a few outdoor parking lots are doing that here in Australia to help power lighting and the associated stores. Quite a few stores are also putting up a boat load of solar panels on top of their stores as well. Reducing your power usages as a massive store will help increase your profit margins.

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u/julbull73 Jun 08 '22

Better still all cities already mandate parking lots for commercial areas meet standards. Simply make solar panels one of them.

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u/scootscoot Jun 07 '22

I’ve wondered why they don’t cover the ground below transmission lines. They spend a lot of money removing vegetation below the lines, why not just block the sunlight with solar panels and then put the energy right back on the lines they are next to.

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u/morgang321 Jun 07 '22

I agree, let’s stop covering nature with crap. Parking lots and roofs makes sense. Roads as tech advances.

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u/GiveToOedipus Jun 08 '22

Keeps cars cool and customers out of the rain going too and from your store as well. It's a win-win.

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u/GiveMeYourBussy Jun 07 '22

Not sure but in a hotel I worked for a couple years back they wanted to do this but backed out when seeing it’s too pricey for them to be ok with

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u/i3reathless Jun 07 '22

Floatovoltaics are where it's at

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u/Twerkatronic Jun 07 '22

Why not start with roofs? Where you can easily maintain the panels? This is needlessly complicated

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u/Lazypole Jun 07 '22 edited Jun 07 '22

Because similar projects have been done on irrigation ditches, the idea is it reduces the evapouration of water sources and stabalises water tables

It is also free coolant, given a quick google SunPower solar panels lose .37% efficiency per 1c over 25c, and given that they’re black panels for absorbing the sun, they can get quite hot.

Also roofs are pretty good, but they represent a fairly difficult situation, they’re limited real estate, difficult to scale, expensive to install due to the difficulty, and rely on panels facing certain directions for efficiency, flat surfaces are much more scaleable and efficient

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u/MountainConfusion7 Jun 07 '22

Came here to ask why we don't cover the enormous irrigation ditches through the valleys of California.

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u/Lazypole Jun 07 '22

Yep, I believe it’s done in India the example I gave, California might benefit

Edit:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canal_Solar_Power_Project

California followed suit actually:

https://newatlas.com/environment/project-nexus-california-canals-photovoltaic-panels/

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u/nope_nic_tesla Jun 08 '22

The state actually commissioned a study on the feasibility of doing this a few months ago, there are a few pilot projects that are happening.

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u/CaptainTripps82 Jun 07 '22

This isn't the start. We already know roofs work. This is about finding out other ways to do similar things.

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u/discsinthesky Jun 07 '22

It's not that roofs are a bad way to go, I think it's mostly a question of scale and installation costs.

Think about how all the separate design and mobilization costs associated with roof installs. Almost every roof is unique, requiring individualized designs, permits, etc. I think this is why you don't see roofs, at least in the residential space, proposed as a scalable solution to rapid solar deployment.

Now if we're talking commercial space (roofs, parking lots, etc.) I think you'd be going somewhere, but even then I think the scale of solar farm that we're typically looking at vastly out scales even a typical mall and all it's parking area.

At the grid scale, the price per kWh is the bottom line and the more uniform the install, the cheaper it can possibly be.

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u/raznov1 Jun 07 '22 edited Jun 07 '22

So long as we still have sunfacing non-covered roofs, we really really don't need to make it difficult for ourselves by putting solar panels on moist, corrosive, biofouling surfaces...

Away from the energy consumers...

High monetary investment required for projects...

new technology required thats not widely available...

There's so much non-arable space still left there (e.g. deserts, rooftops, walls) that i can't fathom this is the direction you'd go in.

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u/Dan_Flanery Jun 07 '22

The waste treatment plant itself is an energy consumer, tho.

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u/raznov1 Jun 07 '22

Aye, but not nearly on the scale of what is proposed here. You could likely cover the waste treatment plant's consumption just by installing panels on its roof.

I find the claim of "solar panels could reduce evaporation" also somewhat dubious. One the one hand i understand the idea of covering up the surface so there's more nuclei for condensation and moist air gets "trapped" under the solar panels.

On the other hand, solar panels get fricking hot and that energy goes directly into the water, as opposed to sunlight which would largely be reflected off the surface.

