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PostPosted: Sun Aug 29, 2010 4:44 am 
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Two words about nuclear's long term risk:

Yucca Mountain.

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 29, 2010 2:48 pm 
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NeilBlanchard wrote:
Two words about nuclear's long term risk:

Yucca Mountain.
i don't understand what you're getting at.

yucca mountain is a potential site for long-term storage of spent nuclear fuel. so what? it's like a landfill for nuclear fuel.


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 29, 2010 7:37 pm 
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You have not been following things very closely, then. Yucca Mountain has gone through a long and costly process, and along the way, some data was faked, and in the end, it is all bollocks -- it won't work for safe long term storage of nuclear waste.

We have no solution for nuclear waste. Some of it stays dangerously radioactive for about 10X longer than recorded history. Does it sound like we should increase our output of such material?

The cost of the Finnish nuclear power plant under construction right now is astronomical, and it has run way over it's time deadline, too.

Nuclear is capital intensive, uranium is a finite source (and is dangerous to mine and transport), if Murphy's Law is applied then very, very, very bad things happen -- and the waste products can be used to make very threatening weapons, and/or just kill by sitting there. Plutonium is incredible poisonous (a tablespoon of it in a city's water supply would kill everyone would drank it) as well as very radioactive -- the half life is ~24,000 years. So, you can die quickly, or slowly...

Just the sort of stuff we want to make more of.

Let's take full advantage of the great-big-fusion-reactor-in-the-sky! All our energy originates with it, and so why fight the system?

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Last edited by NeilBlanchard on Mon Aug 30, 2010 3:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: once through cycle
PostPosted: Sun Aug 29, 2010 8:38 pm 
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Yes, there's Yucca Mountain. Of course, the big problem with Yucca is that it's pretty much already full, if all the waste we have now goes into it. The easiest alternative, of course, would be fuel reprocessing. Jimmy Cater banned fuel reprocessing back in the 70s so that it wouldn't encourage nuclear proliferation. Meanwhile, many other countries went ahead with reprocessing. Most notably France, they have a very well developed system.

The main constituent of nuclear waste are spent nuclear fuel rods. Once they're through a reactor cycle, they usually consist of unburned u-238, some small amounts of plutonium and higher actinides, and fission products, the broken halves of atoms created by the splitting of uranium and plutonium. On average, the fission products make up 5% of the spent fuel. The plutonium can be used as fuel for reactors, it can be used in what's known as mixed oxide (MOX) fuel. This kind of fuel has been used for years, when Russia agreed to lower it's nuclear stockpile, part of that involved selling plutonium taken from those weapons and using it to make MOX fuel, and it's been getting used in our reactors for a while now. So by reprocessing our fuel, we can pull out the plutonium and use it for fuel. Taking that out leaves the fission products, some higher actinides, and the u-238, otherwise known as depleted uranium. In terms of fuel storage, the plutonium and higher actinides are the worrisome products, being more toxic and having relatively long half lives. Now ideally, those higher actinides could be broken down in fast breeder reactors, but they could also be destroyed in accelerator driven subcritical reactors, and possibly in pressurized heavy water thorium reactors. Breeders would be useful, because they could also use the u-238 as fuel, which is currently a low level waste product. The u-238 is also known as depleted uranium, it's not very radioactive, it has a half life of 4.468 billion years, so it decays very slowly. As an aside, it would probably be better to use it as fuel, for a while the military was using it in anti-tank shells, which tends to vaporize the u 238, and having radioactive elements go airborne is probably the most dangerous form to have them in.

But anyway, if you pull out the plutonium and higher actinides, as well as the depleted uranium, what you're left with are the fission products. They usually have much shorter half lives, so they're dangerous for a much shorter time. The isotopes with the shortest half lives decay in a fairly short time, so they're mostly gone after a 30-50 year storage term on site at the reactors. What's left after that would generally be considered low level waste, and for that we already have 3 existing sites:

http://www.nrc.gov/waste/llw-disposal/licensing/locations.html

So what I'm getting at here is, there are alternatives to Yucca Mountain. Now Bush did make reprocessing legal again during his term, so a couple of companies have been looking into it. The big problem getting it going is more economic than anything else, recycling nuclear weapons is cheaper than reprocessing fuel, but that won't last forever. Of course, having more demand from new plants would help. At the moment, storing spent fuel at reactor sites is pretty safe.

