Welcome to the new version of European Tribune. It's just a new layout, so everything should work as before - please report bugs here.

Solar power from the Sahara?

by whataboutbob Wed Jul 22nd, 2009 at 05:52:54 AM EST

A few years back here on ET, someone wrote a diary about how we could power Europe through solar collection in the Sahara (who are you out there??). I thought it was a great and smart idea at the time.  Well a few days ago the Financial Times posted an article about how this idea is now being officially developed:

FT: Solar power plants planned for the Sahara

Around a dozen companies are set to launch a renewable energy initiative on Monday that its backers claim could within a decade provide Europeans with electricity generated from the Sahara - at a cost of €400bn ($557bn). Munich Re, the German insurer, Deutsche Bank, utilities RWE and Eon and industrial conglomerate Siemens are among the bluechip names that will form a company to explore the technical and geopolitical challenges of peppering the deserts of North Africa and the Middle East with solar mirrors.

By joining together hundreds of solar thermal power plants and wind farms with high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission cables under the Mediterranean sea, the founders of the Desertec Industrial Initiative hope one day to supply 15 per cent of Europe's electricity needs.

Concentrating solar power plants use the sun's heat to generate electricity. Hundreds of mirrors focus the sun's rays on to a receiver containing a heat transfer fluid, such as oil. This heat energy is used to produce steam which drives a turbine, much like in a traditional power station. Unlike photovoltaic solar cells, CSP plants are able to generate electricity at night or on cloudy days, by storing the heat they produce.

And today comes the news, from WSJ:

Group of 12 European companies agreed to push forward on a solar-power project intended to feed electricity to Europe from the Sahara.

You heard it here at ET First (I'll try and track down that prescient diary...)

Update: Our original writer about Desertec stepped forward - the article was World Energy 2.0 by Melo written on June 25th, 2007. (h/t to Melo!!)

diary rescue


Display:
I think this is great news - I just want the African continent to benefit from this (power and funding). I have long felt that this is something African countries could develop for their own benefit...

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Tue Jul 14th, 2009 at 03:52:15 AM EST
here ya go bob http://www.eurotrib.com/story/2007/6/24/151536/591

nice to see another go-round!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Jul 14th, 2009 at 04:40:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Melo!! Great - thank you! Yes, your diary was ahead of its time - now if these companies will only fund it!

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Tue Jul 14th, 2009 at 06:22:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If the countries in which they install these plants get electricity, too, that's a benefit -- though, it would still be an assymetric dependence on the installing companies.

I would prefer if both in the EU and North Africa, the primary aim would be local supply, and the EU would provide (significant) development aid for the North Africans (and not just them).

I repeat my reasons for my distaste for Big Solar: it provides a means for keeping control of the market to the existing big energy producers, it does away with the supply stability benefits of distributed power, and the connected rhetoric falsely implies that the EU would not have the renewables capacity to fully supply itself.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Jul 14th, 2009 at 06:58:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I should add that in Germany, the most stable big market (should be the biggest again this year after the collapse of the Spanish market), the majority of installed capacity is on rooftops, what's more, 30% is on private home rooftops (the largest segment, ahead of industry and agriculture).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Jul 14th, 2009 at 09:31:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
PV is different from CSP, though, in that it can't deliver loads overnight as easily. In the long term we can get either a mixture of local and distant power, or batteries in every appliance.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Tue Jul 14th, 2009 at 12:42:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Or rely on a combination with local (well, regional) wind and hydro (and geothermal).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Jul 14th, 2009 at 01:35:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You'd need more backup than that. Though you can add local multi-fuel cogeneration plants.

Batteries in every appliance isn't necessarily a joke! When you follow the logic that decentral is always better, it should be obvious that storage in the appliance itself is optimal. Battery storage is the most efficient energy storage, and it doesn't scale up very well.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Tue Jul 14th, 2009 at 02:11:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Demand management in every appliance is more 21st century ... after all, silicon has tended to get cheaper relative to iron over time, so demand management in every appliance will get cheaper faster than batteries in every appliance.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Tue Jul 14th, 2009 at 09:34:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The colonial impulse is invidious and relentless.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Tue Jul 14th, 2009 at 09:50:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
invidious - definition of invidious by the Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia.
in·vid·i·ous  (n-vd-s)adj.1. Tending to rouse ill will, animosity, or resentment: invidious accusations.2. Containing or implying a slight; discriminatory: invidious distinctions.3. Envious.

