are solar panel really efficient ?

i have been wondering lately about how much fuel/oil that goes into the production and transport of solar panels. is it really worth it for the little amount of electricity they make , or could that 'oil' be put to better use as generator fuel ( on the world wide scheme). are we making more pollution just by making solar panels ? .
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Reply By: Rolly - Friday, Jan 23, 2009 at 00:54

Friday, Jan 23, 2009 at 00:54
Yes, gotta bear that in mind.
The panels do have more than 20 years life in them though and over that period would save a huge amount of fossil fuel.
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Reply By: Topend - Friday, Jan 23, 2009 at 07:05

Friday, Jan 23, 2009 at 07:05
I didn't buy my solar panel to save the planet. I bought it so I could charge my battery in peaceful silence.
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Follow Up By: Member - Old Girl (QLD) - Friday, Jan 23, 2009 at 16:31

Friday, Jan 23, 2009 at 16:31
Ha ha ha yep!! My thoughts too.
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Follow Up By: Member - joc45 (WA) - Friday, Jan 23, 2009 at 18:37

Friday, Jan 23, 2009 at 18:37
Spot on!!
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Reply By: Member - Phil B (WA) - Friday, Jan 23, 2009 at 07:26

Friday, Jan 23, 2009 at 07:26
Hi qubert

Just a few thoughts

Generators would probably cost us more in energy and pollution during production than a solar panel would.

Once built solar panels don’t pollute, how much pollution on an ongoing basis does a generator make?

Cheers

Phil
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Follow Up By: Member - John and Val W (ACT) - Friday, Jan 23, 2009 at 07:55

Friday, Jan 23, 2009 at 07:55
And solar panels, being much lighter would require much less energy to transport.

Cheers,

Val.
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Follow Up By: Best Off Road - Saturday, Jan 24, 2009 at 23:45

Saturday, Jan 24, 2009 at 23:45
Well Val,

My 64 watt Solar panel weighs 11 kg, my 1600 watt generator weighs 22 kg.

They both have their advantages and uses.

Neither is perfect.

Cheers,

Jim.

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Follow Up By: Maîneÿ (wa) - Sunday, Jan 25, 2009 at 00:00

Sunday, Jan 25, 2009 at 00:00
Jim,
your 64 watt Unisolar panel should weigh only 9.2 Kg
do you have something added to it ?

Mainey . . .
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Follow Up By: Best Off Road - Sunday, Jan 25, 2009 at 08:22

Sunday, Jan 25, 2009 at 08:22
Mainey,

Regulator, 10 metres of very thick cable and a Merit plug to stick into the battery box.

Cheers,

Jim.
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Follow Up By: Maîneÿ (wa) - Sunday, Jan 25, 2009 at 10:48

Sunday, Jan 25, 2009 at 10:48
Jim,
hope the Regulator is attached to the battery, or at least that end, not the solar panel end.

I've used windscreen installers black silastic to fix regs in some installations, keeps it stable and out of the way too.

Mainey . . .
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Reply By: Member Brian (Gold Coast) - Friday, Jan 23, 2009 at 08:30

Friday, Jan 23, 2009 at 08:30
If you really want to cut down on the pollution...... stop driving your fourby around!

Seriously qubert.... I think those replies above are on the money, generators provide pngoing pollution as well as nosie pollution. There's none of that with a panel.

Cheers

Brian
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Follow Up By: Member Brian (Gold Coast) - Friday, Jan 23, 2009 at 20:13

Friday, Jan 23, 2009 at 20:13
Note to self.....

David provides SpellChecker..... perhaps I should use it!!


Cheers

Brian
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Reply By: palmy - Friday, Jan 23, 2009 at 09:29

Friday, Jan 23, 2009 at 09:29
Pretty much everything we own/use relies on oil in someway. Sure by creating a solar panel and generating renewable energy from a one off use of oil is better than just burning...?
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Reply By: Mark Taylor - Friday, Jan 23, 2009 at 10:03

Friday, Jan 23, 2009 at 10:03
As a professional photographer, I covered the Asia Pacific Cities Summint held in Brisbane in 2003.

I was the official photographer to the Brisbane City Council.

One of the guest speakers was the World CEO of BP Solar. During a quiet period when we were waiting for a bus to arrive for a photo op, I asked him about the "break even" point for a solar system including batteries etc.

