Solar Energy

There are a plethora of solar energy sites on the internet. Many are trying to sell you something which is fine if they are straightforward about it. Others seem to be informational, but on closer inspection seem to be biased toward some product or point of view. We suggest that Wikipedia’s Solar Energy listing gives the best overall presentation of the topic. (If you have not noticed, Wikipedia is selecting quality articles and locking out  random editing. This piece is rated as “good” a ranking given to only one out of every 241 articles.)

Solar and Wind power are obviously dependent on sunlight and wind which cause these sources’ energy output to vary from zero to their maximum. A recent Standford University study says that batteries may be a cost effective method of energy storage for solar farms but not for wind power. Until there are more cost-effective batteries or other energy storage devices, the leveling energy is best supplied by water stored behind a dam.

Below are several quotes from the article by Mark Shwartz, in the September 9, 2013, Stanford Report. To read the whole article click here.

“We looked at batteries and other promising technologies for storing solar and wind energy on the electrical grid,” said Charles Barnhart, the lead author of the study and a postdoctoral scholar at Stanford’s Global Climate and Energy Project (GCEP).

“Our primary goal was to calculate their overall energetic cost – that is, the total amount of fuel and electricity required to build and operate these storage technologies. We found that when you factor in the energetic costs, grid-scale batteries make sense for storing surplus solar energy, but not for wind.”

“Pumped hydro is used in 99 percent of grid storage today,” Barnhart said. “It works fantastically from an energetic perspective for both wind and solar. Its energy return on investment is 10 times better than conventional batteries.”

The Northwest is not a prime location for centralized solar electricity generation as are states like California or Nevada. However, the energy they produce should be factored into the West’s total energy mix. Simply put, nuclear would supply the 24 hours a day base load, augmented by wind and solar, with hydroelectric power filling in the gaps.

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