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Readers' forum: Solar energy is economical

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  • jsf Centerville, UT
    Dec. 29, 2011 11:50 a.m.

    As a study commissioned by the Dutch government confirms, emissions from vegetable oil burning are relatively similar to those from burning mineral diesel, although there is some recent evidence that they may be even worse as far as nitrous oxide and carcinogenic and mutagenic PAH emissions are concerned. Overall, the emissions from a power station which burns 10,000 tonnes of vegetable oil a year which is approximately what is needed to run an efficient 10MW power station continuously - are roughly equivalent to adding 10,000 diesel cars to the road.

    Vegetable oil from corn is high in sulfer per America's test kitchen.

  • Redshirt1701 Deep Space 9, Ut
    Dec. 29, 2011 11:04 a.m.

    To "LDS Liberal | 9:01 a.m." so what you are saying is that if a power source only requires one massive output of CO2 or pollution, rather than a continual output of small amounts of CO2, that is ok.

    The funny thig is that you and other environmentalists only look at your personal CO2 footprint for using a specific product, you don't consider the cradle to grave footprint.

    A prime example of this is the hybrid car batteries. Once you factor in the pollution caused by mining the metals for the batteries, producing the batteries, and recharging them, it turns out that on average a hybrid car produces more CO2 over its lifetime than a purely combustion driven vehicle.

    See Dust to Dust: The Energy Cost of New Vehicles from Concept to Disposal by CNW Marketing. They found that a hybrids produce more pollution over their lifetime than a gasoline engine only car.

    Solar panels are no different see "The ugly side of solar panels" in Low-tech Magazine.

  • LDS Liberal Farmington, UT
    Dec. 29, 2011 9:01 a.m.

    jsf | 7:32 p.m. Dec. 28, 2011
    Centerville, UT
    liberal the statement was the pollution to create the units. Did you get the copper wiring from the sun or a mine. The petroleum based coating on the units comes from drilling for oil.

    =================

    It's called:
    Recurring vs. Non-recurring costs.

    SolarPanel fabrication is one time.
    After that, Zero....i.e., NON-recurring cost.

    while FossilFuel generation requires even more copper and wires ect. to fabricate (Non-recurring) PLUS the added RECURRING costs of the petroleum to burn, and pollute day-after-day, year-after-year....24/7/365....with no end ever in sight!

    You have to account for ALL costs, fabrication $$$ and enviromental,for a comprehensive analysis.

    And to answer your questioning about my burning wasted vegatable oil as an Alternative Energy source,
    1. It can be used without modification to the vehicle.
    2. It is a RENEWABLE energy source.
    3. It is Greener simply because it doesn't contain or emit the sulfur, lead or other toxic pollutants and particulants found in fossil fuels that contribute to Acid rain and Smog.

    or

    We can just just keep doing it your way, and pray God fixes it for us.

  • jsf Centerville, UT
    Dec. 28, 2011 7:32 p.m.

    liberal the statement was the pollution to create the units. Did you get the copper wiring from the sun or a mine. The petroleum based coating on the units comes from drilling for oil. You as well as all other solar fantasy advocates ignore the pollution costs of what you are using. Kind of like saying burning vegitable oil in a diesel doesn't pollute.

    The post I made is you can't use petrol pollution results as an argument for solar power unless you truely ignore the pollution that is created making solar cells.

  • LDS Liberal Farmington, UT
    Dec. 28, 2011 2:52 p.m.

    jsf | 6:04 p.m. Dec. 27, 2011
    Centerville, UT

    =============

    Your (as with most anti-Green -- Pro-Fossil Fuel advocates) is that Solar systems always entail batteries.

    This is a false assumption.

    Solar panels are primarily installed as an Electrical Power augmention and most home oners and Companies who install them stay on the main power grid.

    Since Solar panels are most effective during the daily-light hours when the demand for electricity ramps up at it's peak, the excess electricity generated can then be pushed back onto the main power grid (reversing the SolarPanel owners meter) and must be paid back to the owner at the same rate as the Power Companies charges.

    So for all intents and purposes, Solar Panel owners pay zero for electricity, even when on the Power grid.