He told me that they had worked it out to 25 years.. as long as no components in the system were replaced within that period.

A long time me thinks.

Cheers

Mark T
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Follow Up By: Member - John and Val W (ACT) - Friday, Jan 23, 2009 at 10:52

Friday, Jan 23, 2009 at 10:52
And the break-even point for a generator is...??

Sure, 25 years sound a long time, but how many generators would you go through in that time?

Val.
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Follow Up By: Bob Y. - Qld - Friday, Jan 23, 2009 at 21:56

Friday, Jan 23, 2009 at 21:56
We've been getting between 30,000 & 45,000 hours out of some of our gensets, before needing reconditioning, or replacement.

There's 8,760 hours in a year, so you'd use at least 3 gensets over 25 years. Cost varies but can be around $18-25,000 for the units I've mentioned in reply below. Then there's the fuel costs, oil changes every 250 hours..................etc.

Always got your hand in your pocket with gensets.

Bob.
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Follow Up By: Mark Taylor - Saturday, Jan 24, 2009 at 13:07

Saturday, Jan 24, 2009 at 13:07
Hi Bob... your point is good!

I was actually making the comparison to when you had the option of hooking into the grid against being independent and going solar!

Eg my in-laws have the power going past their gate but chose solar as the upfront fee for a grid connection was close to that of a basic solar system.. however 18 years later.. they would have been better off with mains. (Apart from the convenience factor with solar in black outs)

They have had batteries fail, regulators fail, had all the panels stolen once (insurance covered that) replaced panels that had fallen off in performance etc.

And where they live is very hot in summer and no air conditioning.

Cheers

Mark T
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Follow Up By: Best Off Road - Saturday, Jan 24, 2009 at 23:41

Saturday, Jan 24, 2009 at 23:41
I think you've summed it up very well Tubby.

Until Solar technology improves by about 1000% (yes one thousand) it is economically unviable.

Cheers,

Jim.

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Follow Up By: Member - Mike DID - Tuesday, Jan 27, 2009 at 16:03

Tuesday, Jan 27, 2009 at 16:03
A $1000 Solar Panel will put out an average 4 amps during daylight hours.

A $1000 generator will put out 60 amps at 12 volts - so you'll be using the generator a whole lot less.
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Follow Up By: Maîneÿ (wa) has - Wednesday, Jan 28, 2009 at 05:44

Wednesday, Jan 28, 2009 at 05:44
Mike,
Your numbers may NOT be incorrect, the Solar panel will as you say put out ~4 Amps, all day during sunlight hours, therefore the Solar panel will run the appliances and also recharge the battery system.
The battery system *remains* fully charged till the sun goes behind the horizon and the *fully charged* battery system will then power the appliances during the night.
Next morning the solar panel will again run the appliances and also fully charge the battery system again.

The generator, will only charge the battery system when it is turned on and running.
The battery system becomes discharged because it has been running the appliances without charging assistance.
The battery system voltage goes from fully charged, when the genni is on, to very discharged just before the genni is turned on next time, causing battery damage and shortening their life.

You have to be there to set-up, refuel and run the genni, not with the solar system, it runs independently, you don't need to do a thing, you can be away for weeks fishing if the system is correctly set-up.

Mainey . . .
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Reply By: Bob Y. - Qld - Friday, Jan 23, 2009 at 10:40

Friday, Jan 23, 2009 at 10:40
We have the dubious luxury of having generator power.

The generators cost more than any other single item on the station to run, but we can't do without them. Who wants to go back to kero fridges & carbide lights.

With the move to give staff airconditioned rooms, the load on gensets has increased so we have put in bigger plants. Which use more fuel...............

When we came here 21 years ago, we could comfortably survive with a 15 KVA genset, using 1.5L/hr. Now we have 40 & 55 KVA sets, burning between 4 & 8L/hr, & often the 40 can't hack the load.

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A RAPS unit to suit our needs has been estimated at in excess of $250K!!!

It could be inevitable that we'll need nuclear power to service our power needs in the future.