On the other hand, if you want to talk about toxic waste that's all over the place right now, I just saw this:
http://content.usatoday.com/communities/greenhouse/post/2010/08/coal-ash-dump-sites/1
or, for the scary map:
http://projects.publicintegrity.org/coalash/
Yikes! If you take that, and add in all the groundwater that's getting contaminated with a crazy mix of chemicals due to natural gas fracking (have you seen gasland? Watch it!: http://gaslandthemovie.com/) you can see that the real enemy here is fossil fuels, by far. If nuclear power can help us get beyond this mess, I'm all for it. You may disagree, of course.


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 30, 2010 10:16 am 
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NeilBlanchard wrote:
We have no solution for nuclear waste.


Nuclear waste shouldn't be a problem if we build for the future instead of living in the past.

There are nuclear reactor designs that will turn waste from older reactors and leftover stockpiled weapons into electricity and leave behind only small amounts of waste that has a much shorter half life.

Nuclear can be clean, safe, and manageable. I know it hasn't been in the past but harping on the past and burdening the process of setting up new plants only keeps us burning more coal.

Even if you ignore global warming coal plants are bad stuff. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGmVCABM ... r_embedded is from my home town's newspaper and the spill site is less than 25 miles from where I sit right now.

CBS's coverage is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BK6zDtTp ... ature=fvwp

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fly_ash#Sp ... lk_storage for a text based description of the spill and toxicity.

Coal gave our country wealth in the past but we have to find a way to stop using it as a primary power source.

Nuclear, Solar, and Wind are our three best choices and we need more of all of them. Hydro is OK but I don't think we can expect to expand our use of hydro significantly.

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 30, 2010 3:08 pm 
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Biomass, wave, tidal, geothermal are not chopped liver! And there are two types of solar: heat and photovoltaic. :)

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 30, 2010 4:13 pm 
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NeilBlanchard wrote:
You have not been following things very closely, then. Yucca Mountain has gone through a long and costly process, and along the way, some data was faked, and in the end, it is all bollocks -- it won't work for safe long term storage of nuclear waste.

We have no solution for nuclear waste. Some of it stays dangerously radioactive for about 10X longer than recorded history. Does it sound like we should increase our output of such material?

The cost of the Finnish nuclear power plant under construction right now is astronomical, and it has run way over it's time deadline, too.

Nuclear is capital intensive, uranium is a finite source (and is dangerous to mine and transport), if Murphy's Law is applied then very, very, very bad things happen -- and the waste products can be used to make very threatening weapons, and/or just kill by sitting there. Plutonium is incredible poisonous (a tablespoon of it in a city's water supply would kill everyone would drank it) as well as very radioactive -- the half life is ~24,000 years. So, you can die quickly, or slowly...

Just the sort of stuff we want to make more of.

Let's take full advantage of the great-big-fusion-reactor-in-the-sky! All our energy originates with it, and so why fight the system?


bulk of nuclear waste can be reused. that's the point of fast breeder reactors.

beyond that, there's other available fuels than just U-235 (or 238. i forget which one is fissile.)

that's why i mentioned thorium reactors. they decay to U-233, which is also fissile. India has currently an economically efficient thorium reactor industry. thorium's also significantly more abundant on earth than uranium.

tidal? lol. i do hope you're joking. the maintenance costs alone on tidal make it among the most expensive energy forms available. same problem with wave.


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 30, 2010 4:50 pm 
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No, I'm completely serious. Do you know how wave power works?

http://peswiki.com/index.php/Directory:Wave_buoys

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wave_power

You can also capture energy from the waves on the shore; as well as offshore.

Tidal power may different than you think: some are essentially underwater turbines that spin as the current passes by. This is easy to do in inlets along the coast. The Bay of Fundy could generate huge amounts of power, and many other places could be quite useful. The moon will continue to orbit the Eaarth...

