[ RadSafe ] Solar does cut it or can be a large part of the energy picture if the game is changed

Robert J Gunter rjgunter at chpconsultants.com
Wed Oct 5 10:21:24 CDT 2011

Greetings All,

Solar energy will not support our current levels of consumption and
lifestyle, but it is more than sufficient to satisfy the needs of a modern
household (i.e. smaller) built with energy efficiency in mind.
Unfortunately our current infrastructure has been built based on the
availability of cheap fuel.  I am not a "believer" in peak oil (they will
find more if we will buy it), but I am a believer in the fact that the
entire world population cannot live the energy intensive lifestyle we enjoy
and still have energy costs as low as they are today.  The USA represents
about 10% of the world population and uses 25% of the energy.

So either the West subjugates the rest of the world in perpetual serfdom
(very unlikely), or the number of people who will want to buy our lifestyle
will ever increase and probably... drive up the price.  As more and more
people get connected to the global economy, the cost of energy will likely
increase (based on demand) and we (in the USA) are potentially left with an
infrastructure with a high overhead cost.  Changing our way of life and
entire infrastructure will not be cheap.  But the cost of energy will
probably drive us towards it.

I heard an interesting lecture where the speaker indicated the future of
energy production is essentially decentralized.  Individual houses and
buildings produce their own energy (though various means-not just solar) and
are connected to the grid.  The excess is either stored (big problem right
now but batteries, capacitors and Hydrogen production are a possibility) or
shared on the grid.  The energy companies will likely be the ones who handle
the sharing (if they figure this out before Google does).

For example (from Wikipedia) German renewable electricity in 2010 was 17% of
the total using wind power 36.5 TWh, biomass and biowaste 33.5 TWh,
hydropower 19.7 TWh and photovoltage solar power 12.0 TWh.



Robert J. Gunter, MSc, CHP
CHP Consultants/CHP Dosimetry
Toll Free: (888) 766-4833
Fax:  (866) 491-9913 
Cel:  (865) 387-0028
rjgunter at chpconsultants.com

-----Original Message-----
From: radsafe-bounces at health.phys.iit.edu
[mailto:radsafe-bounces at health.phys.iit.edu] On Behalf Of Ted de Castro
Sent: Wednesday, October 05, 2011 1:14 AM
To: The International Radiation Protection (Health Physics) Mailing List
Subject: [ RadSafe ] BUT solar energy just doesn't cut it .....

Or more precisely PROMPT solar energy gathered over a technologically 
feasible area/volume.

I posted a calculation here a few months ago that demonstrated the 
enormity of utilizing enough solar energy just to replace fossil fuel 
use in the US.  Doable but not easily.  All energy, whole world - I 
doubt it.
Realize however that ALL the energy we use is solar (or maybe stellar) 
energy - in one way or another.  The difference is the time and area 
over which it is integrated.

Solar panels (PV) are prompt solar energy x collection efficiency 
integrated over 0 time and the area of the panel.  Same for solar 
thermal processes.

Solar dissociation to produce hydrogen and integrate over a large area 
and time for use in a short time and space - but how much area?

Bio fuels are delayed solar energy integrated over the growing season 
and the area of cultivation x collection efficiency.

Wind energy is solar energy integrated over the area over which the air 
is heated and the time it heats - times absorption efficiency of course.

Fossil fuel energy is integrated over an epoch or two and over the area 
that the "donors" grew and fed in, times many efficiency factors.

Hydro is of course solar energy integrated over the area of evaporation 
and the time that process takes until condensation and deposition.

Wave energy is solar energy either by wind blowing or orbital mechanics.

And of course nuclear is solar - or more likely stellar energy 
integrated over billions of years and the volumes of the sun or stars 
that produced the source material from cosmic hydrogen.

So the issue is time and space - mostly space.  We are using the energy 
in a shorter time and smaller space than the time and space it was 
integrated over which when used up (or not used due to political 
restrictions) will leave us only with prompt solar energy which we will 
need to integrate over a LARGE area to supply our concentrated use.

It was said here that more than enough solar energy falls on the earth 
each day to meet our usage - but that is only true if we can intercept 
and use all that shines on the entire surface.

Looking at the calculations I did just to replace fossil consumption 
with solar would use a massive amount of land and we don't really have 
the technology to harvest much solar energy over the seas.  From those 
calculations - the combination of solar energy and our technology to use 
it just can't meet the need.

I did not attempt a wind energy calculation as I couldn't come up with 
determination of the area/time over which the solar energy is integrated 
and harvested.  HOWEVER it is clear that even enormous wind farms can 
intercept but a very small percentage of the total airflow - in other 
words - the total solar energy imparted to the winds.

Its just a back of the envelope calculation - that got no comments here 
BTW - but its very clear that no form of short term integration or small 
area collection or harvesting of solar energy can meet the need.


Ted de Castro
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