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Will Electric Cars and Solar Power Make Gasoline and Utilities Obsolete?

timothy posted 1 year,8 days | from the that-dog-won't-hunt dept.

Power 734

cartechboy writes "Since the dawn of time (or modern civilization) two things have happened: utility companies have made money by selling us electricity, and oil companies make money by selling us gasoline. But is it possible we are on the verge of upsetting this status quo? Tony Seba, an entrepreneur and lecturer at Standford University, is writing a book in which he essentially predicts electric cars and solar power will make gasoline and utilities obsolete by 2030. How, you might ask? In his book, titled Disrupting Energy: How Silicon Valley Is Making Coal, Nuclear, Oil And Gas Obsolete, he predicts that as people buy electric cars the interest in clean energy will increase because who wouldn't want 'free travel'? Combining the use of solar panels and electric cars, consumers would be able to do just that. The miles electric cars travel on grid energy stored in their batteries eliminates the demand for gasoline, and it turns out many electric-car owners have solar panels on their homes while eliminates or dramatically reduces their dependence on utilities. So as the amount of electric cars on the road increases, the cost of both solar panels electric-car battery packs will decrease, right?"

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Uh? (5, Insightful)

0123456 (636235) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048435)


Re:Uh? (5, Insightful)

sneakyimp (1161443) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048489)

We should be able to moderate the original article as troll.

Re:Uh? (1)

landofcleve (1959610) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048503)


Re: Uh? (1)

mexsudo (2905137) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048631)


Re:Uh? (1, Informative)

Stargoat (658863) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048791)


Re:Uh? (0, Flamebait)

MitchDev (2526834) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048689)

No kidding. They'll tax the hell out of electricity to make up for lost gasoline taxes...nothing is free...
And just how expensive are these cars, and how long do you have to sit and wait for them to recharge?

Re:Uh? (2)

WaywardGeek (1480513) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048801)

Even if they get the batteries working great, which I hope they do, we'll still most likely charge our cars over the grid. Maintaining huge arrays of solar panels is done more efficiently at a utility level than on our rooftops. In the end, solar may revolutionize the energy sector, but I suspect we'll still buy our power from our local utilities.

Re:Uh? (2)

mrchaotica (681592) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048829)

Not to mention the more fundamental problem with making that prediction only 16 years into the future: some of us will still be driving the gas-powered cars being built now!

Re:Uh? (4, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048863)

No kidding. They'll tax the hell out of electricity to make up for lost gasoline taxes...nothing is free...

So, a little thought experiment, because this is about solar.

I buy some solar panels, or they're built into my car. From there, I never use your electricity, I use my electricity. And, if I own the solar infrastructure, the energy is free, give or take my investment and maintenance costs.

So either you're going to heavily tax the solar panels under the guise that it denies you the opportunity to tax me later. Or you're going to tax me on the basis that I have solar power, which denies you the opportunity to tax me.

If you start taxing people on the basis of things they're not doing, or for failure to consume those things from a company which charges you ... then the MPAA is going to insist on taxing me based on the movies I don't see, because after all, I'm clearly the reason your movie didn't make any money, because I didn't pay to see it. And McDonald's will want to tax me for all their crappy food I don't eat. The Saudi's will insist I be taxed because I'm not using oil, so I'm depriving them of revenue.

I just don't see your system working. If I have a stand-alone solar array, and I charge my car with it using none of your resources -- on what basis do you think you can tax me? Because you feel entitled to it?

If we reach a point where people can charge their own cars with their own solar panels, suddenly there is free energy, and nothing on which to tax people, and no revenue for companies.

Which is why many people believe the energy companies will actively prevent this from happening.

Re:Uh? (4, Insightful)

lgw (121541) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048811)

For once, I disagree with Betteridge's law of headlines. Yes, solar power will eventually obsolete all other forms for non-industrial use. But don't hold your breath.

For non-transport use, we could really switch to solar-thermal today (not photoelectric cells, but the less efficient black pipe, mirror, and turbine solution). It's simply more expensive than other power sources, and storing power for overnight use is still more expensive so we don't. It's pretty close though - I believe the cost of power would less than double that way, and while that would be a massive economic catastrophe (the cost of power matters a lot), it does set a long-term cap on power pricing.

Transportation is different, however. We're a long way from having batteries that are safe and good enough, at any sort of reasonable price, and even if we had those it would be an infrastructure replacement to support the change, which is a multi-decade process (don't kid yourself, people would charge their cars during the day too). Since all that's required is ordinary technological process, the change to electric cars will inevitably happen, but over the course of several decades. Personally, I don't see a problem with that (peak oil nuts aside, at current prices the supply is much larger than we'll need).

And if batteries get good enough and cheap enough, home solar thermal might start making a lot more sense. Even if it doesn't quite pay for itself, I'd pay a premium to be off the power grid.

All that being said, industrial power is a different story, but it's not like we have supply problems with natural gas either, and surely fusion power will only be "20 years away" for another century or two, right?