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 31, 2010 6:12 am 
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I haven't read the book, but I don't think anyone should write off mankind or the planet just yet.

Burt Rutan (The X-Prize guy) says you should study the data yourselves like he did and draw your own conclusions.

http://rps3.com/Files/AGW/EngrCritique. ... nce.v4.pdf


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 31, 2010 6:34 am 
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Bill McKibben is an optimist, and "we" will surely make it through. The choices we make will determine how well "we" do and how much change "we" have to endure and adapt to...

I hope that you get to read Eaarth!

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 31, 2010 6:47 am 
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I'm all for nuclear energy, it doesn't produce too much waste, is relatively clean, and there is nothing better right now. The only problem is : it is not a renewable energy.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Aug 31, 2010 2:58 pm 
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frenchie wrote:
I'm all for nuclear energy, it doesn't produce too much waste, is relatively clean, and there is nothing better right now. The only problem is : it is not a renewable energy.
it's efficient enough that current known stocks of fissile materials with currently available technology can produce electricity at projected growth rates economically for > 1000 years.

that's long enough that i don't really give a damn whether or not it's renewable. given that length of time, it's reasonable to expect that some other means of electricity generation will have long since superseded fission on all fronts (concentration, cost, environmental impact), so worrying over whether or not it's a "renewable" resource is to my mind moot.


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 31, 2010 3:03 pm 
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Wind power is right here, right now: zero fuel costs, zero pollution, zero waste.

Combine in a appropriate mix of solar PV and/or solar heat, biogas (methane) from sewage, farm waste, waste plant material, hydro with an elevated reservoir to absorb the excesses from the wind and solar, and then back them up when the wind isn't blowing at night, add geothermal, wave and tidal can be phased in over time -- and we can ramp up renewable while we conserve as much as possible by insulating buildings and use the most efficient lighting and A/C possible.

In fact ALL A/C should be powered by local solar PV that is right on the building -- it is there when you need it most, and you avoid the transmission losses.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 31, 2010 3:39 pm 
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NeilBlanchard wrote:
Wind power is right here, right now: zero fuel costs, zero pollution, zero waste.


Be careful any time you say something has zero fuel costs when everybody knows that it's very expensive. Windmills are reasonably cost effective, yes, but they don't build themselves (lots of GHG's to manufacture, transport, and assemble windmills) nor do they maintain themselves. I've never driven through the giant Windmill farm in California east of L.A. and not seen at least a quarter of the windmills idled. They seem to have very significant maintenance demands, and all maintenance uses GHG's in one way or another, even if it's just truckloads of maintenance men driving to different windmills with spare parts every day, fixing the broken ones.

I'm not trying to say they are bad, but you're making statements that aren't truthful when you say there is no fuel, pollution, or waste with windmills.

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 01, 2010 1:48 am 
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All those embedded costs/carbon/pollution are also present in every energy source, right?

Nuclear power is hardly carbon free when you consider the mining and refinement and transportation of the uranium fuel.

As for the embedded energy/carbon/pollution in building a nuclear power plant; concrete in particular and steel are used in abundance in nuclear power plants and they represent a staggering amount of embedded energy/carbon/pollution -- way more than building the wind turbine equivalent. And the materials used in the windmills are largely all recyclable/reusable. Not so for a nuclear power plant.

So like I said: the operation of wind turbines uses zero fuel, produces zero pollution, and zero waste products of any sort.

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 06, 2010 8:49 am 
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NeilBlanchard wrote:
All those embedded costs/carbon/pollution are also present in every energy source, right?

Nuclear power is hardly carbon free when you consider the mining and refinement and transportation of the uranium fuel.

As for the embedded energy/carbon/pollution in building a nuclear power plant; concrete in particular and steel are used in abundance in nuclear power plants and they represent a staggering amount of embedded energy/carbon/pollution -- way more than building the wind turbine equivalent. And the materials used in the windmills are largely all recyclable/reusable. Not so for a nuclear power plant.

