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Old 28th Mar 2017, 14:55   #1
jrs77
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Renewable Energy

As time goes by more and more people hop onto the renewable energy train installing solar-panels, thinking about electric vehicles, and in addition we hear good news about improvements in the technologies needed, like more efficient solar panels, better batteries, etc.

After alot of reading and searching for available products throughout the last few month however, I have come to the conclusion that with the current technology I wouldn't be able to provide enough energy to power my household. Ontop of that, the current laws make it financially very unattractive to invest in such technologies to begin with.

Here's the rundown...

I live in a 120 m house, which I renovated some 10 years ago. I installed new and better insulation, new triple glazed windows, switched all lights to LED, all appliances are AAA rated, etc. My current yearly energy-usage is some 18000 kWh, which is mainly due to the long and cold winters.
I remind you, Finland is the most northern european country. Finlands southern border is actually north of Oslo and Stockholm, just to draw the picture.

My roof would be perfectly aligned (SSW), to get the most out of solar-panels, and I have enough space for a small/medium-sized windmill.
With the currently available solar panels I wouldn't even get close to the power I need with my available roofarea ~60m. Not even under the best circumstances and ignoring the fact that the sun doesn't shine for half of the year.
So I started looking for windmills, that would be feasible in size.
But again I ran into the same problem. Even with a sizeable windmill (5m rotor on a 30m mast) I wouldn't be able to produce anywhere near enough energy. This is down to the fact, that it usually doesn't blow that much and the windwill would never actually produce it's nominal power making it more of a gimmick rather than a feasible solution to power the whole house.

The technical problems aside, the current laws would make it totally not worth it investing into any of it, as I wouldn't even be allowed to use the energy I produce myself. I would be required to have my house connected to the grid and transfer all of my produced energy into the grid. I would get a fixed amount of money per kWh I send into the grid, but I would still need to buy all of my energy from a provider.
With these laws in place I would never be able to make up for the investments needed.

Out of curiosity I was looking into german laws, as I've lived there for 20 years and they have a rather pro-renewable policy in place, but they do the same crappy policy when it comes to the usage of the energy and even under the better geographic conditions you would never be able to make up for the investments.

How does the situation look like in other countries? Would it be doable to to go off-grid and produce enough energy with the current technology in your place?

Aslong as the technology isn't atleast twice as efficient/powerful and the policies allowing to go offgrid, aslong the renewable energies don't work for the masses of people.
And that doesn't even take the industry into consideration, which uses much more energy than the households.

So yeah, the renewable energy train is going nowhere it seems and I'd rather see more investment and research into nuclear power, both fission and fusion, as that's the best option it seems.
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Old 28th Mar 2017, 18:13   #2
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As far as I'm aware, going completely off grid involves some serious cutting back of energy usage, even in the best locations. I don't think it's achievable on current technology on a regular basis if you want to keep a first world lifestyle.

I think the current technology is really intended to reduce dependency on the grid rather than replace the grid - it does need to get much better, the benefits at the moment often do not justify the outlay, which is what is needed to give it mass appeal.

Although I do not have anything at my rented house, I believe the situation in the UK is the same, where you pump energy back to the grid and get credit for it, with some times of the day at least generating 'income'.

Although I do support nuclear energy, this is seeing as many problems - it is too expensive to construct, and we are waking up to the responsibility of decommissioning (though to be fair, we are seeing this now in every industry). Whatever the solution(s) decided upon it will take a lot of support from governments to make it reality.
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Old 29th Mar 2017, 13:54   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blackerthanblack View Post
I think the current technology is really intended to reduce dependency on the grid rather than replace the grid - it does need to get much better, the benefits at the moment often do not justify the outlay, which is what is needed to give it mass appeal.
Yeah, the idea is to reverse the growing demand on the grid somewhat, and every little helps.

However, in the UK at least, recent years have seen the paring back of incentives (simply due to the economic situation, rather than a turn against sustainable energy) means that the roll-out of these things will slow down.