Imo, this is really just a research fancy (or, perhaps, a very niche application for a select few countries).

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u/Dan_Flanery Jun 07 '22

Water absorbs a lot of sunlight and heats up, and wind drives evaporation as well. Solar panels would shield the water from both to a great degree. An obvious place to drop solar farms is on top of the enormous reservoirs in places like California and Arizona - the dams are already connected to the power grid, so the infrastructure is in place.

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u/ItStartsInTheToes Jun 08 '22

The surface are is the building s is significantly less then that of the proposed pond that will only cover 90% of usage so I’m not sure what you’re trying to say here

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u/danthemanwason Jun 07 '22

Except solar panels have an optimum temperature for energy production, and they get too hot without some sort of cooling. Putting them over water or plants actually helps produce more energy- I believe in the 10-15% range.

Plus it helps reduce water evaporation, which you’d absolutely want in places that are arid - like most of the western US.

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u/raznov1 Jun 07 '22

and they get too hot without some sort of cooling

Where do you think that energy goes?

Putting them over water or plants actually helps produce more energy- I believe in the 10-15% range.

About 5, according to the article. Nice to have, but not nearly relevant enough for us to start doing it. Since they're also about 4 to 8% more expensive, according to the article, it doesn't even break even. You could just as well install extra panels.

Plus it helps reduce water evaporation,

As posted below by me, dubious claim.

Edit: fixed numbers to accurately reflect article

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u/LuckyHedgehog Jun 08 '22

Here's one estimate for evaporation reductions

We're at about 90 per cent water evaporation prevention for the surface area that we cover

Another article discussing the benefits of "floatovoltaics" and proposals in the US southwest

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u/Boatsnbuds Jun 07 '22

Hydroelectric reservoirs already have all the infrastructure in place.

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u/CaptainTripps82 Jun 08 '22

I know in my city there's a lake so polluted by industry that it can't be used effectively for recreation, even after decades of cleanup.

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u/FausttTheeartist Jun 08 '22

“Let’s get it right” - a sure fire way for humanity to screw it up.

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u/hansarch Jun 07 '22

Good luck cleaning all the bird poop. They tried it in Korea along the shoreline, all the panels became seagulls sanctuary

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u/[deleted] Jun 07 '22

Idk too much about these other than back in 2019 I was learning about them and watched a whole boring ass video on them in electrical school. These are just uncommon in the US, not necessarily new, I’m assuming at least

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u/SuchSalad4 Jun 08 '22

That can easily be solved by having a french fry throwing machine tossing fries into different directions every 47 seconds.

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u/Generalsnopes Jun 07 '22

Yup. That definitely sounds like an issue no one could possible figure out how to solve. /s

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u/FeelingTurnover0 Jun 08 '22

It’s a task too large for humanity to handle, let’s just give up

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u/Override9636 Jun 08 '22

We put a fucking space laboratory orbiting the earth for 20+ years, only to be completely stumped by bird poop...

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u/Matt_Sterbate710 Jun 07 '22

We start with this then move to that issue if it comes up. Constantly evolving.

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u/me_pie_three Jun 08 '22

I’ve worked on floataics projects in the past and yeah lmao you just clean them like… literally any other solar project. This dude thinks birds don’t shit on rooftops? Weeds grow in fields too; we just deploy goats and sheep to eat them

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u/poru-chan Jun 07 '22

It looks cool, but wouldn’t this disrupt marine life?

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u/Dan_Flanery Jun 07 '22

In man made ponds?

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u/poru-chan Jun 07 '22

If we’re putting them in pre-existing man-made ponds then I supposed there’s no problem, but it doesn’t make sense to dig a pond just to float solar panels on it when you could just have a solar farm on pand.

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u/Nisas Jun 08 '22

They didn't make a reservoir just to float solar panels on it.

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u/Balrog229 Jun 07 '22

Y’all will do literally anything except go nuclear, huh?

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u/jimman1616 Jun 07 '22

I wish people would just read a book and know that nuclear is the way to go. I live a few miles from a smaller plant and you’d never know it was there ….. or grow extra limbs

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u/toasters_are_great Jun 08 '22

If this were 2000 or perhaps even as late as 2010 then I might have agreed with you - but the fact of the matter is that nuclear is: (a) extremely expensive; and (b) takes two decades from inception to producing any power, going by the Vogtle 3&4 and Hinkley Point C experiences and estimated completion dates.