So like I said: the operation of wind turbines uses zero fuel, produces zero pollution, and zero waste products of any sort.


the production of maintenance of windmills uses fuel, produces pollution, and creates waste products.

way more than building the wind turbine equivalent? as i said before, as an example, san onofre creates ~2.3 gigawatts. that's 1 plant. 2 domes.

let's make a comparison. i'll pick 2 large wind farms. alamont pass, and Horse Hollow.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Altamont_Pass_Wind_Farm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horse_Holl ... rgy_Center

of course, comparing wind to nuclear introduces another concept called capacitance. alamont pass CAN produce up to 600 megawatts (around 1/4 of the output of san onofre) but its average output is in the neighborhood of 125 megawatts. after all, the wind can't blow fast all the time.

horse hollow refuses to say what their average output is. what a shock.

but let's just say that on average they operate at 50% capacity. which is REALLY stretching. hell, alamont doesn't even hit 25% on average. horse hollow then produces around 370 MW. then let's give it a similar output to san onofre. (2300/370)=(x/430) = roughly 2000 turbines.

do you really think you can build 2000 turbines using less steel or concrete than it takes to construct a nuclear power plant?

it takes 180 square kilometers to host those 430 turbines. how much must it take to host 2000?


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 06, 2010 5:09 pm 
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You know what a nuclear power plant is?

A great big tea kettle -- it boils water.

I can think of much better ways to spin turbines than by creating heat from nuclear fission reactions. Can you?

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 06, 2010 6:00 pm 
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Lets revisit Image

and add the table below to the mix.

Image
http://www.theoildrum.com/node/6910 wrote:
the above numbers are being disputed, which is why we have included broad ranges. This is not the point we are trying to make – the point is incremental replacement of fossil fuel-based plants, especially cheap coal with more expensive technologies has the potential to lead to large increases in the price of electricity.


Image

http://www.theoildrum.com/node/6910

Disagree on the specifics if you like but we have to expect the cost of electricity to go up even with solar panel prices dropping regularly.

I'm all for Wind and Solar as sources of electricity and Solar as a source of heat. I do however see the big gap shown with renewables only providing a few percent of US electricity. Even if Nuclear doubles or quadruples all the renewables would have to increase by several thousand fold just to begin to replace fossil fuels.

It absolutely needs to be done (stop the use of coal ASAP and switch to other non CO2 releasing sources of electricity) but it won't be cheap in the short run.

Don't forget even if the panels go from $3 down to 3 cents or even free you still have to pay to ship them, install them, pay for inverters, etcetera. Free panels would likely drop the cost of a solar installation by 60% but you'd still have an up front cost.

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 07, 2010 8:35 am 
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Quote:
the above numbers are being disputed, which is why we have included broad ranges. This is not the point we are trying to make – the point is incremental replacement of fossil fuel-based plants, especially cheap coal with more expensive technologies has the potential to lead to large increases in the price of electricity.


This is the part that scares Americans. Right now, the American economy is in a very bad place. While we have a lot of "stuff" we also have the highest level of peacetime debt in history. We're doing that while we've also put more women to work than ever before in history. Unless you shut down the schools and put kids to work, there's nobody else to put to work, and yet we're still broke and going further in debt every day. Add in carbon taxes and you're just adding more expenses to a nation which is already in very bad shape to begin with. Raising expenses on families will only lead to more bankruptcies, more foreclosures, more people out of work, and more desperate actions being taken by both people and governments.

It's fun to play science fiction with technology exploration, but in the real world, it takes money to do these things, and right now America not only doesn't have any money, it's on track to go bankrupt within the next 10-30 years anyway.

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 07, 2010 9:31 am 
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"Peacetime" debt? Ha! We are running two, count 'em TWO wars right now! Bush chose to borrow every single penny for the Iraq war, and he started in office with a surplus...

If you think it's expensive to change over to renewable energy -- it will be far more expensive NOT to.

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 07, 2010 11:11 am 
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NeilBlanchard wrote:
If you think it's expensive to change over to renewable energy -- it will be far more expensive NOT to.