Re:Uh? (3, Insightful)

TWiTfan (2887093) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048917)

This whole topic sounds like some sort of acid-induced hippie fantasy, taking place in some alternate universe where solar power has become several orders of magnitude more widespread and efficient than in our world, producing enough electricity to not only power our homes, but also our factories, infrastructure, cars, etc.--and all with super-efficient storage to get us all that through nights and cloudy days too.

It sounds like a wonderful world, but it's not ours. And for MANY, MANY reasons, it never could be.

Upfront cost. (2)

jellomizer (103300) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048935)

There are two issues, with home solar.
Issue 1. Upfront cost. Solar panels are getting cheaper, however labor rates to install them will only get higher. So it will be a fair investment to get them installed in your home.

Issue 2. Trees. I live in Upstate NY, we have these 30-100 foot tall trees that blocks a lot of the sunlight. We could cut them down... however is it worth it cutting down our best method to reduce carbon in the atmosphere, in order to use less carbon?

Energy density. (4, Insightful)

jeffb (2.718) (1189693) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048445)

Sure. Just show me the batteries that match gasoline in terms of energy per unit weight/volume, cycle life, and charge speed.

Re:Energy density. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#46048529)

Super/ultra capacitor isn't the way? Batteries are obselete ;)

Re:Energy density. (1)

Khashishi (775369) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048613)

Capacitors have good charge speed but poor energy density compared to batteries.

Re:Energy density. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#46048705)

No, it isn't, and no, they aren't. And your spelling is atrocious.

Re:Energy density. (3, Informative)

alexander_686 (957440) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048535)

Here's one. Well, it is more of a super capacitor then a battery, but still

http://www.extremetech.com/ext... [extremetech.com]

Not ready for prime time – and maybe it never will – but it is a viable avenue to pursue.

Re:Energy density. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#46048571)

This argument only continues to work when we have ample gasoline to burn. Once energy density comes in at a premium the equation shows its true colors.

Re:Energy density. (1)

fredprado (2569351) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048659)

There will always be chemical energy to burn. Well, at least as long as there is life in the planet to absorb and convert sun light...

Fossil fuels are just the most viable now. If the reserves other options, as alcohol will become viable and will have about the same properties the GP refers to.

entrenched industry shill detectorated! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#46048831)

absorb and convert sun light

fucking dirty carbonist troll!

Re:Energy density. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#46048577)

Nah, you don't need that. You only need that if you want to replace cars 100% of the time. For most folks whose daily commute is less than 20 miles each way, 50 - 75 miles of range is plenty. 80+% of Americans could reduce 75% of their gasoline usage with an electric car with 50 miles of range.

Not 100% elimination of gasoline, but a huge step in that direction.

My power usage at home has dropped 50% since I bought my house 7 years ago. (I have detailed stats of usage since I bought the house). Of that remaining 50%, at least half of that is generated by solar now, so for those who are doing math, I now only demand 25% as much electricity from the grid as I did 7 years ago.

I don't think we will be there by 2030, but we will be significantly further down the road.

Re:Energy density. (4, Informative)

Mike_EE_U_of_I (1493783) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048695)

Tesla's model S can already go around 270 miles on a charge. The next generation of batteries (in test cars right now) just about doubles that. How much range do you need?

Re:Energy density. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#46048881)

Tesla's model S can already go around 270 miles on a charge. The next generation of batteries (in test cars right now) just about doubles that. How much range do you need?

Infinite because I don't hours to wait while the damn thing recharges.

Stuck thinking with today's technology. (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#46048701)

Sure. Just show me the batteries that match gasoline in terms of energy per unit weight/volume, cycle life, and charge speed.

That's today's technology. If battery tech keeps going the way it's going, it'll be where it needs to be in 2030 for the book's premise to come true- if not sooner.

Re:Energy density. (5, Insightful)

rahvin112 (446269) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048777)

You don't have to match gasoline.

Gas cars are terribly efficient. Even with 100% efficiency the carnot cycle limits efficiency of an ICE to around 30%, tack in all the other inefficiencies in the system and you only need to store about 20% of the energy in a gallon of gas to equal the people and goods moving power of a gasoline powered car. The current round of L-Ion batteries are almost there and there are improvements on the horizon that will both improve energy density and lower cost. Frankly it's a matter of time at this point until electric cars begin to be both and the price and range of the vast majority of users.

Personally I don't think the articles prediction of 2030 to reach that point is out of bounds of reality. Solar city is adding 15 employees a week to install solar panels. Most people don't realize what that means. Solar panel costs (total costs, including installation and maintenance) have hit price parity with utility grid power over an amortized 10 year lifetime. We are on the brink of a solar revolution.

Re:Energy density. (1)

phantomfive (622387) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048843)

His prediction is that battery cost and solar panel cost will drop so much that by 2030, it will be worth it.

He mainly seems interested in cost per kWh. He says, "Once it gets to $US100/kWh [in batteries], it is all over." He is predicting that will happen by 2030. Obviously there are other factors that matter beyond cost, but it makes sense that once batteries are cheaper than gasoline, a lot of people will buy them. Toyota Corollas are popular, and not because of their acceleration.

Solar panels are a little trickier though, because of clouds and night. However, if the cost of batteries and solar panels continues to come down, he might be right. I think a solar panel installation might be cost effective right now, although it won't get you through the night.