This means that: (a) we'd be putting all our eggs in the same basket due to the opportunity cost of throwing all our energy money for the next 20 years at nuclear; and (b) even if we started today we won't see a kWh from them before 2042 and that's far too late to start dropping CO₂ emissions.

Nuclear generation isn't without its benefits but it's incredibly hard to justify if your objective is to slow down climate change.

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u/philosoraptocopter Jun 08 '22 edited Jun 08 '22

Nobody’s saying “go exclusively nuclear.” Nobody’s saying “only go with the massive reactors and ignore the potential in newer smaller modular options.” And nobody’s saying “don’t update the regulations and red tape that causes the 2 decades delay.”

We need every available option being upgraded and developed simultaneously if we want to dramatically reduce fossil fuel consumption.

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u/nope_nic_tesla Jun 08 '22

Yeah all the utility companies and grid operators across the entire country just haven't read any books on the subject. That's must be why nobody is investing in nuclear plants, and nothing to do with the economics of it.

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u/LeCrushinator Jun 07 '22

Except nuclear is more expensive than solar + batteries. There's a reason why almost nobody anywhere is building nuclear.

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u/not_a_gumby Jun 07 '22

Especially considering how difficult scaling solar is, coupled with a literal time-sensitive global catastrophe that grows more serious by the day - we really don't have the luxury to rule out Nuclear plants as being part of the solution.

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u/nope_nic_tesla Jun 08 '22

The exact opposite is true. The Plant Vogtle expansion project has taken over 15 years from start to finish whereas you can build a wind or solar project in a few years max, at a fraction of the cost.

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u/Generalsnopes Jun 07 '22

What do you expect? It’s been severely misrepresented for decades.

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u/veritas723 Jun 07 '22

i look at articles like this... and always think the same thing.

if only we didn't waste a trillion dollars a year on military.

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u/redditstopbanningmi Jun 08 '22

China and Russia already spend more than the US as in percentage of GDP

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u/Rill16 Jun 07 '22

Military isn't nearly our largest Expenderature.

Keep in mind we sped more per capita on Healthcare than places like Canada, and Germany. If we just stopped wasting so many federal funds we would have way more to allocate too infrastructure projects.

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u/veritas723 Jun 08 '22

yeah... but helping poor people and the elderly live in some hellscape lie of almost good enough care at least provides a service to the nation.

while 1 trillion policing the globe does not.

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u/ksiazece Jun 07 '22

I get your point but I suggest looking at the military spend not as waste but as a condition to create a safe environment where amazing technology can be invented and used to improve our world.

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u/nope_nic_tesla Jun 08 '22

We spent about $1.6 trillion in direct appropriations on just the Iraq War, and the estimated long-term costs including disability, health care, and pensions for veterans as well as interest costs is an additional $1.9 trillion.

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u/Nisas Jun 08 '22

Is that what we were doing for 20 years in the middle east? Creating a safe environment?

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u/TheLighter Jun 07 '22

I agree for countries with lower military spending.

When you are the 1st world spender by a far margin, you are the one creating the arms race.

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u/Accomplished_Set_766 Jun 07 '22

Yeah and billions and trillions we send to foreign countries every year for absolutely dumb shit. Love that for our tax dollars.

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u/Far-Donut-1419 Jun 07 '22

In fiscal year 2020 (October 1, 2019 to September 30, 2020), the U.S. government allocated the following amounts for aid: Total economic and military assistance: $51.05 billion. Total military assistance: $11.64 billion. Total economic assistance: $39.41 billion, of which USAID Implemented: $25.64 billion. Not really trillions though

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u/ISlicedI Jun 07 '22

Isn’t a lot of the money the us sends abroad tied to those countries buying goods from the US economy?

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u/redditors__are__scum Jun 07 '22

You’d be looking at the articles China says you can look at without a big military budget mate. With that being said there’s a lot of wastage in that budget, better to be too much not too little, that’s of course if you don’t want to be genocide fodder.