    Batteries and inverters are only needed for 100% off-grid systems, which accounts for very, very few systems in remote places.

  • Pagan Salt Lake City, UT
    Dec. 28, 2011 10:16 a.m.

    Solar power collects energy from the sun.

    Utah, is a desert.

    Think about it....

  • jsf Centerville, UT
    Dec. 27, 2011 6:04 p.m.

    Screwdriver The process of creating silicon for solar panals requires large amounts of electricity applied to quartz materials. The largest cast off from the process is CO2. How is the energy created to process the materials? Other materials used in creating batteries and electric equipment come from mining activities which release mercury and other heavy metals into the atmosphere and water. The very thing you detest about fossil fuels must be released to create solar power. The argument of pollution invalidates the clean argument of alternative energy sources. It's a shame you will continue to advocate the cost of lives from the mercury and other pollution because it is your pollution.

  • LDS Liberal Farmington, UT
    Dec. 27, 2011 9:21 a.m.

    @J Thompson | 3:00 p.m. Dec. 26, 2011
    SPRINGVILLE, UT

    ....The Lord gave us enough, and to spare. He didn't shortchange us on energy. There is more than enough oil to go around and long before it is gone, other less expensive ways to produce energy will crop up.

    That's the way things work....Something will replace gas and oil. In the meantime, we have oil enough to spare.

    ===========================

    WRONG - That is NOT how it works.

    There is always a stipulation with a blessing --
    We must always be prudent,
    not be wasteful
    and do everything in our power 1st
    by Magnifying a blessing in order for it to be valid.

    You "room enough to spare" quote does not mean you can be wasteful, stingy, greeding, and start WARS in order to control, maintain and have it.

    Trust me, We will be a cursed Nation for that kind of "room enough" at all costs - mindset.

  • Sensible Scientist Rexburg, ID
    Dec. 27, 2011 8:53 a.m.

    Sorry, but $21000 to install and $5000 every few years for batteries to power my house is too much. It'll take too long to "pay for itself," if ever. One hail storm and you start over.

    Photovoltaic power makes sense on the small scale, in remote areas, and in the southern half of the country (not including northern Utah). Elsewhere, it is indeed the most expensive form of electricity short of hiring supermodels to ride generator-equipped stationary bicycles.

  • RedShirt USS Enterprise, UT
    Dec. 27, 2011 8:41 a.m.

    Why not get more nuclear up an running? We are currently sitting on 300 years worth of fuel. Plus, the fuel itself is recyclable.

    The biggest advantage of nuclear is that it takes up less space than the equivalent solar panels or wind farm, and it works regardless of the weather.

  • Screwdriver Casa Grande, AZ
    Dec. 27, 2011 6:43 a.m.

    Republicans believers will keep up thier fight against solar power. The fact is without ignoring the mercury pollution cost of coal you can't compete with solar on your best behavior. Without ignoring the costs of CO2 you can't even afford to fire up a coal plant for a day. How much is a misscarriage caused by mercury poisoning worth to a conservative pro-lifer? How much is 20,000 misscariages a year?

    Your favorite failure topic of Solyndra, you don't seem to realize is proving the point that solar panel prices are falling very quickly. They were falling so quickly Solyndra couldn't make money at the current lower prices.

    You'll jump on board when the prices are low enough and then love your solar panels. It's a shame though you won't do it to save lives by cutting out mercury and other pollution. Just in time for your wallet but a day late for your soul.

  • Brer Rabbit Spanish Fork, UT
    Dec. 26, 2011 8:21 p.m.

    Solar power could be economical if there were no night or overcast. It might even be workable in AZ the sunshine state, but the cost of batteries and storage is just too expensive to be feasible in UT

  • J Thompson SPRINGVILLE, UT
    Dec. 26, 2011 6:27 p.m.

    @Blue,

    So, you got your facts from the government? Well, how interesting. Just how many wells has the government drilled? How much of their own money (not taxpayer money) have they gambled on each of those wells? What risk did they take?

    Of course, the answer is that the government has never drilled a well. They have never gotten their hands dirty. They prefer to sit back until someone else has done all the work and then take a partner's share for doing nothing.

    Ask the people who drill the wells if oil can be extracted from shale. They are the ones who have to do it.