Re:Energy density. (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048905)

You're missing the point of the article.

If solar cells become efficient enough, then the charge speed is infinite/continuous, and free after the purchase of the vehicle. Gas can't beat that, ever.

Damn (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#46048457)

Betteridge is really on form today.

A night time drive through the Rocky Mountains? (2)

pigiron (104729) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048477)

Better bring that Coleman stove. Oh wait...

Modern civilization? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#46048487)

I think modern civilization existed long before electricity and gasoline.

Re:Modern civilization? (1)

pitchpipe (708843) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048719)

I wouldn't call anyone from the past who was using neither electricity nor petroleum modern. Definitely arbitrary, but can you think of a better measure?

Re:Modern civilization? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#46048729)

Depends on how you define "modern" and "civilization" doesn't it?

Does "modern" mean "like we have today" or "since agriculture was invented" or, perhaps, in geological time, "modern" = since the last ice age ended?

Does civilization mean:
  * living in the same area for extended periods?
  * large groups of people (200+) living in close proximity?
  * agrarian/industrial economy?
  * running hot water?

The carbon-based energy cycle began with the discovery of fire and with burning trees. It then moved on to coal and advanced machinery using metals. Is Bronze Age technology "modern"? Personally I count "modern" civilization as everything we've built since the Industrial Revolution... steam engines, electricity, the works.

Re:Modern civilization? (1)

MondoGordo (2277808) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048841)

I think it's fair to say that "modern" civilization pretty much began with the industrial revolution ...calling anything before that, "modern", is silly.

$3.78 $10 (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#46048495)

Should i buy gass for $3.78, or "buy" solar power for $10.....That's very complicated question, requiring at least 3-4 quantum physics theories, and 25 nobel laureate's to solve it, eventually.

Peak Oil (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#46048505)

Mr Hubbert's predictions say gasoline will be pretty much obsolete by 2050 [wikipedia.org] whatever happens.

Re:Peak Oil (1)

ttucker (2884057) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048629)

Mr Hubbert's predictions say gasoline will be pretty much obsolete by 2050 [wikipedia.org] whatever happens.

You keep seeing that chart over and over again, just the peak is moved to the decade during which the chart is drawn.

Re:Peak Oil (1)

lgw (121541) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048889)

So it's sort of like fusion power then?

Oh the naiivete! (0)

cogeek (2425448) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048509)

Where do people think the electricity to charge their electric cars come from? The electric fairy? Most electricity today is provided by coal, oil, and natural gas. All fossil fuels. Keep buying those electric cars and telling yourself you're doing your part. You're just putting your part off on someone else (the utility company)

Re:Oh the naiivete! (1)

compro01 (777531) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048533)

I'll take it you didn't even read the title, much less the summery or the article itself?

Re:Oh the naiivete! (2)

cogeek (2425448) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048569)

I read it just fine. Started off just like the books I read to my kids at night "once upon a time...." there was this magical land where solar was economical and worked 24/7 and every nation on the planet jumped on board and there was no more pollution ever. The end.

Re:Oh the naiivete! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#46048869)

While cogeek's point is made out of pure ignorance of the overall story the fact is that the answer is still no.
The problems involved with this concept are so numerous you probably couldn't list them in a single post.
And yes, I know that the presentation of the summary is a misrepresentation of the article but even getting public solar down to FF prices in the next 16 years is going to be a massively daunting task. The rest of what they're presenting is mostly a pipe dream in a 32 year time frame without outright legislation for force it into place and even at that it would require a total societal effort for just a limited number of goals. I don't even think the national war efforts of WWII would be a fair comparison.
Oh, and as far as if cogeek read the article? Almost immaterial. That "article" on greencarreport is one of the most poorly written that I've seen in a long time. To the overall tone that I'm pretty sure the sight is nothing but an ad trap like answers.com

Re:Oh the naiivete! (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#46048581)

Locality and efficency is the best advantage. I can generate electricity and pollution in a place well suited for it and the places people live and drive are less polluted because of it.

Soon enough we can run a super conductor line from China and make sure they have all of our pollution too.

Re:Oh the naiivete! (2)

lxs (131946) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048619)

He found a way to convert arrogance to electricity. That's how Silicon Valley will save the world. They have enough of it to power the entire planet.

Re:Oh the naiivete! (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048897)

Wait a minute, we should start to consider how much waste heat the earth's atmosphere can handle. I don't think you'd have to hook up many before you'd be on the path to boiling the planet.

Re:Oh the naiivete! (1)

gstoddart (321705) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048735)

Where do people think the electricity to charge their electric cars come from?

Apparently they have the wacky notion of harnessing the energy from the sun. It's actually the 5th word in the summary.

Crazy, right? As if you could get energy from the sun.

Re:Oh the naiivete! (0)

pitchpipe (708843) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048887)

As if you could get energy from the sun.

I only get my energy from the GOD given supply that Jesus put in the ground. He put enough in there to last us God-fearers until the end of days.

Energy from the sun is just an atheist fantasy dreamed up to convince you that you can get along without God.