Regards,
Bob.
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Follow Up By: qubert - Friday, Jan 23, 2009 at 11:38

Friday, Jan 23, 2009 at 11:38
you get pretty good power output from some wind towers
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Follow Up By: Topend - Friday, Jan 23, 2009 at 16:04

Friday, Jan 23, 2009 at 16:04
Qubert,

Tell us how much power can be had from a wind tower and at what cost.
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Follow Up By: Wazza - (Vic) - Saturday, Jan 24, 2009 at 15:34

Saturday, Jan 24, 2009 at 15:34
Bob - Just order one of these and be done with it:

Toshiba Portable Reactor

;) Wazza
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Reply By: Axel [ the real one ] - Friday, Jan 23, 2009 at 12:46

Friday, Jan 23, 2009 at 12:46
Bit like the actual environmental cost of the "green" vehicles available now , a Tojo Prius uses more energy to produce and then to be recycled/disposed of than any other vehicle currently available over a projected 25yr life span,,
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Follow Up By: ross - Friday, Jan 23, 2009 at 21:03

Friday, Jan 23, 2009 at 21:03
Do you have any links to support that?

From what I know the NiCad batteries are 100% recyclable as is the rest of the car.
The body is not greatly different from conventional vehicles and probably lighter

Ive seen some sites that say the batteries are made in one place and the engine/recharger is made in another.
But how is that different to any other modern car or any consumer goods for that matter?

What car in the world draws its supples from a mine pit outside its assembly plant? :confused:


Personally I beleive that electric cars powered by grid electricity for short urban trips would be cheaper,better and more economical than hybrids
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Follow Up By: Austravel - Friday, Jan 23, 2009 at 22:21

Friday, Jan 23, 2009 at 22:21
(From what I know the NiCad batteries are 100% recyclable as is the rest of the car.
The body is not greatly different from conventional vehicles and probably lighter)

Don't think they use NiCad's, way better than them.

(Ive seen some sites that say the batteries are made in one place and the engine/recharger is made in another.
But how is that different to any other modern car or any consumer goods for that matter?

What car in the world draws its supples from a mine pit outside its assembly plant? :confused: )

The problem is cost to recycle. Sure it maybe done but maybe cost negative to environment and the hip pocket.


(Personally I beleive that electric cars powered by grid electricity for short urban trips would be cheaper,better and more economical than hybrids)

Actually most research to date suggests otherwise, unless you're talking under 100k. Not only that but it would bring the grid to a complete stand still. No excess capacity now and unlikely in the future unless we go nuclear.Fully electric cars are still very impractical in our country. No capacity now and unlikely in the future unless we go nuclear.
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Follow Up By: ross - Saturday, Jan 24, 2009 at 18:42

Saturday, Jan 24, 2009 at 18:42
Nickel metal hydride are the batteries,my error but they are still 100% recyclable.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nickel_metal_hydride_battery

They cost about about a$1500USD a ton to recycle,which is about the weight of the batteries of 15 cars or about $$110 per car.
Most countries are setting up plants to handle them and the recycling cost will come down

Most australians ,drive about 40 klms a day on average,which is well within the range of an electric car.

It would not affect the grid ,in fact it would make it more efficient.
Electric cars can be recharged at night when the power plants are idle.
With plants being used at near full capacity it makes them more viable.
The extra energy they consume is offset against the savings on fossil fuel used by cars.

Im not saying it should be compulsory to drive one ,but there are many inaccurate claims about the Prius' alleged short comings on the net.
For instance the Hummer being more efficient than a Prius is bunkam and is based on a report paid for by north american car dealers.
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Follow Up By: Austravel - Saturday, Jan 24, 2009 at 21:27

Saturday, Jan 24, 2009 at 21:27
Yep Ross them's the ones.

Not sure about most countries setting up plants but I don't know.

I'm sure your right about the average klms but very impractical for most after work hours driving. Means having two cars.

It will effect the grid and the reality is the exiting grid is old and near capacity. Yes there is some spare at night but less than you think. Air Cons use has gone up exponentially. Many industries make use of off peak time. Power stations don't go to idle they remain on line at ready, but I know what you mean.

As for a comparison between coal/electric to liquids I don't know of any research. However you might find the environmental costs of coal far out way oil.