Heh, exactly.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Jul 14th, 2009 at 10:39:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I repeat my reasons for my distaste for Big Solar: it provides a means for keeping control of the market to the existing big energy producers, it does away with the supply stability benefits of distributed power, and the connected rhetoric falsely implies that the EU would not have the renewables capacity to fully supply itself.

The question is: why would something along the lines of Desertec need to be operated by existing big energy producers? In principle it should be possible to set up a market of retail plants, or to go further, even a set of cooperatively owned facilities financed with something like Chris Cook's special energy currency. CSP is not rocket science, it's far less complex than nuclear or CCPP, all we'd need is the infrastructure and a set of incentives.

There are a few likely answers, like the EU's bias towards corporatism, the practical difficulties of doing business in North Africa, and the unwillingness of parties to set up an intergovernmental grid operator.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Tue Jul 14th, 2009 at 12:38:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
why would something along the lines of Desertec need to be operated by existing big energy producers?

That is kind of the wrong question: it is pursued by the existing big producers. Even if you have new producers tagging along, building their own CSP plants next to RWE's and E.on's, that isn't likely to change the power situation. You'd have to first keep them away for an option not giving power to the existing big producers.

all we'd need is the infrastructure

Do you mean, an infrastructure not funded by the installers of CSP plants (but the EU/ that intergovernmental grid operator)? That way, it may work; even if the money may be better spent on off-shore grids or mine shaft pumbing stations. But, if the plant builders have to give the bulk of funding, then you'll need lots of CSP plants to justify the investment, and that shall be difficult with new entrants with limited capital.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Jul 14th, 2009 at 01:46:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Do you mean, an infrastructure not funded by the installers of CSP plants (but the EU/ that intergovernmental grid operator)? That way, it may work; even if the money may be better spent on off-shore grids or mine shaft pumbing stations. But, if the plant builders have to give the bulk of funding, then you'll need lots of CSP plants to justify the investment, and that shall be difficult with new entrants with limited capital.

Exactly. So far the DII is putting in 1.8 million. That's just enough to cover overhead for a year, or so. Maybe they plan to put in a lot more, but we'll have to see about that. AFAICS they expect an initial 1 billion from the EU for the HVDC lines.

We might get the perfect PPP project! The government pays, the industry gets control plus profits. A few politicians are parachuted into the board of directors, and everyone is happy.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Tue Jul 14th, 2009 at 01:56:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Member companies will contribute about €1.8 million ($2.5 million) in the first year, Mr. Jeworrek said. If the plan goes forward, the group will look for more members and a bigger financing base, he said.

Hence a pure PR-project. By right it should be financed with the same budget as the one they use to put their logos alongside trees and fluffy clouds in Newsweek.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Tue Jul 14th, 2009 at 05:37:30 AM EST
Right-o. That is for the development of a plan. However - If I was a development researcher, I'd be happy with this start-up cash. But yes, lets hope its more than fluffy PR...

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Tue Jul 14th, 2009 at 06:24:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Here's another article, pointed ut to me by Nanne, written by A. Siegel:

http://www.eurotrib.com/story/2007/6/10/32813/4673

Energy Cool! Big time solar around the corner?

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia

by whataboutbob on Tue Jul 14th, 2009 at 06:50:41 AM EST
From June 10th, 2007!!

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Tue Jul 14th, 2009 at 06:51:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Once the spanish thermal solar plants were up and running smoothly Sahara appeared the next logical step. The technology is the same, the input is better and transmission costs are getting cheaper.

I think the real problems will be political. Which part of Sahara? Marocco - with the ongoing occupation of West-Sahara, Libya - Khadaffi might love it, but would our US-centrics politicians?, Algeria - some problems there too.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Tue Jul 14th, 2009 at 07:06:10 AM EST
I think the real problems will be political.

Yes, but not adverse selection of a potentate. Or AFRICOM deployments. The political problem is cumulative country risks, i.e. continuous fixed-line infrastructure surveillance and security costs, including but not limited to militarized FTE patrols and P&E stocks distribution across a vast, feral territory. MNCs will not assume the financial obligations. Finance 101. So. Who will pay?

Persisting, historical market failure of wireless and ICT capital investment is instructive.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Tue Jul 14th, 2009 at 09:46:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Centralized solar power (CSP) was first proposed in the 70's, including plans for developing vast areas of the North African deserts.  It will be some time before real cost numbers derived from the existing pilot and few commercial plants already in operation around the globe are known. But the bottom line is not how much the project costs, it's the life-cycle cost-of-energy, say per MwH.

Further, and far more importantly, DoDo's analysis is spot-on.