Re:Oh the naiivete! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#46048787)

Internal combustion engines are very inefficient, I guess that's the key problem. They also spew out exhaust fumes in urban areas, and as cities grow, that is becoming less and less desirable. So as you say, we still need to generate the electricity somehow, but the article does point to a shift towards solar (and other sources). The big deal with going electric with cars is that governments and citizens have the opportunity to generate the electricity in a more controlled, efficient and centralized location, away from urban centers. Less noise and air pollution in city streets = good news. Some of the power plants will likely still burn fossil fuels, but they should be way more efficient at how they burn them, as there are also all kinds of innovations happening in modern power plants to burn cleaner.

ignores reality (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#46048523)

this article is totally ignorant of the fact that even if you could convert 100% of the sunlight delivered to the roof of your house to electricity you still don't have enough energy to run a household and a car. nevermind the storage issue.

Re:ignores reality (4, Insightful)

crow (16139) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048899)

That's ridiculous. I live in Massachusetts, and we have a solar array that generates roughly half our annual electricity needs. If our house were oriented with solar in mind when it was constructed, we could easily generate enough for all our needs and our driving needs.

Granted, that doesn't take into account our use of natural gas for heating, but if we had a geothermal system, it would.

The problem is that solar power is not a factor when houses are designed.

lumping it in (2)

slashmydots (2189826) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048525)

Who lumped nuclear in there? As long as a nuclear plant has US standards for quality and testing instead of Japanese standards, we're all set. I do still prefer solar and wind but I wouldn't lump nuclear in with oil and gas since it doesn't produce CO2.

Re:lumping it in (1)

Animats (122034) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048677)

As long as a nuclear plant has US standards for quality and testing instead of Japanese standards, we're all set.

Fukushima Daiichi had four General Electric reactors. The same reactor design is used in several US plants. Peach Bottom [wikipedia.org] in Pennsylvania is one. All operating plants of that design will melt down if they lose cooling water flow for more than about 18 hours.

Re:lumping it in (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#46048877)

I have very bad news for you, Reactors built to U.S.A. saftey standards are not the best in the world. For better options research CANDU (Canadian Duterium) or (best) Thorium Pebble-Bed reactors.

Please yes. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#46048527)

God I hope so. Course we'll continue to need to burn stuff for the big trips (aerospace whatsits).

free travel (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#46048537)

Electric cars, car parts, batteries, home support equipment, on road support, solar panels, all not free and MUCH more expensive than gasoline alternatives.
People will switch when the overall costs of E cars are lower.
This will be sooner than later as the costs of everything petroleum based will be raised artificially by your friendly govt.

Sails are an even better idea... (1)

mi (197448) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048541)

Contrary to the write-up, civilization has not been using oil (nor gas) very much for centuries. Man has sailed with, well, sails for thousands of years.

However, when the opportunity arose, using Sun's concentrated energy proved rather attractive to all. And so it will remain until we find a way to stuff the comparable amounts of energy per unit of volume as the "fossil fuels" contain.

Imagine a solar-powered aircraft carrier [thepeoplescube.com] ... Yes, you can!

Re:Sails are an even better idea... (1)

Cro Magnon (467622) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048751)

Sails got us from Europe to the New World, but they weren't much good from New York to California. Though we didn't use fossil fuels for that either then.

Re:Sails are an even better idea... (1)

bob_super (3391281) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048885)

I'm pretty sure that the first Europeans to get to California used sails.

Re:Sails are an even better idea... (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048919)

[Sails] weren't much good from New York to California

On the contrary; sailing around Cape Horn was the fastest way [si.edu] , at least until the Transcontinental Railroad got built.

Amazing (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#46048543)

I miss you early 2000s /.

LOL (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#46048547)

Those free solar panels and non-premium prices battery cars. Yeah, right.

yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#46048551)


Not yet. Not any time "soon". (1)

Chas (5144) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048579)

Will we some day go all electric? Probably.
Is it going to happen any time soon?
Fuck no!
Petroleum is still too (relatively) cheap and still far better in the energy density department.
Additionally, the infrastructure just isn't there to make electric viable enough yet.
MAYBE 50-100 years from now.
But right now we're comparing Orville and Wilbur Wright against an F-35 Lightning II.
Of COURSE it's going to be found wanting...

Not a realist (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#46048583)

This guy is clearly a theorist and not a realist.

There is no power plant outside of diesel and nuclear that can provide sufficient power to move a cargo ship that is so critical to global trade.

There is no electric motor that can be provide enough power to match a diesel engine in an 18 wheeler truck that is so critical to national trade in every country.

There is no solar panel remotely efficient enough that you can have it small enough to provide sufficient power for a diesel truck to make deliveries.

Solar utilities are not remotely efficient enough to provide enough electricity if you had a massive swing to electric cars; even 10% of the US's cars on the road switched to electric would destabilize a grid powered on solar power. Nuclear supported by fossil is by far the most cost efficient and supply efficient methods.

Solar is inefficient at meeting the hourly changes in demand for power as there is no sufficient energy storage technology available on a utility scale nor is there any in the next 10-15 years.