Uh - what do you mean by "not to"? Everybody knows that coal, oil, natural gas, uranium and other finite resources won't last forever, so of course there will be transition, duh! Decisions can't be made with no regard for however. You just made the claim that it's "far more expensive NOT to" so cite your sources. Tell us what studies exist to tell us the cost of conversion based on year. You know, the cost to replace 100% of coal and nuclear in 1 year, 5 years, 20 years, 50 years, 200 years, etc.

The faster you replace the grid, the more expensive it is to do so, but the longer you put it off, the more expensive the legacy resources (fossil fuels) will get. Do the replacement too quickly and you're leaving a vast amount of cheap fuels unused, punishing the poor as a result, since it's the poor that pay the largest percentage of their income on utilities. The rich will not be affected since they are spending the smallest percentage of income on utilities, and are best able to convert homes and appliances to high efficiency models. If we're going to punish the poor for the greater good as you suggest, I'd like to at least know where the data is.

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 07, 2010 3:38 pm 
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Global climate change is what is happening, and it will be made worse the longer we keep burning carbon fuels.

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 Post subject: yup
PostPosted: Tue Sep 07, 2010 11:09 pm 
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Yeah, global climate change is going to get pretty bad unless we get off of fossil fuels. That graph is pretty scary, though. It would be great for renewables to fill that big red block, but it seems like it would be easier for nuclear and renewables to grow and fill that big red fossil fuel lump. Now obviously, just saying 'fossil fuels' is a little simplistic, you want to go after coal first, then natural gas. But also, if that's really just electricity production, and it doesn't account for vehicle emissions or agricultural emissions, it's just that much worse. For instance, it would be really efficient to convert all cars to electric cars, but then how much more electricity would we need? It's a big job to drop fossil fuels, and we need all the help we can get.

But it seems like we've reached the point in this thread where it becomes more about economics, and that's always trouble in discussions like this. For every carbon-free source, there's a think tank with a study showing that's it's the cheapest way to go. And anyone can shoot holes in most of those studies, it's hard to account for everything and anything you leave out immediately gets brought up and slammed. As for me, I'd rather leave all the options on the table, put a price on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions, and let everybody go at it. And yeah, that will probably drive up electricity prices, but I don't see how we're going to get around that. There are probably things we could do to the tax code to ease the pain, but people are going to feel the pain somehow. One little sign of hope is that R&D spending on energy is increasing, we need to take every carbon free energy source and drive down the cost as much as possible. And get it going.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 08, 2010 6:25 pm 
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NeilBlanchard wrote:
You know what a nuclear power plant is?

A great big tea kettle -- it boils water.

I can think of much better ways to spin turbines than by creating heat from nuclear fission reactions. Can you?


no, i can't think of a better way to spin turbines fast enough with enough torque to provide HUGE amounts of power constantly.

btw, that's the dumbest rebuttal I've ever seen. you seem to have this erronious assumption that just because something is has an old technology base (like steam tech) then it's somehow obsolete. if that's the case, then your windmills are far MORE obsolete. lol.


Last edited by Fayd on Wed Sep 08, 2010 6:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Eaarth
PostPosted: Wed Sep 08, 2010 6:27 pm 
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NeilBlanchard wrote:
Image
(click on image for link)

Quote:
"Read it, please. Straight through to the end. Whatever else you were planning to do next, nothing could be more important." —Barbara Kingsolver


I agree. Please read "Eaarth". Check it out from your local library, or buy it and pass it along to someone.


I duno why I would read a book that can't even spell Earth properly.

Waste of green dye and petroleum ink spelling it wrong with two A's.


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 09, 2010 5:45 pm 
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The change in spelling IS the point... please read the book to find out why.

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 09, 2010 7:29 pm 
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NeilBlanchard wrote:
The change in spelling the point... please read the book to find out why.


I know how to spell earth already. sheesh.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 10, 2010 10:23 am 
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NeilBlanchard wrote:
Wind power is right here, right now: zero fuel costs,

In reality not quite true because wind is unpredictable and with that you have storage requirements.

NeilBlanchard wrote:
zero pollution,

Not quite, manufacturing pollutes as does shipping half way around the world as does disposal.

NeilBlanchard wrote:
zero waste.

Does that ever really happen?

