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(TreeHugger)   In the USA, there are now more workers in solar power than coal miners   ( treehugger.com) divider line
    More: Spiffy, USA, solar energy, workers  
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3757 clicks; posted to Main » on 23 Apr 2013 at 11:11 PM (5 years ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»

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2013-04-24 01:01:30 AM  
5 votes:
I enjoy coming home each night to my comfy house, and plugging in my electric car:
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After I plug in, I check the output on the rooftop solar panels for the day - this evening it was 23 kWh. I'll always double check the voltage of the house battery bank, which are always topped off. Sometimes I'll pop out and see how much the net-meter spun backwards . . . it worked today to have an excess of 15 kwh. Figuring that my car gets 4 miles to the kWh, and I drive 25 miles, the car will take about 7 kWh to fully recharge. That leaves me with ~8 kWh of excess electricity before morning. With a highly efficient, all electric house, that won't be a problem.

Today will be a fully net-solar powered day. I don't buy any gasoline, and I send back excess power during peak loading times for the grid. Power outages are a thing of the past for me. If I wanted to, I could live without the utility. I'm no longer beholden to a corporation to live a comfortable and modern lifestyle.

I can't wait for the day when I can tie my electric car into my current inverter & battery arrangement. With the LEAF as a 24 kWh back-up battery, backing up my house batteries, it could run my home for about 3 days before I would need to fire up the generator for a few hours to recharge everything.

I enjoy coming home to a fully powered home each night, even during power outages. I never worry about the food going bad in my fridge and freezers during an outage. And my garage door always works.

/solar power rocks
2013-04-23 11:14:33 PM  
5 votes:
Now compare the amount of energy the two produce.
2013-04-23 11:20:21 PM  
4 votes:
As soon as the solar power subsidies expire, it will go back to being more coal miners.
2013-04-23 11:27:13 PM  
3 votes:
You guys do realize, however, that this data comes from an organization who's job it is to promote how awesome solar power is and how good it is for the world?

Not saying it isnt true, but I have learned in life that if an organization exists to say good things, they are going to say good things, whether they are true or not.
2013-04-23 11:19:15 PM  
3 votes:
I'll stand up and cheer about such stats when my utility bills start trending in a downward direction instead of their current upward climb...
2013-04-23 07:58:37 PM  
3 votes:

bdub77: Further proof that Obama is destroying this country. What happens when the sun runs out of energy, Obama? HUH? WHAT HAPPENS THEN?

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2013-04-24 12:30:04 AM  
2 votes:

Rambino: A nuclear power plant "lasts" exactly one minute after the workers depart.  They cannot (or at least should not and do not) operate without human oversight 24/7.  A basic PV system is completely fire-and-forget.

As someone who works in nuclear power...
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Run that by me again?
The workers don't leave their posts. Nuclear plants work on rotating shifts. The plants are always manned, 24/7/365. Hell, the control rooms will maintain the plant without human interaction if they could. A lot of the "auto" systems are left "off" so the operators HAVE to interact and know what the hell is going on without the systems caring for itself.
Either way it's a lot longer than "one minute". What you're talking about is "time to boil", usually for coolant water in the fuel pool (or open primary system during a refuel but that's another thing). Time to boil is greatly dependent on when the last refuel is, blah blah blah. It's usually a farkton long time actually, in the number of weeks, as automated systems will run as long as there's some kind of power.
Or are you saying, like, zombie apocalypse..? In which case why are we having this conversation?

Yes, the inverters tend to blow after a decade. So I amend my statement to note that you have to make a trip to the inverter store once a decade. Otherwise, they generally keep on plugging a whole lot longer than 30 years.  Most importantly, the expensive part (the solar panels) have the longest life.  The stuff that wears out is easy to replace.

Birdshiat? Dirt?  Who cares. Yes, your production goes down, but it Will.Not.Stop.

Hail and storms?  Solar panels are a lot more weather-resistant t ...