Nuclear is by far the cleanest technology available when you factor in the environmental impact of the materials used in constructing solar panels, but it also doesn't scale well which means until good energy storage comes available, only coal and natural gas are capable of powering the grid and match the demand.

Solar and electric cars will not change the world because mass adoption won't happen. Solar and electric cars will be a symptom of utility scale energy storage technology.

Re:Not a realist (1)

weilawei (897823) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048929)

Nuclear is by far the cleanest technology available when you factor in the environmental impact of the materials used in constructing solar panels, but it also doesn't scale well which means until good energy storage comes available, only coal and natural gas are capable of powering the grid and match the demand.

Emphasis mine. Have you looked at the density of energy stored in nuclear fuels lately? Say, perhaps tried comparing it to gasoline? Heck, there's even an XKCD on it. Batteries, flywheels, pumping water uphill: all less dense forms of storage. Nuclear fuel IS good energy storage. (Yes, like every other form of energy storage, it suffers from *some* losses while sitting, but so does your pool of water you pumped up a hill, so does a flywheel, so do batteries...)

Re:Not a realist (1)

Stargoat (658863) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048943)

There is no power plant outside of diesel and nuclear that can provide sufficient power to move a cargo ship that is so critical to global trade.

Ships did OK on coal.

Oil won't be obsolete (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#46048597)

"Disrupting Energy: How Silicon Valley Is Making Coal, Nuclear, Oil And Gas Obsolete,"

Oil isn't going to be obsolete so soon. AFAIK the DoD will make synthetic jet fuel when necessary. Will take a while before there's a 900kph battery powered aircraft that can cross the Atlantic or Pacific. Supersonic will be harder.

I do wonder about cargo ships. Will we go back to wind powered ones?

Re:Oil won't be obsolete (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#46048779)

I do wonder about cargo ships. Will we go back to wind powered ones?

In a word: No.

Wind power for ships is to restrictive in terms of mobility; you need the wind working in your favor even with windmills, let alone sails.

But also, if you look at a modern Diesel Electric drive ship, you generally need about 40 MW of power to run a roughly 22 MW propeller to push a 40,000 ton ship about 15 knots (I worked in shipbuilding). While you won't have the same loss as you do when converting diesel, mechanical power to electricty in a generator, you will have some loss and you'll need power for the rest of the ship's services, so let's say you need 30 MW of power. A utility scale wind turbine, which takes up a lot of real estate (which is restrictive on a ship) can produce 2-3 MW (larger than that you're talking a 400 foot tower; the blades would be too long and upset the stability of the ship), so the ship would have to be enormously wide to meet that 30 MW of power requirement. Subsequently, the ship would be unable to fit through places like the Panama Canal, making trade vastly more inefficient as the ship would be less manuevarable and forced to go around South America or Africa when shipping from China to Europe for example. That's just not going to work.

Betteridge (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#46048599)

First fucker to mention his 'law' (it isn't) and the planet gets it!

Re:Betteridge (1)

neminem (561346) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048753)

Why would I mention the planet? And what "it" do I get for mentioning the law?

Re:Betteridge (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#46048845)

I'm sure you get invited to ALL the parties.

As others said, no .... but .... (2)

King_TJ (85913) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048649)

The key here is the question specifically about *solar* power. When you look at the sum total amount of energy we consume, I think you'll find that you'd have to blanket a pretty significant portion of the usable surface of the earth with panels to provide all of it, if you went strictly solar.

(From a solar energy FAQ):
Q: How much roof space is needed?
A: A rule of thumb is 100 sq. ft. per every kilowatt (kW) of electricity the PV system produces. Module efficiency correlates with the power that is generated in a given amount of roof space. For basic planning purposes, a good rule of thumb is 10-12 watts per square foot.

10-12 watts of power generated per square foot just isn't a heck of a lot, in the grand scheme of things.

You have to couple that with the fact that battery storage isn't anywhere near 100% efficient. (Batteries "leak" power even when they sit idle for a while.)

I think electric cars will have growing usefulness, but not everyplace gets a lot of sunshine during the average day. So even companies setting up solar charging stations in parking spaces for people to plug in vehicles during the work day won't be an adequate solution everywhere.

Ultimately, I see a situation where we substitute some fossil fuel use for increased nuclear power (for the big energy generation happening at large power plants), some hydrogen fuel cell tech gaining acceptance, solar and batteries as supplemental power where applicable, a little wind energy (again where applicable), and in the shorter-term at least, more use of natural gas vs. oil or coal.

Re:As others said, no .... but .... (1)

Mike_EE_U_of_I (1493783) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048797)

The key here is the question specifically about *solar* power. When you look at the sum total amount of energy we consume, I think you'll find that you'd have to blanket a pretty significant portion of the usable surface of the earth with panels to provide all of it, if you went strictly solar.

Yes you would.

Fortunately, we already blanket a pretty significant portion of the earth with buildings, roads and parking lots. Put solar on all the buildings and cover the parking lots and you are well over half of the way there.