Not saying your right or wrong in any of this just discussing some points. It's going to be a long long time before main stream use electric cars. It took over 100 years to get the existing transport system and infrastructure in place. It'll take just as long to change it.
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Follow Up By: Axel [ the real one ] - Sunday, Jan 25, 2009 at 11:38

Sunday, Jan 25, 2009 at 11:38
Ross ,the $110 you quote does not include the energy required for the recycling process of the whole vehicle , the pommy version of TopGear did a manufacturing and recycling energy cost comparrison of a standard tojo and the prius , the prius over an expected life span of 25yrs costs more than double , its very easy to say electric is the way to go however electric power still costs $$$$ and the environment impact is still extremely large.No form of energy is FREE of $cost or environmental impact.
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Follow Up By: ross - Tuesday, Jan 27, 2009 at 01:07

Tuesday, Jan 27, 2009 at 01:07
"Ross ,the $110 you quote does not include the energy required for the recycling process of the whole vehicle"

No but neither did you quote the cost of recycling a normal car body.
The Prius is a car fundamenatally like any other with the battery pack and drivetrain removed so they sort of cancel each other out.

There is a taxi in Cairns that has clocked up half a million KLMS on a the same battery pack.
Others have achieved 300000 klms on the same battery.

Much of the so called information on how green the Prius is ,is based on very conservative figures of a 150000 klms lfespan of the vehicle.

The claims that mining and procesing nickel for ther batteries is enviromentally destructive also does not hold water.
Toyota get the nickel from a mine in England that has been in use since the 1800s.
Much of the damage was done with processes that havent been used for 40 years.

I watch and like Top Gear but I would not quote them.
If it was the episode I saw ,I cant remember them saying it was their report or even where they got it from.
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Reply By: Lucko - Friday, Jan 23, 2009 at 17:51

Friday, Jan 23, 2009 at 17:51
From what I've read the best solar panels are only %14 - %17 efficient in converting solar energy to electrical energy. Not sure about the Carbon footprint required to manufacture them!
There is considerable research going on at present into both vastly increasing the efficiency and reducing the cost of solar conversion. Wollongong University, I believe, is out there in front of this research.
Maybe cheaper, more efficient panels on the horizon.

Mark
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Follow Up By: Rolly - Friday, Jan 23, 2009 at 19:18

Friday, Jan 23, 2009 at 19:18
Yes, it seems so.
If you're not in a desperate hurry you'll soon have the choice of much more efficient collectors or stock clearance prices on the existing stuff.
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Follow Up By: Maîneÿ (wa) - Friday, Jan 23, 2009 at 22:48

Friday, Jan 23, 2009 at 22:48
they 'run' solar powered cars from Darwin to Adelaide each year, I know that is a different vehicle but the solar and electronics exist atm.

It's not in production and I would guess financial constraints are the major reason because the speed and distance travelled are not in question.

I still have one of the solar panels used on the trip in 1996 :)

Mainey . . .
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Reply By: Member - Lance S (VIC) - Saturday, Jan 24, 2009 at 18:24

Saturday, Jan 24, 2009 at 18:24
This is what i use my solar panels for........................

Having a hell of a time in the great outdoors.

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Reply By: Member - Mike DID - Sunday, Jan 25, 2009 at 13:12

Sunday, Jan 25, 2009 at 13:12
The US Dept of Energy have analysed the energy used to produce Solar Panels and concluded that a Panel has to be producing energy for around 700 days before it's delivered as much clean energy as the green-house-gas-producing energy that was used to make the panel.

So if you use the panel every day and there's never any cloud, after two years, you have helped the environment.

If you use it occasionally for camping, you may never be getting to the stage of collecting as much clean energy as polluting energy used to make it.

Why are there no solar-panel factories that are powerd totally by solar or wind power ???
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Follow Up By: Maîneÿ (wa) - Sunday, Jan 25, 2009 at 15:08

Sunday, Jan 25, 2009 at 15:08
Mike,
You ask: "Why are there no solar-panel factories that are powerd totally by solar or wind power"

Probably for the very same and also logical reason the factories that make generators are NOT powered by generators and the factories that make batteries are NOT powered by batteries either :-))

Did you see if the US Dept of Energy have analysed the energy used to produce Generators ?

Fortunately you did get the relevant information that in 700 days (~2 years) the solar panel is absolutely energy neutral and from that point on will be helping and assisting the environment, not polluting it as a generator obviously will, by their continual need for oil and petrol and their spewing of noxious exhaust gas, which will be continually polluting the atmosphere.

(but do you and I really care? I use solar because I find it far more efficient, not because of the obvious pollution caused by generators)

Mainey . . .
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