Oh, and they're poisonous. Let's not forget. They're toxic, they degrade to poisons, and they can't support base load. Good for reducing peak load, though.

/a running steam turbine driven generator is 1000 MWe easy
2013-04-24 02:48:31 PM  
1 vote:

maxheck: I eagerly await your proof that MrSteve007 faked all his photographs and demonstrated expertise, that Ringshadow doesn't work as a nuke safety geekette, and that Hollie Maea doesn't work for a PV producer. Jim_Callahan also seems to know his stuff regarding this topic.

Naaa, that's no fun. I rather enjoy the idea that I'm some sort of bot, or astroturfer - as part of some ultimate ploy to lure unsuspecting internet viewers into believing that solar power works, by quickly Googling things.

That's been my nefarious plan all along, since I created my fark account 10+ years ago.

Nevermind my obviously photoshopped experience in custom PV fabrication and installation:
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My adtroturf photoshopping skills are nearly unmatched!
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Indeed, zero experience.
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I obviously don't know what I'm doing.
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Those national awards I won last year in New York, from the US Green Building Council for my efforts in green building design? All falsified & photoshopped!
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sphotos-b.xx.fbcdn.netView Full Size

And don't even get me started on the faked national small business EPA award I got a couple years ago, which included one of the first building integrated server waste heat recyclers (a design I came up with).

You have no idea just how deep the rabbit hole goes.

Now excuse me while I get to work on my next project to be falsified, an eco-tourist beachfront resort on the Caribbean Island of Roatan. Which shoehorns nicely with my recently renovated, but falsified, low impact beachfront resort in Maui - most recently featured in Feb's Sunset Magazine as one of the nation's top weekend getaway spots.

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/but what do I know?
2013-04-24 03:59:33 AM  
1 vote:

2013-04-24 02:53:24 AM  
1 vote:

Rent Party: Just out of curiosity*, and outside the cost of the car, what were your total install costs for that system? And how big is your house, and where do you live?

/ Genuinely curious.

The upfront cost of the system was $26,000. That included 3.8kw of array, grid-tie inverter w/ battery backup, new breaker panel and sub panel, and a gas generator tie. Permits and installation included. All of the components used are locally sourced, so that raised the cost considerably, along with the fairly involved install with several forms of backup power.

Had I gone with a plain-Jane grid tie with out of state or foreign panels, the cost would have been about half.

It is a 1,000 Sq.ft. all-electric house w/ a 480 Sq.ft shop, near Tacoma WA.

I got 30% of that back on my taxes, so the IRS cut me a check for ~$8,000 last month. The Washington State production incentive pays me for my output, cutting a check every August for ~$2,400, through the year 2020. Plus I save a couple hundred a year in utilities. Compared to driving my 20mpg truck, I save a couple grand on gasoline too.

My basic ROI is about 6.5 years. Every day after that is just pure sweet, sweet profit.
2013-04-24 02:07:09 AM  
1 vote:
Nuclear vs Solar:

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2013-04-24 02:02:49 AM  
1 vote:

Summercat: Hi Ringy :3

I still want to print your comic. I even know a guy who does damn fine work, and he might give ya a discount on it n.n

Come at me bro! I'm considering redoing the whole thing this summer, regimenting the panels and text lines, refining the phrasing, and adding a section about radiation vs contamination. I'm considering going to Kickstarter or something over it, actually.

I'm glad you have the technical background to label what an "extreme case" is. Solar makes no sense at any scale, now and into the foreseeable future. Physically, you have separated energy collection to an immensely low density. This will not change. The physical plant for solar will always be physically large and distributed. This means expensive. Until you can grow a crop of solar cells using agriculture tools (hmm..sounds like biofuels. how well does that work?), you will simply not be able to competitively generate power. Panel prices are falling because the governments of the world (US and China) hand out massive subsidies and because there is a huge manufacturing capacity excess. For the money wasted on solar, we could build several nuclear plants per year (2/year in US alone).