Here is the NREL report on this subject.

http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy04o... [nrel.gov]

NREL states we would need 00.4% of all the land in the USA to go 100% solar electric. The report uses existing PV efficiencies. By the time we could possibly be near something like 100%, efficiencies will be higher and that land requirement will be down to something like 00.35% or lower.

Arithmetic denialism (2)

Mike Van Pelt (32582) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048653)

There is certainly a place for solar. But at 1 kw/m^2 at noon on a cloudless day, times whatever percentage efficiency of the cells... it isn't going to be the whole solution. Not even in California.

Timeline. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#46048657)

Not gonna happen in 16 years = NFW.

First of all, the incumbent businesses are going to lobby lobby lobby for laws to slow down, if not stop, the destruction of their business. The argument is going to be along the lines of "for the consumer's safety..." ; "think about the workers" and "think about the suppliers" - sort of like the arguments for the bail-out of GM.

Secondly, they will drag their feet. They will also lobby how they will need more time to "integrate" the new technologies, blah blah blah - just see how the utilities reacted to pollution control. They dragged their feet for decades and lobbied continuously for more time. They still are.

Third. The bond holders. Unless those bonds are re-callable, the bonds will have to be purchased on the open market.

Then there are the other interests: the coal producers and the citizens of the states that mine it; the oil & gas people; the politicians who are in the pockets of those interests.

Gasoline will not go away completely because there will always be a group of people who want their internal combustion engine stuff. Horses and buggies never went completely away, did they.

I see - maybe being very optimistic - it happening in 2050. 2014 + 30 years (bonds) + fudge factor for stalling.

Of course not (1)

godrik (1287354) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048661)

Solar and wind energy are not producing energy all the time. When there is no wind, wind turbine will not produce energy. When it is night, solar will not produce energy.
Storing energy is quite difficult and ineeficient. So it is not realistic to stay we will store solar energy for when it is night.
The energy consumption is not constant over time, you need to be able to deliver the proper amount of energy at any time. This is why nuclear power plant did not make coal power plant obsolete. Because starting a nuclear powerplant takes a long time, while a coal one is much faster.

I do not think we should rely on a single energy source. We need to rely on a mix of energy sources so that when one fails, other ones can pick up the pieces.

Re:Of course not (2)

coolsnowmen (695297) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048895)

Here is my problem with your uncessarily abolutist view of the future of solar power.
    http://www.akbars.net/images/b... [akbars.net]

Sticky Future (1)

Tablizer (95088) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048667)

Just at the point that becomes true, flying cars* will change everything and we'll be fuel-hungry again for every last source.

Maybe the oil industry will finally do the R&D needed to get flying cars* up if they see their revenue drying up. They have the deep pockets for R&D, unlike Joe Garage Tinkerer. Gaining future markets is a mild motivator for R&D, but rescuing a dying cash cow is a huge motivator.

* Or personal vertical-take-off plane/copter hybrids like Puffin project. Probably computer-controlled to avoid collisions.

They exist. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#46048833)

Flying cars and personal helicopters have existed sine the 50s.

What prevents regular folks from having them is FAA regs and costs. I would LOVE to have my own Robinson R22 but I can't afford to operate it let alone actually buy one.

Folks commute via helicopter from Greenwich Connecticut into NY City - they're all the 0.01%'ers - but never the less, folks do have personal helicopters.


Yes, I'm being pedantic - your point was that there were these great expectations and predictions that never came to pass, but my point is this is a prediction that could very well come to pass as long as the current interests as foiled in their inevitable attempt to stymie progress. We can only hope that we get a battle of billionaires - Musk vs. Utility industry? - to help us little people get a more sustainable transportation structure.

Let's face it, as time goes on, fuel is becoming a larger burden on the typical household in the US.

Hopefully before/as fossil fuel supplies decrease (1)

turp182 (1020263) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048675)

I've always seen our relationship with fossil fuels as a duel edged sword. First edge, they are the only reason we live in the advanced world we currently do. No oil or coal, no modern living as we now know.

But, they are a finite resource. Oil is what I worry about the most (if you buy into abiotic oil I've got quite a few bridges you may be interested in, on sale this week).

The other edge of the sword is the fact that we are fully dependent on fossil fuels. If alternative energy resources are not developed before fossil fuel resources decrease/"get really expensive" then we are screwed.

If alternatives can be developed to allow a smooth (where smooth can include a 3-day shadow, it cannot be easy given our current dependence) transition off of fossil fuel dependence then we can continue on our merry way (with less energy I guarantee, but if alternatives are mature enough before problems occur things will be much smoother).

Can the market pull it off? Maybe. I'm not too optimistic, I figure the banks would have to be involved in alternative energy development since they can't fail...

Bloody communists ... (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#46048687)

This has to be stopped. It will only serve to deprive companies of the profits they're entitled to, and completely ruin the economy.

Free energy is practically communism. And communism is un-American.

If someone isn't profiting off the needs of other people, then that is EVIL.

God hisself has decreed that Capitalism is the one true system, and anything else is completely unacceptable.

Cook on Gas (1)

ScottCooperDotNet (929575) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048707)

It seems the vast majority of professional chefs and most home cooks prefer to cook with gas. Electric ranges aren't as quick to turn on and off, and stay hot longer, so they're slightly more dangerous.