    Ask the people who invest the money to extract oil from shale if oil can be extracted from shale at a cost that still leaves a profit. They are the ones who risk the money.

    Ask a politician those questions and, before answering, he'll quickly consult with an aid to find out whether you, or some environmental group, has made the largest contribution.

    Your facts are wrong. Many in my family are in the oil business. We've walked the walk. We've taken the risks.

  • shaun_ SAINT GEORGE, UT
    Dec. 26, 2011 5:39 p.m.

    @mike richards. What are you talking about? So if people do not know how to install a solar panels they are passing the buck?

    Do you know how to build a nuclear reactor and generate electricity? Do you know how to build a coal fired plant?

    Sounds like you know how to do everything and never "pass the buck," congratulations.

  • wrz Salt Lake, UTah
    Dec. 26, 2011 4:45 p.m.

    @Blue:

    "Let's not kid ourselves - we invaded Iraq because of oil."

    Probably true. Theory being, Iraq invades Kuwait (second time) capturing her oil fields, then on to the Saudi oil fields. At witch time we'll be bowing to Iraq and her god for our energy needs. Not a good idea.

    Oh, and since Obama has pulled our troops out, we will soon discover that what we tried to prevent will eventually come to pass. It's just a matter of time.

    "Iraq had zero to do with 9/11..."

    No one is claiming Iraq had anything to do with 9/11... except the anti-Bushies. Even President Bush himself, clearly and emphatically denied there was any connection.

    "The Bush administration even claimed that Iraqi oil would pay for the cost of the war."

    Good idea. 'The Donald' had an even better idea... seize all Iraqi oil for a number of years. Also, pay $3 million to each family who lost loved ones in the war.

  • Blue Salt Lake City, UT
    Dec. 26, 2011 4:02 p.m.

    J Thompson, "Excellent hyperbole, but your facts are totally wrong.

    Really? I got my facts from US Government DOE data.

    You offer a six year-old Deseret News article? Yep - I read it. It refers to shale oil.

    Yet again - this fantasy El Dorado for oil companies requires huge amounts of water in water-poor parts of the country, and leaves in its wake huge environmental damage. The costs - financial, environmental and human, will be enormous.

    Getting oil from shale using available technologies would require numerous large coal-fired power plants just to provide the energy needed to heat the ground enough to release the low-quality oil, then even more power to freeze the ground around the field to prevent groundwater contamination. Bets on how well that scenario will work out?

    Shale oil has not been commercially feasible in the western US - ever.

    That's not hyperbole, that's fact-based reality.

  • wrz Salt Lake, UTah
    Dec. 26, 2011 3:42 p.m.

    @Blue:

    "Let's not kid ourselves - we invaded Iraq because of oil."

    Probably true. Theory being, Iraq invades Kuwait (second time) capturing her oil fields, then on to the Saudi oil fields. At witch time we'll be bowing to Iraq and her god for our energy needs. Not a good idea.

    Oh, and since Obama has pulled our troops out, we will soon discover that what we tried to prevent will eventually come to pass. It's just a matter of time.

    "Iraq had zero to do with 9/11..."

    No one is claiming Iraq had anything to do with 9/11... except the anti-Bushies. Even President Bush himself, clearly and emphatically denied there was any connection.

    "The Bush administration even claimed that Iraqi oil would pay for the cost of the war."

    Good idea. 'The Donald' had an even better idea... seize all Iraqi oil for a number of years. Also, pay $3 million to each family who lost loved ones in the war.

  • wrz Salt Lake, UTah
    Dec. 26, 2011 3:09 p.m.

    "We are developing solar energy for roughly $3 per watt... The time period to recover our investment is roughly 8 years"

    You must be buying the units from China.

  • J Thompson SPRINGVILLE, UT
    Dec. 26, 2011 3:00 p.m.

    Blue,

    Excellent hyperbole, but your facts are totally wrong.

    From the Deseret News, June 10, 2007:

    "Colorado and Utah have as much oil as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Venezuela, Nigeria, Kuwait, Libya, Angola, Algeria, Indonesia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates combined."