Vogtle 3 and 4 say hi thar!

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Once Vogtle 3 and 4 close breakers (probably less than five years) you'll likely see a wave of reactors starting construction, same design.

/the hangup with STP is STP's design is not approved, AFAIK
//STP is an ABWR, Vogtle is AP1000 (and approved by the NRC)
2013-04-24 02:01:41 AM  
1 vote:
And which one of them is doing work that supplies a significant portion of Americas energy needs?
2013-04-24 01:57:38 AM  
1 vote:

Rambino: catpuncher: Now compare the amount of energy the two produce.

And then compare how much a cat poops to how far you can ride a unicorn fart.

Your meaningless comparison is meaningless.

You mean the actual good produced is meaningless?  Not a surprising statement from somebody in the solar industry, actually.  Barring a technological breakthrough, solar power is still just a highly publicized pipe dream being foisted upon a largely unaware public.  But hey, subsidized jobs!  Woo hoo solar power!
2013-04-24 01:54:09 AM  
1 vote:
Treehugger also had an article recently showing that ALL (net?) new capacity added in the last year was solar power.

I'm not sure how that was calculated but you'd expect there to be a big leap as solar power and other energy sources start to climb the s-shaped curve that coal, then oil and finally natural gas have climbed before them. We have reached the end of the beginning and are now at the stage where the curve will turn sharply upwards.

About time. But each new energy source moves more swiftly (as R&D and scaling-up times shrink rapidly). The USA was still burning mostly wood in 1848 (the UK, Belgium, bits of France and Germany wer already well into the Industrial Revolution but the US and the British lion cubs were just waking up). Kerosene was invented in 1846 by Dr. Abraham Gesner in the small coal fields of Albert Co., New Brunswick, Canada. It is still used as a fuel in jets and rockets. Gesner went on to work as a geologist in the oil fields of Pennsylvania, the leading US producer of oil at the time.

For large-scale power production, big mirrors are still more important than small solar panels.

I'm guessing that the Pennsylvania is big in production because Pittsburg and Philadelphia have re-tooled as post-modern post-coal and iron manufacturing centers, while the U of Penn is probably a center of R&D.

It's PPPs. No, not Public Private Partnerships. Well, yes, it's that, too. But Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Penn State are probably the places to look for your answer.
2013-04-24 01:20:12 AM  
1 vote:
This thread is proof that most "Conservatives" have no idea what the root word of their ideology means.  Why we have to take them seriously is beyond me.
2013-04-24 01:11:17 AM  
1 vote:
I don't pay to dry my clothes either. suck that, mid-american energy!
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2013-04-24 12:42:38 AM  
1 vote:

Hollie Maea: Martian_Astronomer: Hollie Maea: I should clarify that the actual manufacture of silicon cells does contain plenty of nasty acids.  But the nice thing about acid is that after you use them they aren't nasty any more.

If you like having bones, respect the HF.

Yeah that's the scariest stuff we have (well there is some silane gas I would prefer not to light on fire). The floor is covered with calcium gluconate stations.  But we have not had any HF incidents in the years I have been there.  We are pretty careful with that stuff.

In addition to the economic issues inherent in a small startup, another one of the reasons I got out of the particular niche I was in was the fact that I had to work on R&D equipment with Silane, Germane, Arsine, and Phosphine, and I was reluctant to accept the drop in life expectancy inherent in working with those materials on a long timescale. Whenever the fire department came to our lab, I was one of the people who had to put on the air tanks to go in and tell the firemen it was safe to come inside, and I also didn't particularly like working with phosphorous-heavy residue that caught on fire on a weekly basis and spewed arsenic-laced smoke into the room.