Please post practical information (2)

ScienceMan (636648) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048711)

Thinking seriously about adding a solar panel + inverter + storage option for electric car charging and air conditioning, my biggest electricity usage needs. Each of these could be interrupted briefly for switchover to power company feeds without degradation in service, unlike using the solar electricity for normal household power. Since we live in an area that has abundant sunshine and high electric costs, this would seem to me to be the low-hanging fruit for solar electricity and would avoid policy and contract issues with our local power provider. So how about a few practical posts from people who have information to share, and less hyperventilating about politics and policy?

Fire (2)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048727)

Did the mass adoption of electric heaters make wood-burning fireplaces obsolete?

There's your answer.

Still a ways to go. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#46048737)

We still have a ways to go until batteries are energy dense enough, and solar panels are affordable enough to create, to make this sort of thing viable for "most people".

Regarding batteries: I think most people will not be willing to accept a significant drop in the range of their car. There are electric-drive hybrids like the Volt, which backs up a mediocre electric range with gasoline, but that definitely won't bankrupt the gasoline companies if they're still making money when your batteries run low. There are some people who could justify never needing to drive more miles in a single go than an electric car can provide, but this doesn't account for things like getting stuck in traffic in sub-zero temperatures and burning down your battery with the heat on, or having to make a sudden trip to the airport to pick up a relative due to a family emergency. With the typical range of 400+ miles of a gasoline-powered vehicle, these unplanned excursions are almost always doable, and if not, you can make a stop and refuel in minutes, instead of the hours it takes to recharge a battery pack. We'd need an absolute revolution in battery technology for anything to change in this space, and although Slashdot seems to run a weekly story about how the new batteries based on some new tech are going to be awesome, I have yet to see any show up in my laptops or for sale in electric cars. There's always a fatal downside that makes the product unsaleable, unsafe, or uneconomical.

Regarding solar panels: they still cost too much to produce, and they still don't convert enough of the sunlight into usable electricity, to be generally useful. I've read the same stories as everyone else about lab experiments with carbon nanotubes and "photovoltaic paint", but it's still just an experiment. It has to be ridiculously cheap and ridiculously mass-producible to be useful on any sort of meaningful scale. Even if the technology is proven 100% viable, it will undoubtedly take a very long time until it can be mass-produced. Not to mention that all known methods of producing solar panels require significant petroleum product inputs, and have to be replaced every few years (more often if you're in an area that gets, for instance, hail storms or high winds). They're also very impractical in certain geographical locations where there are long periods of very low daylight: not only does it take longer to reap your ROI in these cases, but you also have to rig up a second, more reliable backup energy source for the times when you've got poor daylight conditions. There's also much less room for the occasional electricity "binge": when you're hooked up to the grid, if you happen to need a lot of extra power in a short period of time, you can just take it, and pay for it... if you're off the grid using solar, you can only use as much as your batteries have stored, and after that, you're dependent once again on fossil fuels, or you can just bleed the batteries dry and let your power go out.

The biggest hurdle is perhaps the economics. The costs of alternative energy are astronomical compared to the costs of fossil fuels. There are very few situations, usually underwritten by large companies or subsidized by governments, where alternative energy systems can be afforded, but these subsidies just pass along the very high cost to someone else. The fact remains that you can get more energy per unit of globally-traded currency by burning a petroleum product (oil, gas, coal) than you can get from any alternative source. The alternatives aren't even close, and to make them even remotely comparable, an enormous amount of cost has to be offset by governments, effectively passing on the cost to taxpayers.

I'm as much of a wishful thinker regarding alternative sources of energy as anyone else; I really, REALLY wish that these projects would actually succeed in delivering economical, safe, renewable energy. It absolutely needs to happen for society to move forward and mitigate or prevent a potentially disastrous oil crash. But so far, I think we have yet to get the science and the manufacturing set up in such a way that alternatives will be able to offset a significant portion of the fossil fuel consumption rate. I don't know what we can do to get there, either, but hiding or spreading around the costs isn't going to get it done. One thing we definitely cannot do is sit around with our heads buried in the sand pretending that it's not a problem and that we can continue on sipping our unlimited supply of oil and gas without a care in the world. I would savor the day that the fossil fuels industry came crumbling down because we simply didn't need them anymore, but unfortunately, I highly doubt that'll happen by 2030, or even 2060.

Impact of China and Asia (1)

cyberspittle (519754) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048743)

Smog and other particulate matter from Asia will eventually blot out the sun. Enter the new dark age. Watch Blade Runner, and look at the dirt in the sky and acid rain.

No if there is enough money behind (1)

gmuslera (3436) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048769)

Would digital media make real media obsolete? No, it is still charged as real media. Laws accomodate to make sure that the ones that really makes the law keeps their profit, no matter what happens. If they feel threatened there are other ways to action [wikipedia.org]

Only for the upper class (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#46048773)

Renter people need not apply. Renter people will be America's new Irish (Irish need not apply).