NeilBlanchard wrote:
Combine in a appropriate mix of solar PV and/or solar heat, biogas (methane) from sewage, farm waste, waste plant material, hydro with an elevated reservoir to absorb the excesses from the wind and solar, and then back them up when the wind isn't blowing at night, add geothermal, wave and tidal can be phased in over time -- and we can ramp up renewable while we conserve as much as possible by insulating buildings and use the most efficient lighting and A/C possible.

Burning stuff releases toxic chemicals, regardles of the CO2 issue. Buildings need to be insulated properly, without materials that gas out. Good luck with that. Over insulated homes can have moisture, mold, and fungus issues.

NeilBlanchard wrote:
In fact ALL A/C should be powered by local solar PV that is right on the building -- it is there when you need it most, and you avoid the transmission losses.

What's the lifespan of a PV panel? How toxic is the waste? Those super bright LEDs that are coming out? They contain enviromental warnings.

And over the last 2 days you see a US panel manufacturer lay off 300 people because they can't compete against foreign panels. I don't know who's job secure enough to buy anything these days.

Some people think it exists, and some think they may have found it, but there will never be a free lunch.

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Last edited by aristide1 on Fri Sep 10, 2010 5:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 10, 2010 5:14 pm 
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aristide1 wrote:
What's the lifespan of a PV panel?


Many are warrantied for 20, 25, or 30 years at 80% of rated power. In reality they often deliver higher than advertised power on day of installation as they like a margin of error and loss of rating is something like 0.2% per year (as in 99.8% at end of year one, 99.6% at end of year two).

take these quotes from a thread on theoildrum the other day

Longtimber wrote:
Solarworld says to expect .27% loss per year. I think they are
a bit conservative, The Old Arco 33's are very close to nameplate
after 30 years of exposure.

ghung wrote:
I have 40 PV panels doing different duties, the oldest will be 16 years old next month. Not one failure. Zilch!
...
...
...
I have installed over 30KW of PV for other folks. NOT A SINGLE PANEL FAILURE IN 13 YEARS. Try holding a genset to that standard. PV is solid state, all other viable generating methods are mechanical, moving parts, high maintenance (CSP included). PV BOS (inverters, controllers) have had a very high reliability factor.
...
...
...
Most warranties are 80-85% output at 20-25 years. Measuring output over time is problematic due to environmental variables and best done in a lab. My experience has been excellent. I have 3 Siemans 80W panels that are putting out full rated power after 16 years.

homepower.com wrote:
PV warranties typically allow for 20 percent output degradation over the module’s 20- to 25-year warranty life. But measurements of many modules put into service in the 1980s show that it’s unusual to see even half that much degradation. Many of those earliest modules still perform to their original specifications. It is safe to say that modules carrying warranties of 20 years or more have a high probability of working well 30 years from now.


General consensus is that panels will outlive any concern about power output.

If the economy keeps going you get cheaper better panels at any point you choose down the road and sell, relocate, add to, or dispose of the old panels. (recycling is mentioned here)

If the economy crashes the same panels could be used for 50 or 100 years if you or your offspring live that long and no catastrophic damage occurs due to weather or man made incidents. They will require cleaning and eventually the outer coating will get scratched up by dust in the wind and the cleaning process but even at their oldest they will probably still put out half their rated output.

Here is a picture and article with a meter hooked up to a 30 year old panel still operating as though it were brand new (the author claims it has been in use the whole 30 years). http://www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/blo ... aic-module

Image Edited to thumbnail the oversized image (click to see full sized image)

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Last edited by dhanson865 on Sat Sep 11, 2010 8:16 am, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 10, 2010 5:22 pm 
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Oh, and apparently I'm wrong on outer scratches diffusing the light being a likely source for the efficiency loss.

[quote]This performance degradation is the result of two main factors—the slow breakdown of a module’s encapsulant (typically ethylene vinyl acetate; EVA) and back sheet (typically polyvinyl fluoride films), as well as the gradual obscuration of the EVA layer between the module’s front glass and the cells themselves.

[size=75]Module encapsulant protects the cells and internal electrical connections against moisture ingress. Because it’s impossible to completely seal out moisture, modules actually “breatheâ€

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