CSP is a way of retaining corporate control of the sun, period.  if we had embarked on the R&D necessary for decentralized, distributed technologies such as rooftop PV back during the first two oil shocks, by now we would already have brought the costs down to approximately where windpower is today, perhaps lower.

which would have eliminated the demand for such grand schemes.  My personal favorite along these lines was orbiting space solar collectors, beaming power to earth by microwave.  

Munich RE just doesn't want to admit that allowing windpower in Bavaria might actually be much cheaper, and certainly far more quickly attainable.   They also know that radical change of building codes, including the use of passive solar, is also far cheaper.

But that stuff you can't control.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anas Nin

by Crazy Horse on Tue Jul 14th, 2009 at 08:54:16 AM EST
absolutely

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Tue Jul 14th, 2009 at 09:52:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I understand your logic...one part I don't get is your comment about Munich RE. What does a re-insurance company have to do with 'allowing windpower in Bavaria'? Is that they are tied into big projects and don't make much if smaller projects are allowed?

Never underestimate their intelligence, always underestimate their knowledge.

Frank Delaney ~ Ireland

by siegestate (siegestate or beyondwarispeace.com) on Wed Jul 15th, 2009 at 10:39:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm curious about that, too. The blocker is the Bavarian government (and local authorities), I haven't heard that Münchener Rück had a role in this.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Jul 15th, 2009 at 12:02:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
For certain Munich RE does not control Bavarian politics, but as one of the two big re-insurers in the world, it is assumed that not much important stuff happens without their tacit approval.  in fact, it is the CSU which kept windpower from happening there, thanks to the sexual affair they're having with nuclear power.

Further, i was using Bayern metaphorically (since they're ostensibly based there) for the whole world of distributed energy.  What's weird is that in my speeches and interviews, i used to use the metaphor of Bayern as the Texas of Germany, which it is, even to the degree of having their own language.  But Texas built thousands of wind turbines.

The world's most detailed stats regarding the cost of global warming reside there.  They likely also know the failure rate of key windpower components for all manufacturers.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anas Nin

by Crazy Horse on Wed Jul 15th, 2009 at 01:42:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As a minor excuse for Bavaria, it does lead in PV installations, sky-high.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Jul 15th, 2009 at 02:56:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
for that we can thank the SPD, and CSU Bayern listening to its entrepreneurial constituency.

Aber, Freiburg über alles.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anas Nin

by Crazy Horse on Wed Jul 15th, 2009 at 03:14:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, checkin the latest results of the Solarbundesliga, they are only in third place among big cities:

Solarbundesliga

Platz Pkte   Ort Einwohner Wärme * Strom ** Land
 
  1 69   Ingolstadt 124.085         0,116         71,4         Bayern
  2 53   Ulm 116.437         0,081         59,8         Baden-Württemberg
  3 53   Freiburg 201.090         0,077         60,9         Baden-Württemberg
* Solarthermie in qm/Einwohner   ** Photovoltaik in Watt/Einwohner
   



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Jul 15th, 2009 at 03:26:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Wo woulda thunk there was a solarbundesliga. Danke.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anas Nin
by Crazy Horse on Wed Jul 15th, 2009 at 04:35:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Looking at the data more closely, Freiburg is again third if we consider PV only (second is overall fourth-placed Fürth/Bavaria). When calculating the total (not per capita) installations, Freiburg is second after Munich: 12.25 resp. 17.3 MW.

Now, 60W per capita, that's not much: enough to power a modern energy-saving light bulb for half a day. But, let's look at smaller-size settlements.

  • Mid-size cities: Leutkirch im Allgäu (Bavaria), population 22,412, is in the lead with 349.8 W/inhabitant -- that's enough to power a classic light bulb for half a day.

  • small cities: Bad Wurzach (Baden-Württenberg), pop. 14,609, has very little solar heating (hence overall 6th place), but in PV, 665.6 W/inhabitant -- that's enough to power a classic light bulb for all day.

  • overall: the Bayern lost the championship here, to Friedrich-Wilhelm-Lübke-Koog, a small village of 160 in the Northernmost Schleswig-Holstein state; largely due to record PV installations of 7,664.2 W/inhabitant -- that's enough to power a stronger hairdrier for half a day, or low-consumption personal computers for all family members all day.

(I am assuming the typical German average capacity factor of around 11% above -- though it would be more for the Bavarian and BW-ian cities and less for the Sch-H village.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Jul 16th, 2009 at 03:21:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
PV in Schleswig-Holstein is one of the examples of Germany's efforts to do it right, even if we can't be certain it makes as much sense as vastly inreased windpark penetration.