Natural Gas (1)

SrLnclt (870345) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048805)

We are currently at today's forcasted high temp of 5 deg. F (-21 deg. C) here in the middle of the US, not even taking into effect the 20+ mph wind. I feel sorry for the people trying to use electric heat for homes or businesses on days like today. I wonder how many solar panels I would need at my house today to still have any juice left over to turn on the lights, TV, or a computer.

Only if space-based solar power is deployed (1, Interesting)

RevWaldo (1186281) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048807)

Make that massively deployed. We need to start thinking about renewable energy sources that will deliver not only just enough energy but fucktons of it (it's a technical term.) Energy to desalinate water for cities, drill tunnels to link the continents with supersonic rail, launch vehicles into space using maglev, scrub the atmosphere, plasma-burn our poisonous waste, air-condition our domed cities, and all those other "big science" ideas that we'd be doing if we weren't waiting for fusion energy to finally work.


Usage density? (1)

rhazz (2853871) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048809)

So by 2030 we'll be powering all the large skyscraper office-towers with just local solar panels? And all those electric vehicles plugging in at the office will get their power from the same solar panels? Even if the entire network is powered by solar panels, there's no way (today) that they can generate enough capacity within city centers to power those areas. They would need to lay panels in less dense areas and transport it to the city center. And since that would still require public infrastructure, the utilities would still be the ones managing it.

solar magnet powered star cars (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#46048819)

it's what the trovers will be styling in? us ordinary unchosens have some issues to resolve? accounting problems still http://rt.com/business/us-unemployment-economy-crisis-assistance-006/ uncelebrated heros http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=scott%20olsen&sm=3 'weather' problems? http://www.globalresearch.ca/weather-warfare-beware-the-us-military-s-experiments-with-climatic-warfare/7561 & some really good news http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=stem%20cells&sm=3 never a better time to consider ourselves in creational relation to each other & momkind our centerpeace. little miss dna cannot be wrong

easy way out give until it no longer hurts (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#46048851)

see you there?

American cretins... 'while' != 'which' (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#46048825)

"have solar panels on their homes while eliminates"

Idiots. You Americans sure do have problems with words that look even remotely similar to each other, don't you...

then, than and that. Just use one at random
a and an.

woman and women.

you're, your.

they're, their, there.

What the fuck happened to the American education system? Oh, I forgot - the JEW wants a herd of ignorant cretins who can't even be bothered to look up some facts on the internet, to find out that the JEW has taken over their country and is destroying it from within. How ironic...

Ice (5, Interesting)

sootman (158191) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048827)

Many years ago, ice was very expensive and rare. It was cut from frozen lakes in the north and was shipped all over. [wikipedia.org] Unimaginable now, and not everyone could have ice. Then, refrigeration came along and anyone, anywhere could have virtually unlimited ice for just the price of a machine, the cost of its maintenance, and electricity and water. Being able to preserve food (and medicine) is one of the single biggest contributors to lifespan and overall quantity of life the planet has ever seen. Being able to keep things arbitrarily and efficiently cool is also a key component of many manufacturing processes. Or anything else we currently take for granted -- imagine Google trying to keep their servers cool with harvested ice!

But what if the ice companies of the past were as powerful as the energy companies of today? What if they got laws passed that made creating your own ice just as expensive as the older, horribly inefficient methods, for no reason other than "we're rich and we want to stay that way, but we don't want to have to compete with progress"? Imagine if it was prohibitively expensive to buy a refrigerator, and illegal or expensive to make your own. Where would we, as a society and a planet, be?

(The same argument can be applied to stifling IP laws as well.)

Re:Ice (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048879)

Are you implying its the oil and electric industry that's manipulating the price of silicon wafers? Solar panels cost lots because they're full of silicon.

You're doing it wrong... (1)

tsprig (167046) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048835)

What about other disruptive technologies extrapolated into the future? With self-driving vehicles, there will be less of a chance that people own their own vehicle and just tap on their smart phone (or whatever they have at that point) for the next available car to pick them up and drop them off where they are going. There should be a law of some kind about future predictions that are of the form "if everything stays the same as today except this one thing then ..." which states that the prediction is invalid.

It costs a lot of money to off-grid (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048925)

Solar panels need replacing every 10 or 20 years, depending on the type. Batteries need replacing much more frequently. You'll probably still need a back up generator, unless you want your food to go off after a freak hail storm destroys your solar panels.

Duh no... (1)

Lumpy (12016) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048931)

Until they have electric cars with a 400 mile range and can recharge to 100% to give me 400 miles again within 30 minutes. that is a gigantic hell no.

Well actually there could be a way. The united states would have to invest heavily in light rail that is affordable. I can drive from Michigan to florida for $90. Until I can take a train for $90 for two tickets and load my electric car on it, with it taking a sane amount of time..... It will never happen.

Right now amtrack is as much as an airline flight and it takes 3 DAYS to get there because you have to go from detroit to chicago to Washington DC to North Carolina, to Florida. Oh and to bring your car, $3500 shipping charge and it will arrive 1-2 weeks after you arrive.

Basic math fail (0)

roc97007 (608802) | 1 year,8 days | (#46048941)

I would blame public schools, but that's too easy a target.

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