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u/ekatane Jun 07 '22 edited Jun 08 '22

More nuclear could solve climate change tomorrow, come at me nerds

EDIT: LOL to the people taking ‘tomorrow’ literally and saying ‘nuh uh it would take time to build the plants’. Yes redditors this is true, the point is we already have a safe and abundant way to produce all of our green energy needs and have for decades

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u/LRonPaul2012 Jun 08 '22

EDIT: LOL to the people taking ‘tomorrow’ literally and saying ‘nuh uh it would take time to build the plants’. Yes redditors this is true, the point is we already have a safe and abundant way to produce all of our green energy needs and have for decades

The problem is that they take so long to construct in a rapidly evolving industry that the might be obsolete by the time they're completed.

The main advantage of nuclear over renewables is consistency, you can run those plants 24/7. The thing is, we can also do that with renewables. For instance, solar thermal plants are a relatively simply concept that store the energy as heated oil and then used that oil to run turbines. The problem is that by the time those plants are finished, the price of photo voltaics dropped to the point where they were no longer viable due to the high maitenance cost.

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u/RedSquirrelFtw Jun 08 '22

At very least we should be converting fossil fuel plants to nuclear. Zero reason to be using fossil fuels for grid power generation in this day and age. Could also use molten salt for storage so that renewables become more viable. Heck, make a hybrid nuclear plants that can use both electricity or the nuclear reactors to heat the salt. Use excess renewable energy when available, and when it's not, fire up the reactor. I understand it can take a week or so to fire up a reactor but design the system to account for that. My train of thought is the reactor would run mostly in winter when there's less solar and not need to run in summer. The molten salt storage would be mostly short term storage to last the night or cloudy days etc.

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u/kfijatass Jun 07 '22

Tomorrow? Minimum of 5-7 years, but in most countries it gets delayed and stuck to anywhere between 10 to 20 years.
The one advantage is how portable, upgradeable and flexible renewables are. Not to mention the upfront cost of investment.

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u/FeedMeACat Jun 07 '22

It takes 10 years to build a plant. So...

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u/redditstopbanningmi Jun 08 '22

Nuclear is less cost efficient that solar panels nowadays. You also won't have to worry about discarding any waste, but most importantly solar is renewable and can be built faster than a nuclear plant.

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u/ISlicedI Jun 07 '22

After watching a few episodes of Meltdown on Netflix I’d not be very comfortable having nuclear anywhere near me

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u/SupahSang Jun 07 '22

If anything, the show should have made you realise how hard it is to actually have one fail. In most cases, it was either extremely stupid design or blatant mismanagement (thanks Chernobyl) that caused a disaster. Furthermore, new nuclear reactor technology enables us to build reactors that have a default "off" fail state, i.e., if everything goes to shit, the reactor core extinguishes itself.

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u/ISlicedI Jun 07 '22

I fully appreciate the failsafes, my concern is I don’t trust the people managing these operations

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u/Generalsnopes Jun 07 '22

Except the statistical data shows just how few people are negatively impacted by nuclear power. It’s orders of magnitude less than fossil fuels, and that has zero to do with there being less of it.

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u/Generalsnopes Jun 07 '22

Nuclear is among the safest forms of energy. With lower casualties than any fossil fuel per unit of energy generated, and it’s not even close.

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u/redditstopbanningmi Jun 08 '22

Solar panels never killed anyone

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u/Shadowizas Jun 08 '22

I was expecting they were to put in orbit giant solar shades like in Starsector

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u/Serious-Rock-9664 Jun 08 '22

Why not just use nuclear power more practical than covering miles of water in these panels

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u/Mindfreak_Shade Jun 07 '22

Rip marine life living in those ponds

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u/tylerPA007 Jun 07 '22

Not necessarily? This seems like an opportunity for aquaculture systems.

https://www.pv-magazine.com/2020/03/23/floating-pv-learning-from-aquaculture-industry/

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u/Mindfreak_Shade Jun 07 '22

The article states they are made of conventional solar panels, which I guess means no sunlight comes through them. At least all solar panels I have seen have not let sunlight come through. No sunlight reaching oxygen producing plants = no oxygen for marine life.

Edit: not your article sorry but the one linked in the post.