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Although I do support nuclear energy, this is seeing as many problems - it is too expensive to construct, and we are waking up to the responsibility of decommissioning (though to be fair, we are seeing this now in every industry).
Working in the industry 25yrs ago, I can tell you that then the issue of waste management was a big issue back then. However, the approach was to reuse waste products as fuel for newer reactors, producing less (but more toxic) waste, and then to bury it in deep holes in the ground while we worked on a longer-term solution (which still hasn't arrived as far as I'm aware).
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Old 29th Mar 2017, 22:26   #4
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the approach was to reuse waste products as fuel for newer reactors, producing less (but more toxic) waste, and then to bury it in deep holes in the ground while we worked on a longer-term solution (which still hasn't arrived as far as I'm aware).
Yeah that's more what I was meaning in my statement which wasn't that definitive - public awareness of the issue has become much wider due to media, internet etc. and also the fact we still haven't got to a long term solution for it meaning the original stuff is still there.

I used to work in a related nuclear industry myself, though we didn't concern ourselves too much with the waste issue!
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Old 30th Mar 2017, 00:03   #5
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The question is, why there's no research being done anymore in nuclear energy. The only countries still developing are China, India or Pakistan. If they develop a working molten salt reactor or otherwise more efficient and safer solution then they gain a huge advantage.

Sometimes I have the feeling, that the western industrialized countries simply have become too comfortable with the status quo and let feelings dictate the political action instead of taking a more reasonal approach.

Like I said, I really want to go 100% renewable, as that's the only way to become independent and self-sufficient, but it's simply not doable north of the alps, let alone in Finland. Too little sun in the winter-month when demand for energy is greatest and not enough wind except maybe on the coast.
The policies in place of how I can use my self-produced energy doesn't make the invest of tens of thousand of Euros attractive either, as I'll never be able to break even. A 10kW windturbine alone would cost me some €50-75k and I'm not too sure that I would get permission to build a 30m high windturbine in a residential area, even tho my nearest neighbour is 100m away and out of sight due to alot of trees between our plots.

Fusion seems a very long time ahead, if we can even get it to work properly and burning coal and gas is the worst solution really, as it produces alot of pollution. I'm not even talking about the CO2 at this point, as I don't think that the warming of the climate can be really stopped let alone reduced at this point. It's going to get altleast 2C warmer in the next couple decades due to what allready happened in the last 100 years.

I know that alot of people are afraid of nuclear reaktors for understandable reasons, but why don't we simply develop better nuclear reactors, that are safer, more fuel-efficient, etc. It's the best option we currently have available for the next decades, especially with a growing population and increasing demand for energy in the developing countries. If they all start to burn coal and gas... good night little prince. Or do we plan to keep them underdeveloped at gunpoint forever?
Asia, Africa and South America will develop and massively increase their demand for energy within the coming decades and there's nothing we'll be able to do about it. The only question is, which form of energy-production they'll use, and they want energy to be as cheap as possible and available at any given time. That's not going to happen with renewables, especially not for the industry.
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Old 30th Mar 2017, 00:39   #6
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Nuclear probably is the best medium term option if greenhouse gas emission is messing up the planet for humans.

It's better to put nasty gunk in the ground and have a localised effect than nasty gunk in the air which will have a global effect.

Or we could obliterate our power usage which would suck.
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Old 4th Apr 2017, 12:52   #7
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Sometimes I have the feeling, that the western industrialized countries simply have become too comfortable with the status quo
It's the satus quo of profits, unfortunately. Energy companies are still making absolute fortunes on coal and oil, and the heads of these companies know they'll be well in the ground themselves before those resources run out or the problems associated with using them become unmanageable.

It's also a fight against the people who want change, but only if it suits their ethical compass. Lots of people don't want nasty, smog spewing fossil fuel generators, but also don't want a wind farm spoiling their views or greenbelt land taken up with fields of solar panels... much less nuclear waste generating reactors.
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