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Tariff vaults Japan near the top in solar energy

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EVVJSK0
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re: Tariff vaults Japan near the top in solar energy
EVVJSK0   6/7/2013 6:20:04 PM
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PVs are a good start, but it would seem to me that another good line that has made a little progress, but not enough is the ability to turn the Sun's heat into energy. Making energy from heat MAY be significantly more efficient that purely capturing the electrical capability of Photovoltaics. Using the energy capture from heat (say in an extremely hot attic in summer), and using that heat energy to cool the house would provide a solution to many problems as Global Warming continues. A hybrid material (that could do PV and capture some wasted heat energy) would be even more efficient.

Jack.L
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re: Tariff vaults Japan near the top in solar energy
Jack.L   6/10/2013 11:49:36 AM
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Combo SolarPV / SolarThermal panels are readily available though not at the low costs of SolarPV. The low cost currently of natural gas has created less incentive for SolarPV. In terms of waste heat in your attic being used to cool your house, thermodynamics tends to work against you, i.e. the difficulty of extracting energy with small temperature differentials. Total energy stored in heat in your attic is not really large either. "Heat" from the sun is really just longer wavelength radiation and concentrated PV does collect longer wavelengths to some degree. Solar Thermal systems are readily available and used for not only solar water heating, but in southern climates is used to drive air conditioning.

chanj0
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re: Tariff vaults Japan near the top in solar energy
chanj0   6/7/2013 6:31:27 PM
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The Fukushima incident on March 11, 2011 might have been a wakeup call to Japan that a natural disaster hitting a major nuclear power plant might be able to wiped out a country. Energy will continue to be the driving force of the economy. Generally speaking, people are cautious of fossil fuel. Nuclear seemed to be the logic next step and it actually has be one of the major energy sources to various country including France, Japan and China. Nuclear can be dangerous and will slowly fade away. What's next? Here we are - Solar. In addition, Japan has to find a way to boost the economy. Solar panel installers seem to be a logic move to fill the gap because of the lost of manufacturing segment.

Jack.L
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re: Tariff vaults Japan near the top in solar energy
Jack.L   6/10/2013 11:51:52 AM
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Solar without storage has limited capability though and we have not solved the storage issue yet. In many areas, Japan included, winter collection is too low for solar to solve the energy requirements. Our present Nuclear reactors are unfortunately Uranium based. Expect to see thorium cycle which is significantly safer start to come into the forefront.

Bert22306
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re: Tariff vaults Japan near the top in solar energy
Bert22306   6/7/2013 9:18:12 PM
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"Fast forward 30 years. What’s the real driving force behind such a surge in solar power generation in Japan today?" Pretty clearly, it's the Fukushima disaster, right?

junko.yoshida
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re: Tariff vaults Japan near the top in solar energy
junko.yoshida   6/7/2013 10:28:45 PM
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Bert, you are correct. But there is also more to the story -- which I tried to explain on the following page. However, I need to apologize that somehow the second page of this story disappeared on me from this site. I just restored the second page. Please read on. Thanks!

Bert22306
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re: Tariff vaults Japan near the top in solar energy
Bert22306   6/8/2013 1:32:00 AM
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Okay, the second page was definitely essential. I would agree that using nuclear power or fossil fuels to generate electricity imposes costs that are not always reflected in the price. Still, though, the point the article seems to be making is that government subsidies can cause market distortions to the point that non-competitive solutions win out. Is that surprising? As an aside, I think that commercial PV generation ultimately will make more sense than individual small systems. Mainly because, your average joe has a way of letting such (still) non-essential systems degrade, once the newness and excitement has worn off. "I'm tired of having to hose down those panels," for example. Or, "Gee I didn't know it was going to cost so much to fix them or replace them," when things go not as planned. Spent solar panels also create recycling costs, apparently.

aquitaine
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re: Tariff vaults Japan near the top in solar energy
aquitaine   6/8/2013 3:15:43 AM
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There is another country that drank the renewable kool-aid and tried to ditch nuclear, Germany. Let's see how well that's worked out: 10+% per year increase in electricity prices, grid instability, dozens of coal fired power plants under construction all for the low price of hundreds of billions of tax money. I hope Japan enjoys huffing coal dust as much as the Germans do, otherwise they'll have to get used to it. The reality is solar has some niche uses but powering the grid is not one of them.

