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(YouTube)   Why building solar farms in Northern Africa isn't profitable enough for Europe. And it's not because of that one tree that's in the way   (youtube.com) divider line
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495 clicks; posted to STEM » on 14 May 2022 at 10:41 PM (6 weeks ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook



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2022-05-14 11:09:04 PM  
4 votes:
The "rise of solar PV" has been extremely interesting. Not too long ago, people were installing solar thermal systems to heat water for swimming pools and for jacuzzis or just for baths and laundry. Such systems were cheap and pretty easy to understand and install. The "efficiency" of thermal production was also many times higher than that of PV/electricity production.

But then PV got cheaper and cheaper, and then heat pumps got better and better, and now, it is no contest. You should put PV panels on your house and get a heat pump water heater, and then use all the extra electricity for whatever. Put it in a battery. Sell it to someone. Run an air conditioner.

The same thing has happened for solar thermal with molten salt like the system at Ivanpah, with similar systems in Spain, and I think some in North Africa. They have very high efficiency, but they are complicated, limited to very sunny and preferably equatorial areas. The scale was so huge. And they used only mirrors and one main tower with all the technology. Somehow it just seemed more economical than all of those solar panels. Nope. The technologies are perfectly sound, but PV has moved along quickly.

It is not that one thing is good or bad, it is just the way things worked out.

It might be that N. Africa and the Mid-East, with all those hydrocarbons and all that heat, and Australia too, are perfectly set to become chemical processors, producing fuels, fertilizers, and other products for the whole world. Electricity does not need to be the only thing produced with solar power, even if PV has become cheap and easy.

/ on a barely related note, on a drive through rural Japan today, I found tens of solar arrays... EVERYWHERE. People are not getting paid much to put them up these days, but electricity rates are going up, so they are like kudzu. And on hillsides. First time I have seen that in my area. They are also being cleverly shielded by short hedges and such.
// this is what people invest in when they don't buy bitcoin or Netflix.
/// the arrays seem rather.... large.
 
2022-05-14 11:13:28 PM  
4 votes:
If I might share a fear with the wider world, here you go.

What does Russia do if it is forced into a corner to pout?

Well, it goes around the world clipping underwater information and power cables, whether trans-Atlantic, or from northern Africa to Europe.

I do not like thinking about that, but I have. Energy independence has a certain value in uncertain times.
 
2022-05-15 3:25:53 AM  
4 votes:

foo monkey: The key isn't to make solar less expensive or more accessible. It's to make fossil fuels prohibitively expensive or pay companies to not pump oil and gas.


I think it might be late enough not to bother. One of my ESL students in Saudi Arabia is an engineer for an oil company that is paying for the petroleum engineers to get new degrees in different areas of engineering, because they don't think they have much longer in the oil business. She thinks the company thinks there's 20-40 years of declining profits left. This is a problem that slowly solves itself.
 
2022-05-15 12:14:24 AM  
2 votes:
Missing an opportunity to do energy intensive industry in North Africa. Aluminum smelters, crack sea water for hydrogen to make ammonia nitrate fertilizer, perhaps a dozen other things that use natural gas for a hydrogen source, etc. They could host server farms, maybe? Yes, it's raining soup, but it's hard to move, better eat it where it rains.
 
2022-05-15 1:08:34 PM  
2 votes:
Allow me to sum up the almost 20 min video real quick:
profit margins/individual greed gets in the way of these massive  civilization infrastructure projects.

The project of just having civilization at this scale is huge and resource intensive, and some inhuman chitwhiffs would put a paywall between you and civilization.


Not everything you need to just have and maintain civilization can also turn out a profit.
Civilization cannot be bought, we either give it to ourselves or we pay to not have it, but just be kept. Like pets politely, but realistically, beasts of burden.
 
2022-05-14 10:47:29 PM  
1 vote:
Yeah. I have seen this. It is not a new idea.

It is.... indicative of some difficulties of rapidly improving technology.
 
2022-05-15 3:16:00 AM  
1 vote:
The key isn't to make solar less expensive or more accessible. It's to make fossil fuels prohibitively expensive or pay companies to not pump oil and gas.
 
2022-05-15 3:27:59 AM  
1 vote:

wildcardjack: Missing an opportunity to do energy intensive industry in North Africa. Aluminum smelters, crack sea water for hydrogen to make ammonia nitrate fertilizer, perhaps a dozen other things that use natural gas for a hydrogen source, etc. They could host server farms, maybe? Yes, it's raining soup, but it's hard to move, better eat it where it rains.


Also making more solar panels from the silica in the desert sand. And desalination + pumping water inland. The desalination step can be combined with producing hydrogen and extracting lithium from seawater.
 
2022-05-15 7:15:00 AM  
1 vote:
I don't see any of the problems it brings up as insurmountable.

The 600 or so cables don't have to be built all at once, they can be built as the solar array is built, one at a time, so it can be scaled up slowly over several decades. $88 billion is not an impossibly large investment given this time frame. It's barely a rounding error to US government spending, which just approved $1 trillion for domestic infrastructure spending. If they need money, ask Uncle Sam.

Electric power doesn't have to be transmitted over great distances. It can stored locally in batteries and transported around the world in tankers like every other energy commodity. The (former) fossil fuel shipping industry will love that.

Politics and technology are all solves: Democracy and photovoltaics, respectively.
 
2022-05-15 9:14:36 AM  
1 vote:
Video doesn't mention the UK project to do exactly this, build a solar farm in Morocco and lay a cable direct to the UK, which would provide 8% of the UKs electricity. It was announced last year, and a couple of days ago UK energy supplier Octopus did a deal with them, so it looks like it's going forward. Octopus Energy backs 3.6GW Morocco-UK renewables cable - reNews - Renewable Energy News
 
2022-05-15 10:41:26 AM  
1 vote:

foo monkey: The key isn't to make solar less expensive or more accessible. It's to make fossil fuels prohibitively expensive or pay companies to not pump oil and gas.


So instead of improving the desirable tech you want to sabotage existing tech? Wouldn't the carrot be a better way to go in the long run?
 
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