Sea Skimmer wrote:
Powering all residential homes in daylight is a pretty realistic long term goal for solar. Powering a 500 Mw oil refinery or 300 Mw data center at night? Not so much.
I'd even argue powering homes is unrealistic. As people will be forced to move to more efficient, multi-family, multi-store apartments, volume of such buildings will grow much faster than surface, making solar maybe useful to light desk lamps.
First of all, I don't take it as a given that everyone will actually be forced to move into concrete hives. Yes, that's an urban model (and has been since big cities originated) but there will continue to be people dispersed across the landscape for various purposes where small scale housing will be more efficient than long commutes from urban multi-units. Second, with more and more telecommuting, and increased efficiency in household items from lighting to appliances, there will be less need to concentrate the population. If you only need to travel to an urban center once a week or once a month then a longer commute isn't such an issue, and if an updated single-family home is vastly more efficient in the past (which they can be) then not only can we continue to use older housing stock (yay recycling) but we won't have to build concrete cells and then force people into them.
As cars will shift into electric energy and we begin to invest into fusion power, eventually power net will have surplus of energy making all solar panels but the most fantastically (Star Wars level technology, basically) efficient uneconomical, IMHO.
You DO realize that fusion power is still, at this point, science fiction? Other than that natural fusion generator 93 millions miles away? Can we stick to reality in this discussion? Fusion has been on the verge of being a reality for, oh, 20 or 30 years now? Why should I believe a statement like that more right now than I did in 1983?
Electric cars are fine for short, local hops. For long trips - such as the 1,000 mile round trip I'm going to make starting tomorrow morning - they are are a stupid choice. No electric car carries enough energy to make that journey without a recharge, and recharge takes too fucking long, requiring the traveler to halt more often than with a gas-fueled car. What I can travel in one day in my gas car will take at least
two in an electric, and the requirement of overnight lodging wipes out any personal savings I get from using electric even at today's gas prices.
Batteries don't store energy as efficiently as gasoline, and while "recharging" my car with gas takes less than 5 minutes recharging an electric car takes hours
I foresee a market for electric cars for short and local travel, but for long trips in places lacking the train networks of Europe it will either be "rent a gas-powered vehicle" or "own a hybrid that runs on both electric and gas" to extend the travel range. We might switch from gasoline to biodiesel or something, but liquid fuel for vehicles is just too damned handy to abandon.
First, it probably would be best to have multiple power sources. One reason for our current predicament is over-reliance on just one resource, fossil fuels, not just for power but for so many other things (plastics, fertilizer, etc.). Diversification prevents one item from becoming a bottleneck.
I'd argue that you should always use best
power source, not mix. Iceland can get by on geothermal? Great, but no one else can. That's why I argue for nuclear and against solar - the second one if worthless unless you're rich, small country with deserts near equator. Solar might be optimal for, say, Dubai or Kuwait, literally nowhere else. Bot coal and oil are pretty bad sources in the long run, like solar, so they too should not be used, at least not in car engines.
Diversification is great in theory, but in real world, it means you deliberately make part of your supply worse than it has to be. It also means shortage is much more likely, as now you have to track 5-6 resources, not one. Nuclear/fusion won't shortage at all, too.
The problem with restricting yourself to just one power source in the name of efficiency is that in the real world shit happens. Why do I still have oil lamps and flashlights in the house despite a modern power grid? Because sometimes the grid goes down.
If you go to wind or solar as a primary source then you'll need backup for when the supply is interrupted, it's just the nature of the beast, even if your backup is more expensive per unit (so when you're on backup you power down items that are luxuries rather than essentials).
And, again, it's not "nuclear/fusion", it's just fission at this point, and periodically even a nuclear plant has to be taken off-line for routine maintenance. What then? Some locations are not good for siting a nuclear plant, such as a seashore in an area prone to both earthquakes and tsunamis (hello, Fukushima). Nuclear is no more an panacea than any other solution.
Having a backup doesn't mean having "5-6 resources", it usually means 1 primary and 1 secondary power source. This isn't rocket science. It would be preferable to the current situation where, oh yes, petroleum is very efficient for our current infrastructure, which is geared to it, but a shortage means a shortage for EVERYTHING and those who control the supply have the rest of the world by the balls.