StrandedonEarth Posted August 2, 2021 Share Posted August 2, 2021 (edited) I'm starting this thread as a place for a general discussion of existing solar power technologies and current or potential terrestrial applications. By this I mean to exclude space-based solar power systems for terrestrial consumption, as there is no serious planning for a system that, while technically possible, reeks of sci-fi (besides, it has its own thread). I kind of expect this thread to fork between residential/commercial discussions and an idea I just came up with using giga-scale deployment. So while this thread is meant to be focused on solar power, I realize that the tendrils may wander astray and that is fine. I am curious to hear the experiences of anyone here who has or had a residential solar power system. I live in a townhouse complex, so going solar here is not really an option. but it intrigues me. My only experience with solar aside from fence-post lights is the recently installed 100W panel on our RV, which hasn't really been put to the test aside from keeping the batteries topped up. I know it's not really enough, but it's a start (the charge controller was the main thing to get), and hopefully we'll try going off-grid this year. I have to shake my head at the lack of thought that went into this complex: our unit has three large windows facing SW onto our small "yard", which is mostly concrete tiles. So it absolutely bakes in the summer afternoon sun, meaning we need AC. And where is the condenser? Out in that same yard, baking in the Sun. That can't be good for efficiency. During the recent heat waves, the AC unsurprisingly could not keep up. We finally just picked up a ten-by-twelve awning to shield some windows; it's not installed yet but hopefully it will help. Sure, a tree could help; but the one we planted two years ago and was promising shade this year failed to survive our unusually cold snap last winter. And then there's the dead leaf clean-up. But what we really need is a louvered patio cover to keep more sun out of our yard ($$$!). Then I start thinking of having photovoltaics on the louvers ($$$$$$!). I have no expectation of powering our whole unit, but if it could shave off our Step 2 usage... (BC Hydro does not use Time-of-Day billing because they promised not to when the smart meters were rammed down our throats. Instead we pay 9.41c/kWh for the first 666kWh, then 14.1c/kWh after that). And that "Step 2" usage sure spiked last month with the AC running nonstop. Unfortunately, the cost of wiring is pretty constant regardless of installation size, so it is not very economical for such a small install. Perhaps getting all five units on our strip done would provide some economy of scale, but getting the other units to buy in could be a non-starter. Still, just a louvered cover would be a big help, I think, to make the yard livable and AC more efficient. Even good exterior window coverings would help keep the heat out, at least. Storm shutters are out of fashion since glass got stronger (I assume that's a reason), but maybe a version needs to come back, to keep the heat outside the building. Sure, we have blinds and curtains, but the heat is already inside at that point. Perhaps exterior blinds with a material like this... When I cogitate on it, I realize that efficiency and renewable planning is next to non-existent here, even as Vancouver likes to tout some of its LEED-certified high-efficiency buildings. Chilliwack has been booming lately, with multiple new large residential developments going up simultaneously (I dread traffic in a few years; it's already bad and planned road upgrades will probably not be enough). But no thought towards potential future solar upgrades, efficiency, etc. I dislike the recent architectural styles with peaks going every which way; it smells of inflated roofing cost in an overheated housing market to me. And it's certainly not conducive to solar, which I admit only recently became barely competitive. Which is another thing in BC; there are no grants for solar, probably because we will have globs of power from the in-troubled-progress Site C dam project. The BC Hydro site pays lip service to solar; saying panels last 25 years and would take 20 years to pay for itself (in other words, not encouraging while not actively discouraging). At the risk of cookie-cutter neighborhoods, IMO developments should run east-west, with plain south-sloped roofs suitable for solar collectors (thermal? PV? whatever!) and rainwater collection (rainwater cisterns for irrigation use should be a standard thing!). Then HVAC can be situated on the shady, cooler northern side. I suppose our latitude makes PV less useful, but I think if there's enough sun to farm there should be enough for PV. Which brings me to a concept which recently occurred to me: fighting polar warming* with PV. I'm talking massive deployment of PV units. The first step, of course, would be a massive expansion of PV panel manufacturing, preferably on highly-automated production lines. These would be deployed across ice fields and especially polar seas everywhere (yes, PV buoys), with the objective of shading as much polar surface as possible; to prevent warming of permafrost and sun-absorbing polar waters and encouraging reflective polar ice. The low elevation of the Sun at these latitudes means a panel can shade a few times its own surface area. These units would need to be able to track through the endless polar days, and be cabled together and to nearby settlements as much as practical. Using batteries to store such a glut of power would be uneconomical; it should be much easier to store and transport large amounts of energy in the form of hydrogen. Centralized electrolyzers would fill tanks for collection and transport to wherever needed (a new polar profession: hydrogen harvester, probably automated before it even becomes a thing); when more storage is needed, just add more tanks. Fuel cells and hydrogen-powered ICE generators would provide heat and power through the long polar winter nights. Panels would enter a winter mode as polar night sets in, using reserved power coming back through the cables from the electrolyzer plants to re-activate (melting itself free of ice and reorienting) when the sun finally rises again. * - While most concern is focused on the Arctic, there's no reason this wouldn't work in the Antarctic as well. For those not aware; the Arctic region is of great concern because melting permafrost releases lots of methane, a much more potent GHG than CO2. Also, as the reflective sea ice recedes, it opens more sun-absorbing water which speeds the warming and melting of yet more ice. And freshwater melt from the Greenland ice sheets can float where the Gulf Current should sink, stalling the current that keeps northern Europe temperate. So yeah, I think shading the Arctic could be a big step in fighting global climate change. And generating power at the same time is a bonus, especially for a region that finds itself mostly limited to diesel generators or extremely long, vulnerable transmission lines. So, discuss! I'd really like to hear about other's solar experiences, and any feedback on my polar shading concept is welcome, of course. Edited August 3, 2021 by StrandedonEarth not enough proofreading Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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