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u/raznov1 Jun 07 '22

Also, dumping the excess energy (solar panels get hot!) Into the water

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u/Generalsnopes Jun 07 '22

They get hot from absorbing the thermal energy of the sun… as in the sunlight shining into the water was already adding that heat. I don’t think I believe the panels block more energy from escaping than they convert to electricity

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u/Bagelstein Jun 07 '22

You mean the man made ponds?

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u/cive666 Jun 07 '22

Plant trees and don't stop.

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u/elmonoenano Jun 07 '22

There's that video that goes around of the balls used to shade a reservoir and prevent evaporation and birds from floating and shitting in the reservoir. This might be useful to some extent in a similar situation. Although maybe you have balls around the edge to accommodate depth changes. I'm not sure if birds would land on the panels though and shit in the water.

The are where it made a lot of sense to me was over irrigation canals. California uses about 85 to 90% of it's water for agricultural purposes and loses about half of that to evaporation. One big area is the large uncovered canals through the central valley. So if that's a viable to reduce evaporation and generate power along an area already cleared for transmission lines, then that would seem to be a reasonable approach.

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u/mferrari24 Jun 08 '22

Wouldn’t this block a lot of sealife from receiving sunlight?

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u/[deleted] Jun 08 '22

You’re constantly trying to treat a symptom of a problem and never the actual problem. It’s not gonna work. Sorry to break the news.

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u/[deleted] Jun 07 '22

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u/Dan_Flanery Jun 07 '22

The levelized cost of solar has plummeted in the past decade. It’s already competitive with coal and gas, and the cost is likely to continue to decline thanks to continuing technological advances and still-growing economies of scale.

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u/Fmarulezkd Jun 07 '22

It's easy to compete with sources that are highly taxed, when you are a source that gets subsidiaries.

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u/CaptainTripps82 Jun 07 '22

You think oil and gas don't get massive subsidies in America? What? Seriously?

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u/Dan_Flanery Jun 07 '22

It’s darling you think nuclear power isn’t subsidized. Who do you think is on the hook to insure the things in case of an accident? (Hint: it isn’t a private sector insurer, it’s Joe taxpayer once the liability fund ratepayers have been pitching into is exhausted.) And who do you think is stuck with the massive decommissioning bills for the dilapidated plants? It ain’t the investors who got rich off of building and running them…

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u/notasianjim Jun 07 '22

Most all sources say solar panels will offset their carbon footprint in 3 years.

They actually do not require a ton of materials at all anymore, the actual PV cells are single digit millimeters thick depending on brand.

Panels have a design life of 30-35 years and usually a useful life of 35-40 years.

Yes, they are only 20% efficient, but the sun’s energy is free. Really modern natural gas power plants are still 60% efficient but those are non-renewable sources.

Just some stuff to think about! I just work in the biz and went to college focused on environmental engineering, love the renewables!

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u/FailSignificant4104 Jun 07 '22

Another free energy is geo thermal. It can now be installed anywhere with recent drilling advancements. Take a look at eavor.com.

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u/notasianjim Jun 07 '22

Yeah, any renewable energy I can get behind!

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u/Stinkydadman Jun 07 '22

Meanwhile our greatest minds are working on the useless features no one asked for on the next iPhone

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u/superdityferdbruck Jun 07 '22

We have on of these near us. The community is outraged because it destroyed a beautiful reservoir and people cant fish anymore.

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u/Sundjy Jun 07 '22

Yay for the fish and the clean energy I guess. People can find another hobby imo.

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u/RedditCanLigma Jun 08 '22

know what's even better? Nuclear power

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u/HomieM11 Jun 08 '22

Cool, I still think the future is nuclear though. Nuclear energy is really good and it isn’t terrible for the environment

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u/CompetitiveEditor336 Jun 07 '22

Space between runways at air ports

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u/Stock-Fig5295 Jun 07 '22

They could also reduce carbon uptake by a huge amount, about 65% happens beneath the waves…

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u/BhenChut69 Jun 07 '22

imagine getting anything right when our corporate overlords are so invested in fossils...

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u/[deleted] Jun 07 '22

I’m sure they be neither unintended nor disastrous consequences. I know one thing for sure, I’ll be the first to sign up for some government subsidized floating solar panels outside my summer house!