Being an EE in the semiconductor industry is both fascinating and hazardous. There are parts of me that really miss it, and parts of me that really, really don't.
2013-04-24 12:30:30 AM  
1 vote:
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2013-04-24 12:26:27 AM  
1 vote:

maxheck: Rambino:

Incontinent_dog_and_monkey_rodeo: The thing about nuclear vs solar is that nuclear takes 8 years to build, even after you get all the permitting taken care of. That's a huge investment of capital for a damn long time before you see a return. With solar, once the permits are in place you're generating electricity within 3 months, very little time to tie up dead money before some cash starts coming back in.

Also, you don't need a billion dollars to throw up some solar panels. Downward scalability is a pretty big deal.

That's why utilities love grid-tie systems. If enough people install them, they can avoid the stranded costs of having to build a half-billion dollar gas plant that only gets spun up during business and air-conditioning hours.

Every time I fly I look down and see huge warehouses and big-box stores and the sort of buildings with literal acres of flat roofs, the sort of things that cluster around airports, and I think of how many of them could be net producers of power to the point where they pay the investment off in 5 years or so and anything after that is pure profit. It's kinda a shame that this isn't being taken advantage of.

Unless the building was designed with solar in mind, it can be challenging. Nobody wants to physically attach the solar structures to the roof, potentially causing a leak, or voiding the roof warranty. Roofing companies want to be the ones to install the attachments. Now it may make more sense to re-roof the building first to get the warranty, and because it will be difficult to get to later. Some systems can be ballasted with cmu concrete cap blocks to avoid penetrations, but then may add too much weight and exceed the structural capacity. California and other areas have seismic concerns. Fire-fighter access pathways, skylight, etc.. The solar capacity of a given roof decreases rapidly, reducing the value of the investment.
2013-04-24 12:00:43 AM  
1 vote:

Allow me to highlight one key difference between solar energy and oil/gas/coal/nuclear:

When we stop tending to the mines/pipes/boilers/CTs, what happens?  The energy stops flowing, and the lights go out.

When we stop tending to the now-installed solar panels, what happens?  The energy keeps flowing, and the lights stay on.

Every solar panel installed is semi-permanent infrastructure that we get to enjoy for decades at no additional cost or effort.  That other stuff, not so much.

If solar is a "semi-permanent infrastructure", the average nuclear plant is the most permanent damn infrastructure in existence. There's no way in hell solar infrastructure will last 30-ish years, the average age of current nuclear power plants. Existing solar doesn't last that long. Solar inverters, like all electronics and power electronics in particular, are constantly being fatigued, by light/dark cycles (1/day) and power switching cycles (thousands/second). Panels are losing a percent or two a year (the magic of compounding rates...). Coverglass is being covered in dirt and bird shiat. Hail and wind storms are taking out panels. All of these require maintenance, labor and expense.

The idea that solar infrastructure is permanent is a complete falsehood.
2013-04-23 11:52:50 PM  
1 vote:
I think we all know who to thank for having the political will, aptitude and foresight required to accomplish this feat.  Also something something Solyndra.

Actually, I don't want to be that guy in the thread, I just wanted an excuse to post this.
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2013-04-23 11:46:41 PM  
1 vote:

Martian_Astronomer: I used to work in solar R&D, so I'm getting a kick....

I still do, so so am I.  Man, conservatives sure do hate solar. The mouth breathers on the local paper forums would love nothing more than to have me living under a bridge just so they could revel in how horrible solar is.

Which is kind of strange, since solar represents one of the easiest ways for one to give "the man" the finger and still be able to have nice things.  You would think that conservatives would be all over that.  But they are so terrified that the granola eaters would say "I told you so".
2013-04-23 11:38:57 PM  
1 vote:

king_nacho: 12349876: DrPainMD: As soon as the solar power subsidies expire, it will go back to being more coal miners.

No, it will just be more natural gas.  That's what's hurting coal right now.  Nothing else.  Just natural gas.  As long as that's cheaper to get out of the ground that's what they'll be doing instead of coal.

this. Coal needs more innovation in extraction, get the price on extraction back down and then we'll have something.