    Study up on oil extraction; it's not at all as you describe. Take a trip out to eastern Utah and start counting the oil wells, then ask ElPaso Gas how hard it was to extract that oil. Ask the people of Vernal what happened to their economy when President Obama allowed the drilling to stop. Ask Flying J what happened to their company when the drilling stopped.

    The Lord gave us enough, and to spare. He didn't shortchange us on energy. There is more than enough oil to go around and long before it is gone, other less expensive ways to produce energy will crop up.

    That's the way things work. Have you priced a gallon of Whale Oil lately? Gas and oil replaced whale oil. Something will replace gas and oil. In the meantime, we have oil enough to spare.

  • Blue Salt Lake City, UT
    Dec. 26, 2011 1:58 p.m.

    JThompson: "We have oil enough in Utah to meet the nation's needs for years to come..."

    Not by any stretch of the imagination is that statement true. Here are the facts:

    Total US oil consumption is about 19 million barrels per day.

    Total US oil production is less than half that amount.

    Total oil production from Utah oil wells is about 55,000 barrels per day, which is about 0.3% of total US oil consumption.

    The only way you can get to the idea that Utah can "meet the nation's needs" is if you buy into the fantasy of extracting oil from Utah oil sands, which requires staggeringly huge amounts of water - something we here in Utah have in short supply.

    You also have to be willing to turn vast portions of Utah into a toxic waste dump, and contaminate whatever water is left over. So much for agriculture.

    And even then, any oil extracted from Utah oil sands will make gasoline at $4/gallon look like "the good old days."

    The cost of obtaining oil from oil sands deposits makes the cost of wind, solar, geothermal and conservation look like the deal of the century.

  • Esquire Springville, UT
    Dec. 26, 2011 12:13 p.m.

    A valuable letter. Oil took a long time to develop and there was a lot of government support, including overthrowing other governments. Alternate energy has never enjoyed such support.

  • J Thompson SPRINGVILLE, UT
    Dec. 26, 2011 11:49 a.m.

    cjb,

    You've got a deal.

    To run your oven will cost you $12,000 in solar panels at $3.00 per watt. You'll probably want to run a few light bulbs and maybe a heater or air-conditioner at the same time, so you'll need to double that investment to $24,000, give or take, depending on your personal requirements.

    Since that is not a one-time investment, you'll need to repeat that purchase every few years when the parts and pieces need replacing.

    How many people can spend $24,000 every three or four years for solar panels and accessories?

    We have oil enough in Utah to meet the nation's needs for years to come, yet we spend $2 BILLION a day on the military and another $1 BILLION a day on oil imports.

    We could save at least one-third of that by using our own Utah oil.

    Solar may be usable someday, but that day is not today.

  • cjb Bountiful, UT
    Dec. 26, 2011 11:19 a.m.

    Solar Power is $3.00 per watt installed? If that is really so, I will take $2,000 watts please. Are there really contractors here in Utah that will do it?

    Given the cost of coal in air pollution, the cost of natural gas in water pollution and the cost of oil in wars and preparation for wars, solar at $3.00 per watt is cheap.

  • L White Springville, UT
    Dec. 26, 2011 11:07 a.m.

    Oh my goodness. I think that some of the posters are telling us that we need to let our children go barefoot so that we can "do the right thing" and get our electricity from the sun.

    Every family has basic needs. I am a mother so I know about feeding a family and cooking for that family. I know how many loads of washing have to be done and I know how long the drier has to work to dry those clothes. In my neighborhood we cannot even have a clothesline in the backyard. It must offend some people to see clothes hanging out to dry.

    We cannot burn our trash, so we send twice as much as we should to the dump to be buried. Has anyone calculated how much more fuel (and pollution is caused by those huge garbage trucks) compared to us burning some of our trash?

    The mindset is wrong. Priorities are wrong.

    Too many people are too quick to "whip" us into shape without having a clue about what the real problem is. They regulate our activities and make it impossible for each of us to find the right solution for ourselves.

  • Gildas LOGAN, UT
    Dec. 26, 2011 10:56 a.m.

    I think a great many people, simply for the savings in fuel costs and the prospects of actually being paid for excess energy by the electric company, would like to have solar panels. I have heard, months ago, that you can do all the installation yourself. This is a very attractive prospect because the installation costs are prohibitive for most people.

