Solar power has been sitting on the bench for decades. This sideline status has given solar philosophers ample time to cook up visionary plans for large-scale solar projects. Archetypical examples include the Club of Rome’s DESERTEC scheme, the Zweibel-Fthenakis Solar Grand Plan and the Jacobson-Delucchi Wind, Water and Sun program. These Grand Plans have several generic features in common.
1. Build a Mega Solar Array (MSA) in the desert. There are two general analogies that accompany this first feature of the plan: the Area Analogy that shows how much land is needed to power the planet and the Time Analogy that shows how so many seconds of sunshine equals all the world's oil. Sometimes you'll get a 'look at all these numbers' show - there are some real productions out there. The math-lite version is: The Sun powers the Earth and can power Us too.
the Geek love is a strange love
odd hobbies so too
offset are the dreamings
that suffer such fools
hark... what goes there behind yonder shrub? Me!, came a piping reply... Who's Me?, I'm Me... So you're Me... Yep. Come forth... What do you have to say for yourself, Me?
the fool who finds happy
is not a fool at all
so suffer him his foibles
be kind, rewind, freeball
I want to see a commercial with a bunch of cats sitting around drinking beer and talking about football with Texan accents. Throw in a yeehaw or two or three and you'd really have something. Now that's what I'd call entertainment.
A boring ready region upon anything we did exposing every weakness how the kid did bye the kid (laughter)
Out in the middle of nowhere they were home at night with friends, psychopathic wads would flash down with a inches of their lives
wicked whoa stuff there...
2. Build a Big Transmission Web (BTW) connecting renewable resources to several parts of the country. The song says... High voltage! DONE! DIRT! CHEAP! If only that were true.
Did you know PG&E signed a power purchase agreement for space solar power? That's funny... Not as funny as Hippo Eats Dwarf but still funny. The fact that PG&E signed a space power deal tells me they have no ability to discriminate between good, bad and ugly.
3. Build a Super Storage System (SSS) to handle intermittency. This component of the Grand Plan is generally accompanied by a list of storage options with their hypothetical costs and potentials. What's most important here is that the storage components covers the third leg of the 'money is no object' hat-trick. The acronym for this portion of the Grand Plan was made as if to - SSS - sear closed the wounds this plan would inflict upon us. Truth is, no healing is possible here.
Slick advertising is an integral part of all Grand Plans. Promotional teams work in packs, sampling shiny pictures and slinging slogans. Common highlights include precariously rising populations, energy security and saving the environment. The Manhattan Project, Apollo Program and the Interstate Highway system are often mentioned to inspire our collective have-done-can-do-again attitude. The propaganda is palpable throughout.
The grand plan philosophy with its far off futurescapes is the stuff of fantasy. This castles in the sky mindset is fundamentally flawed. We need to pick our present path with seriousness and keen attention to detail.
Where light steps ought tread the fool looks afar...
Integrating Photoelectricity Gracefully
Solar power needs to play directly to its near-term strengths. Here are some generic guidelines.
1. The economic advantage to end-users needs to be the focal point of all solar promotion. The mantra goes: The choice to go solar is an investment choice.
2. Promotional policies should move away from directly incentivizing installation as steadily as possible. This will accelerate the overall adoption of solar power by placing pricing pressure on manufacturers and installers.
My guess is that Germany can squeeze another Euro per Watt from residential photoelectric system costs over the next 2 years. That would get costs down to ~2.25 Euro per Watt installed.
3. Solar should be deployed such that the need for additional transmission infrastructure is minimized or avoided – end-user rooftop solar is the ideal.
4. Local balancing authorities need to calculate maximum capacity levels for solar on the grid. The levels should be figured so that reaching them will not incur significant network integration costs or require special storage capacity. Addressing the integration costs with an engineering study is the only way to answer the question completely but, in general, it looks like 10% of the grid can go solar without issue.
Photoelectric power needs to be branded. It needs an abfab adman to cast it as a benevolent character with a simple one-two punch message. 1. It works good lasts a long time 2. It delivers a return on investment. Imagine a cartoon showing a smiling Sun shining down on a solar home. The dad explains to his son how the panels work and you see a corny animation of electrons going from the solar panels down to an outlet. The dad flips a switch and smiles. Bam! Sunlight to lamplight. Then he points at the outlet again and says, son, power isn't the only thing coming from the outlet. What else does dad? Cash son... Another corny animation shows a thought bubble with cash signs spitting out of the outlet and into a piggy bank. The jingle would follow, (Bada Bada ba baa-bump!) Saving money with Sunshine!
The goal of these guidelines is simple: For solar to be a broadly cost-effective supplement to the grid around the world. Call this a Stage 1 goal. Too far to fathom go farther goals than this.