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Not so green solar  RSS feed

 
                            
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There's a company planning to install a large 10MW solar PV  plant near my
fathers place that is generating some resistance from the neighbors. My first impression was what's wrong with solar PV?  I guess some solar farm developers strip off the topsoil, sell it, and put down gravel.  Kind of makes you wonder whether the benefits of the solar PV are worth the destruction of farmland.  I think they were saying that a plant this big takes up 70 or 80 acres.
 
                    
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What's the solution.?  Build it in the desert?  Even that has run into opposition here in the SW. It seems it is next to impossible to get large scale alternative energy "farms", or whatever we should call them, built anywhere because they always offend somebody.
 
Brice Moss
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that 70-80 acres is a drop in the bucket compared to the ammount of land a coal mine would destroy for the same generation capability over the next 25 years

not that they couldn't plant some shade loving foods under the solar arrays but we can live with baby steps
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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It would probably be better to keep it as pasture land somehow, but depending on the technology used, I think the real environmental problem is the embodied energy of the PV panels. It takes a lot of coal to smelt, refine, purify, and fabricate silicon.

Semiconductor fabrication plants have a large footprint in terms of heavy metal & organic waste, to boot.

When all is said and done, I think this will be a net win, under the assumption that we use so much energy and distribute it over long distances.

It's probably better to put solar where the energy will be used and nothing was growing before, though, like the roof of a server farm, movie theater, or retail center.
 
                    
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producing panels isn't very green, but once you have the infrastructure made that doesn't rely on coal, it will be a net win...

If we put solar on every roof in America, we could power the world!
 
                            
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This plant is proposed for Ontario where we have pretty low amounts of electricity from coal - something like 60 or 70% of electricity from nuclear and hydro.  I did some rough calcs on the greenhouse gas emissions of a 10MW solar farm versus 50 acres of trees.  Something like 34 million kg of CO2 will be offset by the solar over 20 years vs 1 million if trees were planted (not including the CO2 caused by making the panels in the first place...).  Advantage solar. 

In this case, the funding of these programs is being paid through higher electricity prices - a good thing since it will tend to reduce overall consumption.  The whole concept would be easier to sell politically if they left the soil intact and used livestock for keeping the grass down or something like that.

Here in Ontario they're getting some political backlash on these incentive programs - I think the incentive levels were a little too lucrative.  There was one company offering to build barns - for free - as long as they had the rights to the proceeds from the PV sales from the panels on the roof!
 
Ardilla Esch
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There are a couple decent sized solar arrays being installed around where they are basically built as shade structures for large parking lots. 

The lots are already denuded and paved, there is the added benefit of shade for cars normally roasting in the sun, the power is utilized in close proximity to the array (very lttle transmission loss), the aesthetic change is neutral (or positive) when compared to a parking lot.  To me, it is the industrial heat island form of permaculture...
 
Brice Moss
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Rabid Chipmunk wrote:
  There was one company offering to build barns - for free - as long as they had the rights to the proceeds from the PV sales from the panels on the roof!



I can see where that might be a lil costly to the taxpayer, but I'd ave snapped that deal up
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Scott Alexander wrote:
producing panels isn't very green, but once you have the infrastructure made that doesn't rely on coal, it will be a net win...

If we put solar on every roof in America, we could power the world!


I mostly agree, especially in the case of thin-film solar.

By the way, smelting silicon requires direct chemical energy, and I think only very pure sources of large amounts of carbon (i.e., coke) are appropriate for that. Charcoal and even lignite might have too much ash content to be practical there. Purification is via fractional distillation, which is driven by thermal energy, and so might be accomplished with solar thermal, geothermal, etc, but I think this, too, is economically driven toward the consumption of hydrocarbons. Turning silanes from the distillation process back to elemental silicon is done with electricity, and while this is a minor component of energy consumption, seems like the area with the most flexibility to incorporate alternative fuels.

I'd also like to clarify: I think that the solar installation should have had partly-shady pasture land under the panels rather than gravel, if that could have been accomplished without animals damaging the panels. This would keep down any dust, and also make the panels more efficient by keeping them cooler than gravel would.
 
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