    However I don't believe that most of us have the confidence that we can do the job properly, to coded, and safely, and perhaps have a suspicion that we would have to report it as an improvement to the county who would then increase our property taxes for ever afterwards.

  • J Thompson SPRINGVILLE, UT
    Dec. 26, 2011 10:37 a.m.

    Those who don't work with electricity may think that adding a solar panel or two and a windmill or two is an easy way to solve their electrical needs. Shaun wrote about connecting a 200 Amp service panel to the system. That is the crux of the issue.

    Our electrical needs are not trivial. A toaster typically takes 1,000 watts. An oven takes about 4,000 watts. A "typical" solar panel produces about 150 watts per square meter.

    Let's do the math. Running that oven would require 26 square meters of solar panel - in full sunlight. Sorry, no late evening meals.

    Storing that electricity takes batteries and inverters. In effect, you "save" electricity whenever the sun is shinning and then you "spend" electricity" when you need to. As long as you "save" more than you "spend", the system works.

    Gel-cells or lead-acid cells require maintenance and are costly. Inverters don't last forever.

    The dream is here, but, until new and better types of storage (batteries and inverters) become available, solar energy will just be a "novelty" and will remain a weak imitation of fossil fuels.

  • Mom of 8 Hyrum, UT
    Dec. 26, 2011 10:19 a.m.

    This solution is likely simplistic, but I can see a need for all energy sources. We're hoping to someday install solar panels, and with our frequent winds at our house, a windmill would also make sense. For the days there is no sun or wind, we could us the backup resources of our local electricity plants (coal, hydroelectric, etc.).

    We can't every community function like this? With the right minds and resources applied, natural energy costs would come down (remember how expensive and inaccessible computers were in the 70's?).

    The greatest benefit, however be for the poor, many of whom struggle to pay utility bills. What if those bills were $10 or less each month because of their solar panels and windmills?

    It seems remarkable to me that the earth provides so many resources, yet we stubbornly insist on looking only at those that are "traditional" or self-serving. We waste so much.

  • Mike Richards South Jordan, Utah
    Dec. 26, 2011 10:17 a.m.

    Maverick,

    Since you have a solar powered system in place, would you tell us what it costs you per kilowatt hour to run your refrigerator on your system compared to running that refrigerator on the "grid"? Do the same for each major appliance. Can you cook a turkey without turning off most of the electrical appliances in your home, or do you cheat and use natural gas for your cooking?

    My neighbor and my relative, who are "off-grid", and who each have substantial systems, carefully monitor each "light-bulb". They have to turn off one "light-bulb" before turning on another.

    Most of us would think that carrying a calculator around with us as we go from room to room to see what we have to turn off before turning on a hair-dryer or the toaster, would be too much of a "burden".

    How do you handle it? Or, are you just playing with solar energy and not depending on it to take you off-grid? Are you just talking about it or have you become "self-sufficient" and "grid-free"?

    Does your family's health and safety depend on your solar panels?

  • The Real Maverick Orem, UT
    Dec. 26, 2011 10:00 a.m.

    Mike Richards, there you go again accusing without having any facts. I have installed solar panels on my house.

    The only talker I see on this board is you. Talking, without having any facts. Accusing, without knowing anything.

    For you, you shall have your reward.

  • Mike Richards South Jordan, Utah
    Dec. 26, 2011 9:40 a.m.

    Maverick and Shaun_,

    You made my point. You passed the buck.

    My neighbor, who is in his 90s, installed a solar system when he was in his 80s (with the help of his sons). His entire electricity needs are filled by solar energy, except on those rare occasions when something breaks.

    A relative in northern Utah operates his home with solar energy supplemented by "water energy" produced from a small steam near his home.

    They did everything themselves. They didn't pass the buck. They didn't wait for someone else to make things affordable or convenient. They ordered all parts and pieces from the Internet. They got the required permits. They hired help when licensed help was required.

    In other words, they are DOERS not talkers.

    The letter writer is a DOER, but he has selected a prime market where solar energy is viable.

    Solar energy is viable in Utah for those who are willing to pay the price.