Well, that and the whole pollution thing.

"Clean coal" = Unicorn farts
2013-04-23 11:32:11 PM  
1 vote:

incrdbil: Dow Jones and the Temple of Doom: Do they even mine anymore? I thought they just blew the tops of off mountains are ruined entire forest ecosystems and rural communities?

Mountain top removal is not the 'strip mining' of old. Forests are not devasttaed, and rural communities benefit, do not suffer from it.  And yes, conventional mining still occurs.

fark you it isn't.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/10/11/inez-coal-slurry-spill-to_n _7 57900.html
2013-04-23 11:28:36 PM  
1 vote:

DrPainMD: As soon as the solar power oil subsidies expire, it will go back to being more coal miners horse and buggies.

2013-04-23 11:25:26 PM  
1 vote:

DrPainMD: As soon as the solar power subsidies expire, it will go back to being more coal miners.

No, it will just be more natural gas.  That's what's hurting coal right now.  Nothing else.  Just natural gas.  As long as that's cheaper to get out of the ground that's what they'll be doing instead of coal.
2013-04-23 11:23:11 PM  
1 vote:
PS. Coal got its energy from the sun.
2013-04-23 11:21:56 PM  
1 vote:

b2theory: While I am more of a nuclear guy, this is cool.

The sun is a bit  nuclear .
2013-04-23 11:21:25 PM  
1 vote:

Lidocaine: I'll stand up and cheer about such stats when my utility bills start trending in a downward direction instead of their current upward climb...

A friend from high school came into some cash due to an inheritance and he had his house outfitted with solar panels a few years ago.

He generally gets a check from the electric company each month for about $135.  Not a bill.  A check.

Big overhead and initial investment, but afterward, you get paid by the EC.  I'll be doing it once the prices fall enough to make it a worthwhile initial investment.
2013-04-23 11:20:39 PM  
1 vote:

studs up: I was believing the math until this from tfa:

 solar workers outnumber actors in California


I think they meant WORKING actors, not the wannabes serving drinks at Starbucks
2013-04-23 11:19:20 PM  
1 vote:

studs up: I was believing the math until this from tfa:

 solar workers outnumber successful actors in California


2013-04-23 11:18:07 PM  
1 vote:
farewell to nineteenth century technology.  thanks for your time, you're no longer required.
2013-04-23 11:17:44 PM  
1 vote:
Thanks for the unjustified attacks on the coal industry, imposing ridiculous standards and economically devastating several regions.

Sure, develop soalr power, but there simply is no need to target coal mining for elimination because of moronic luddite enviro-freaks.
2013-04-23 11:17:22 PM  
1 vote:
Do they even mine anymore? I thought they just blew the tops of off mountains are ruined entire forest ecosystems and rural communities?
2013-04-23 11:14:52 PM  
1 vote:
I wonder what the KW per worker breakdown is
2013-04-23 11:14:34 PM  
1 vote:

Lsherm: Two things I don't understand about this:  Why is New Jersey installing more solar panels than anyone else

massive IBEW contracts.

/works in NJ - a solar panel on every lamp pole....
2013-04-23 10:04:39 PM  
1 vote:
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Two things I don't understand about this:  Why is New Jersey installing more solar panels than anyone else, and what is getting Pennsylvania ahead in manufacturing?

I realize these are state-by-state numbers, so we aren't dealing with a big picture.
2013-04-23 09:10:32 PM  
1 vote:
Not impressed

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2013-04-23 08:24:39 PM  
1 vote:
I imagine there are fewer cave ins also.
2013-04-23 07:52:26 PM  
1 vote:
Further proof that Obama is destroying this country. What happens when the sun runs out of energy, Obama? HUH? WHAT HAPPENS THEN?
2013-04-23 07:50:10 PM  
1 vote:
Whar green jobs Obama?  Whar?  Oh there?  Ok.
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