DMcCunney
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re: Tariff vaults Japan near the top in solar energy
DMcCunney   6/10/2013 4:54:21 PM
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Junko's comment that her engineer father made a solar installation on the family home in Japan points out that when we talk about solar power, we have to define what we are referring to. Back in the 70's, I worked for a HUD/ERDA sponsored initiative to promote alternative energy. OPEC was in first flower, gasoline prices were rising over $1/gallon, and there was strong interest in reducing dependence on foreign oil. What we pushed was what Junko's dad apparently did: solar hot water heating. Hot water heating was about 20% of the average residential energy bill, and a solar hot water installation had a relatively short payback period. We were aware of photovoltaics and other alternate energy sources, but they all cost too much to be viable. The gyrations around China are no surprise. Photovoltaics are semi-conductor electronics, with the same sort of economic fundamentals. A bunch of Chinese vendors saw a market in solar and jumped into the ring. Supply far outstripped demand, prices dropped, and some of the Chinese vendors went belly up. Solyndra was a source of grim amusement, with the big question being why anyone thought a US based photovoltaics manufacturer could compete with Chinese vendors with far lower costs. Speaking personally, I see the Chinese presence as helping the overall solar market. The biggest roadblock to alternative energy is cost. The energy used will be the cheapest available. Alternative energy never really took off as proponents hoped because fossil fuel based energy was still cheaper than alternatives. Cheaper solar panels from China mean lower costs for vendors doing such things, and the possibility of greater sales into a broader market. The Chinese can have the razor thin margin commodity manufacturing business making the underlying solar cells. The value is in other areas of the market, taking those raw materials and making useful products,

Sparky_Watt
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re: Tariff vaults Japan near the top in solar energy
Sparky_Watt   6/10/2013 6:18:24 PM
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When we talk about energy systems that don't have a problematic waste stream, why don't we ever hear about Geothermal? Granted, there are some technical hurdles to overcome (e.g. drilling a 5 mile deep hole) but no mysteries (like fusion power has).

DMcCunney
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re: Tariff vaults Japan near the top in solar energy
DMcCunney   6/10/2013 6:44:16 PM
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"why don't we ever hear about Geothermal?" Three words: location, location, and location. Iceland makes extensive use of geothermal, because they have numerous hot springs. Other places are not so fortunate. Look into what it would cost to *drill* that 5 mile deep hole, and use the geothermal energy to produce power. The upfront costs would be horrendous, and the payback periods would be extremely lengthy. It simply would not be cost competitive with current alternatives. Similar comments about location apply to hydro-electric power - pretty much all the places you *can* dam and run the water through turbines to spin generators *have* been, and little growth is possible.

jeremybirch
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re: Tariff vaults Japan near the top in solar energy
jeremybirch   6/11/2013 3:11:15 PM
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you don't actually need to be in a volcanic area to get useful heat from the ground. They are drilling a whole in the centre of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (UK) for a district heating scheme and that is around 1800m deep. You can also use ground-source heat pumps in your own garden for low grade heat, and if you run that off solar power (for the pumps) you get heating for free.

DMcCunney
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re: Tariff vaults Japan near the top in solar energy
DMcCunney   6/11/2013 7:55:35 PM
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"you don't actually need to be in a volcanic area to get useful heat from the ground." No, you don't but economics rules. If it isn't cost competitive with current fossil fuel solutions, it won't happen. The energy used will be the cheapest available, and that's fossil fuel currently. Costs of fossil fuel will have to rise dramatically to make many of the alternatives competitive.

aquitaine
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re: Tariff vaults Japan near the top in solar energy
aquitaine   6/11/2013 3:09:42 PM
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Solar does have a problematic waste stream. It's mass produced like any other semiconductor using hundreds of toxic and corrosive fluids and gasses, each batch producing upwards of 9 pounds of toxic waste and thousands of gallons of heavily contaminated water (source:http://towardfreedom.com/health/154-toxic-chips-1299) Environmental friendliness is not the reason the environmentalists are trying to push it onto us, the real reason is because then it creates an artificial scarcity of energy to force us to turn the clock back to the 17th century. Most people support radical environmentalism.....until they discover what the real costs are.

bbaudis021
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re: Tariff vaults Japan near the top in solar energy
bbaudis021   6/10/2013 7:37:20 PM
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I always get very amused about the energy discussions. There is too much doctrine, advocacy bordering on religion. The math on the various sources with their pros and cons is quite well known. We can even factor in extrapolated trends of existing or possible future technologies in it. And the cold math say that today and at least for the next 20, 30 years we will HAVE TO HAVE substantial nuclear or fossil burning component. It can be argued that the cost calculus of the nuclear underestimates some long term costs and the risk however the same could be sad about the past calculus of the fossil fuel options. Now we do not have any more luxury of naivete: if we keep burning we will be toast. So better it will be nuclear ...

tb1
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re: Tariff vaults Japan near the top in solar energy
tb1   6/10/2013 8:24:12 PM
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There is a large geothermal plant in California. But, as DMcCunney says, unless you want extremely expensive drilling and maintaining, it is all about location, where the hot springs are already near the surface. And I bet German's aren't too enthusiastic about Thorium, considering they spent many 100s of millions on a Thorium reactor that ended up getting shut down years ago because it was too expensive to run.

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