    This is not rocket science. Anyone can go down to Radio Shack TODAY and get the parts to make an experimental solar powered system. When they understand the principles, they can order the "heavy duty" parts and pieces.

    "Doer" or "talker"?

  • shaun_ SAINT GEORGE, UT
    Dec. 26, 2011 9:12 a.m.

    @mike richards. Can you order all the parts off the internet to construct a coal fired power plant? No.

    I doubt most people have expertise to install a 200 amp main that is being fed from the utility and they probably can't install a solar panel and all of its components.

    So in the end most people can not do any electrical installations. So what is your point? To bash solar energy?

  • The Real Maverick Orem, UT
    Dec. 26, 2011 8:42 a.m.

    "They will just continue to tell us what WE need to do. They will NEVER put their money where their mouth is. It's so much easier to make demands on others than to do it themselves."

    If this were true, then our dear letter writer wouldn't have a job installing these things.

    Since they're being installed, the letter writer has a job. Since this letter writer has a job, your theory based on cynical opinion and anecdotal data is completely debunked.

    Lets rely on the facts, shall we?

    Happy Holidays folks!

  • Mike Richards South Jordan, Utah
    Dec. 26, 2011 7:58 a.m.

    Anyone who believes in solar energy can order all necessary parts and pieces to construct solar panels easily via the Internet. They can put a few solar panels on their roof. They can put the necessary batteries in their garage or basement. They can build or buy the necessary inverters. They don't have to wait for someone else to do it for them.

    Those who believe that it is a good thing, either for the environment, or as a substitute for fossil fuels could have their own off-grid power production in place within a week's time.

    But they won't.

    They will just continue to tell us what WE need to do. They will NEVER put their money where their mouth is. It's so much easier to make demands on others than to do it themselves.

  • Owl Salt Lake City, UT
    Dec. 26, 2011 7:56 a.m.

    Thanks for adding rational thinking to the discussion. It's distressing for some to have facts obliterate the prejudices against solar energy.

  • Blue Salt Lake City, UT
    Dec. 26, 2011 7:22 a.m.

    Let's not kid ourselves - we invaded Iraq because of oil. Iraq had zero to do with 9/11, and everything to do with middle-eastern oil. The Bush administration even claimed that Iraqi oil would pay for the cost of the war.

    That war cost us the lives of over 4,000 soldiers and three trillion dollars.

    If that cost showed up on your power bill and on the pump at the gas station when you fill-up, then solar power would look like an amazing bargain.

    We'll be burning oil and gas for decades, but we've got to get serious about developing and using alternatives.

  • procuradorfiscal Tooele, UT
    Dec. 26, 2011 6:30 a.m.

    Re: "To solve our country's energy woes, both sides of this debate must work together."

    Hear, hear!

    It's refreshing to hear someone whose economic health depends on "green" energy admit that, "We must allow for further fossil fuel development . . . ."

    It's interesting to hear that solar may be an economic [daytime] alternative in the highest-energy-cost state in the union, though it's only so because of tax incentives, that liberal class-warfare tactics continue to place at risk.

    But, it's not the case here -- yet.

    During the 50-year window we have before intersection of the ascending fossil-fuel economic curve and the descending "green-power" economic curve, this type of cooperative, collaborative attitude could lead to sanity, reasonable development strategies, and, most importantly, defeat of radical greenies' -- and President Obama's -- "necessarily skyrocket" fuel-price contrivance.

    That'd be a win for us all.

  • ugottabkidn Sandy, UT
    Dec. 26, 2011 4:45 a.m.

    Thank you for adding honesty to this discussion. I can only imagine where we would be if we had not taken our eye off the ball some 35 years ago, besides there is more to it than dollars and cents. Our health is one reason.

  • Corn Dog New York, NY
    Dec. 26, 2011 2:08 a.m.

    "We are developing solar energy for roughly $3 per watt total and selling the energy to the utility at rates cheaper than it costs them to generate it using imported petroleum."

    That pretty much says it all. The situation described is one essentially off-the-grid, using imports of the most expensive fossil fuel. For US mainland applications where reliable, abundant baseload electrical energy is needed 24/7, solar power will remain a very expensive alternative for the forseeable future.