How Many Solar Panels Could Power America? (Animated Visualization)

Started by Shiranu, September 26, 2021, 02:35:37 PM

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Shiranu


There are a lot of good animations and graphics and informational visuals in this video, but one of the most common sense things in it is something I don't think I've ever heard anyone say...


When people complain about how much space solar panels would take up... we already have a great solution for that; parking lots and garages. Build them as roofs for the cars, keeping both your car cool and providing clean energy. And as for it taking up too much space, the amount of land needed to provide enough solar energy to the United States is significantly less than the land granted to the oil industry for drilling. It would only take up a small part of the Texas panhandle to power the entire U.S. .

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IZEaYjo4ZJU
All the evils that men cause to each other because of certain desires, or opinions or religious principles, are rooted in ignorance. [All hatred would come to an end] when the earth was flooded with the knowledge of God. - Moses Ben Maimon

Dark Lightning

It could be done, but...

1. The manufacture of solar panels relies on mining materials, a lot of which are in China, and strip mining is a problem there.
2. Solar panel lifetimes were not discussed. I'm reluctant to put solar panels on my roof, because they won't pay for themselves before the dropping efficiency gets to the point where they won't pay for themselves in the period over which I have to pay for them.
3. Solar panels in vast arrays in the desert(s) will alter the temperature level, some up some down. All the animals and plants in those areas will be threatened, whichever way the temperature goes.
4. The solar concentrator in Daggett has this situation- when migrating birds fly through, they are incinerated in the beam. The employees there call them "streamers", as they leave a stream of smoke behind them when they ignite, and burn on the way to the ground.
5. Toxic elements used in the production of solar panels present a large problem for their non-poisonous disposal.
6. What kind of batteries, for that matter? Lead-acid? Nasty, and a short lifetime, with another disposal issue.

All these things are being addressed. China, with a lot of the rare earth elements needed for batteries for vehicles, has committed to making a major push for more electric vehicles. The catch? They just built two new coal-fired power plants, just to meet current need. How many more will be required for an all-electric "fleet"? Shifting the pollution out of Beijing doesn't fix the problem. Here in California, I see a lot of smug people who claim that their electric vehicle is zero-emissions. They don't understand that the electricity they put back in their vehicles likely comes from a coal-fired plant, out of state.

None of this is to say that it can't be done, but it's going to take a massive effort to effectuate it.

Hydra009

Quote from: Dark Lightning on December 13, 2021, 08:45:51 PM1. The manufacture of solar panels relies on mining materials, a lot of which are in China, and strip mining is a problem there.
Yes, and oil sands is a problem in Canada and several other countries.  Renewables don't 100% eliminate pollution, but it's a huge improvement over what we're already doing.

Hydra009

Quote from: Dark Lightning on December 13, 2021, 08:45:51 PM3. Solar panels in vast arrays in the desert(s) will alter the temperature level, some up some down. All the animals and plants in those areas will be threatened, whichever way the temperature goes.
4. The solar concentrator in Daggett has this situation- when migrating birds fly through, they are incinerated in the beam. The employees there call them "streamers", as they leave a stream of smoke behind them when they ignite, and burn on the way to the ground.
I suspected that this might be BS due to its emotional nature, and nearly reached out to clutch my pearls myself.

While basically true, it's highly misleading.  Yes, solar concentrators (not to be confused with the more common solar farms - it's probably fine, most Americans are smart enough to make that distinction *coughs*) do kill a few thousand birds per year, oil and gas kills hundreds of thousands per year, coal kills millions of birds per year, and cats kill billions (all figures for in the continental US).

For comparison, that solar concentrator is roughly equivalent to the existence of several hundred feral cats (the US has about 70 million feral cats)

Dark Lightning

Like I'm saying, it needs to be measured. I truly appreciate that some buildings and vacant areas in my city are employing solar cells. Especially at the senior center (yes, I'm old-69) I go to. The panels provide shade, and electricity for the battery/hybrid vehicles. One other thing about solar- the DC has to be made into AC for transmission away from a site, and that conversion has a bit of waste heat.