Monday, 7 February 2011

Solar Subsidy farming

Browsing the UK news this morning and came across this piece;
The Government has announced a comprehensive review of a scheme encouraging households to generate green electricity, amid fears funding could be soaked up by large-scale solar "farms".
This is the problem with all this 'Green' energy. Requiring large subsidies for the base installation, it delivers very poor 'bang for buck' throughout the installation lifecycle (Lifetime of the installation). This can be demonstrated by the poor energy returns / efficiency of Wind Farms. Now companies are setting up 'Solar Farms' in Cornwall? They must be sucking up subsidies as fast as the printing presses can spin.

I know Cornwall and its climate quite well. I have friends down there, and walked it's hills and coast paths since boyhood. From May to October there is a reasonable average of around 7 hours a day sunlight. if of course it's not raining or the skies are that awful unremitting grey for days on end. Even in midsummer. 1989 I think was a case in point. I was walking the coast path carrying a fifty pound backpack and it rained so much over four days I reckon I was packing an extra thirty pounds of water at one point. What the hell, I was a lot younger and fitter then, but that's a story for another day.

My point is that weather is not consistent. There are sunny years, and not so sunny years, so building 'Solar Farms' will probably deliver less power than claimed and thus require bigger subsidies, driving the price of electricity per kilowatt/hour upwards. Rather like Wind Power has.

So far, all we've seen from 'Green' sources of power and 'Green' jobs (Most of which are on the taxpayer dollar) is increased cost and poor delivery. Wind Turbine manufacture has all but disappeared from the UK, so those 'Green' jobs are no longer there. The turbines themselves demonstrably deliver single percentage efficiency. Add to that the global climate, which appears to be in a cooling phase, which some have predicted will last another 20-30 years. So an even lower overall deliverable from Solar / Wind and greater need for subsidy will result.

Spain has already hit the buffers on this one, and the UK looks like following suit. How long will it be until scales finally fall from eyes and certain over hyped technologies are ditched? My pessimistic gut feeling tells me it may come under the heading of 'too late', and all too soon.

Update: Some of the suppliers are upset at the prospects of public subsidy costs their gravy train being derailed and are threatening to sue. Looks like UK 'Green' policy has been caught with its trousers round its ankles. As usual.


Angry Exile said...

And what about the room you need? You only get about 1.5 kilowatts per square metre from sunlight, and that's light hitting the ground so it's an absolute limit that can't be overcome no matter what technological strides may be made in the future. A 100% efficient solar cell, which can't exist anyway, still won't get more than the sunlight that actually hits it. Real world efficiencies being much lower (≈15% or something, isn't it?) you actually need nearly 5 square metres of solar cells per kilowatt. Peak demand in the UK is 60GW. So that's 60,000,000 kilowatts times 5 square metres... wow, 300 million square metres, or over 115 square miles. Think there's as much as 115 square miles of suitable land, contiguous or otherwise, in the UK that some Greenie or other doesn't want to preserve for some lesser spotted soil bacterium or something?

Of course you'd actually need more even than that, maybe double or so, to allow for sections not working for whatever reason or just not sunny enough, and also to produce enough spare power to last through the night. Oh yeah, nearly forgot, that means a lot of storage - probably vast battery farms or storage systems like hydro or compressed air, or a combination of those. And of course you'd get Greenie objections to very approximately all of them. Finally on the plus side it's already DC for storing in batteries but against that everything else is AC from the grid's transmission lines to the almost never used shaver socket of the downstairs bog of our old house.

Sure, they're not talking anything that big but that just reduces the scale of those problems unless they do what's usually done and back the whole lot up with a gas (evil), oil (more evil), coal (very evil indeed) or nuke plant (most evil, oh save us), three of which will then emit CO2 even in standby.

Or they could just leave solar power, and wind for that matter, for small scale off-grid applications. Wind and solar are great for powering cabins in the hills but you wouldn't want to try to do cities with them, and the Greenies wouldn't let us anyway.

WV= hagions. Sounds like negatively charged witchcraft, which seems apt for talk of large scale solar power farms.

Bill Sticker said...

'Negatively charged witchcraft'? That's an interesting way of putting it. Makes you wonder if certain people actually know anything about electricity generation and transmission.

Anonymous said...

Hey Uncle Bill,

I'm just touching base to say that this article was sprinkled with lots of good old common sense and gut feelings - the refuge of the uneducated. I am hereby officially dubbing thee a true knob wizard. Now go and spread your knob wizardry with this magic knob wand you call a blog.


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