I'd bet Freiburg is near the top in capacity factor.  Thanks for the data and analysis.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anas Nin

by Crazy Horse on Thu Jul 16th, 2009 at 06:57:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Last time I was in Freiburg (wonderful city!) I remember seeing houses with their roofs covered with PV... down in the deepest and darkest parts of valleys. LOL.

I'll certainly wear the "Bau Wyhl!" t-shirt next time. ;)

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Thu Jul 16th, 2009 at 01:38:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
hum.

Are talking about power (watts) or energy (watt.hour)?

by Xavier in Paris on Thu Jul 23rd, 2009 at 01:31:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If you mean my lightbulb examples, I was talking average power - based on energy (kWh) produced: for photovoltaics in Germany, the rule-of-the-thumb is an 11% capacity factor.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Jul 23rd, 2009 at 01:42:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The thing is that I understood your post as: 349W (power) installed, so 349 - 11% ~ 310W real power production capacity or 310W. 10 hours (it's summer) 3kWh energy produced a day.  
by Xavier in Paris on Thu Jul 23rd, 2009 at 02:14:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, not minus 11%. The capacity factor is the average power per maximum power. Maximum is what you get when the Sun is at a direction perpendicular to the plane of the solar panel on the zenith, and the sky is clear.  With the Sun shining half a day on average, at changing angles, and with clouds and rain and snow, you get down to 11% in Germany. (It's obviously more in South Germany, and even more in Spain.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Jul 23rd, 2009 at 02:43:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That is: 349.8W * 11% = 38.5W, so somewhat more than half of the 60W of your average 60W lightbulb.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Jul 23rd, 2009 at 02:44:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Does it corresponds to the quantic yield of the solar cell at AM1.5? Or is it something to do only with the geographic location or angle between sun rays/solar panel?

I don't understand where the number 11% comes from.

by Xavier in Paris on Mon Jul 27th, 2009 at 01:24:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
? I think I answered just that in the other comment. When it gets AM1.5, that is the rated (maximum) power. The capacity factor is the average power as percentage of this maximum, which you get fron the day-night cycle, the seasonal cycle, weather (all three averaged over a year)and latitude at the geographic location. 11% is an average capacity factor used as rule-of-thumb in Germany.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Jul 27th, 2009 at 01:35:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
thanks, now I understand your 11%. It's 11% round the clock, all year, an average. I tought that yield would be higher to say the truth... as the quantic yield (which is something like Electrical energy extracted from cell/solar energy) is more like 15-20% for classical cells and 30-40% for spatial ones.
by Xavier in Paris on Tue Jul 28th, 2009 at 05:36:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The quantic yield has nothing to do with the capacity factor, of course.

Regarding the capacity factor, the diurnal cycle alone reduces it to around 32%. (In vacuum, the intensity of solar irradiation is proportional to the sine of the Sun's angle relative to the cell's surface. Let's assume a cell looking upwards somewhere along the Tropic of Cancer, on the day of summer solistice; then the angle is proportional to the time of day from Sunset. For the full day, that's 1/pi.) Accounting for increased air column at lower heights in the sky will cut it further, and then there is weather.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Jul 28th, 2009 at 06:19:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
well, thanks for your answer, very practical. Now, on e more question: I think Germany has one of the highest surfaces of solar panels installed in Europe: is it economiccally sound relative to, say, wind?
by Xavier in Paris on Tue Jul 28th, 2009 at 06:33:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The question is, by what measure of "economically sound"? In the German institutional framework of feed-in laws (with a much higher rate -- rate as in, cents per kWh -- for PV than wind), both are economically sound. The manufacturers of both are pressed in development by increased deflation rates, though (i.e. the feed-in rate is decreased by x percent every year).

What's interesting in the German context is the geographical difference: most of the wind installations are in the North, most of the PV in the South. This seeems rather sensible, given that the North is windy and the South is sunny; but it also has reasons in local law -- the regional (and local) governments of Bavaria and Baden-Württenberg give extra help for solar and prevent wind development with excessive zoning laws (and both would rather help their friends in the nuclear industry).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Jul 28th, 2009 at 02:02:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, the first proposals of thermal solar plants in the Sahara was at least from the 1850'ies and formulated by the french government in a period of uncertain energy supply (coal).

The first major plant was built by the brittish outside Cairo to provide the city with electricity. It ran into some political difficulties after going online in early summer of 1914.

IIRC, neither of these used the tower of power design that todays huge plants use. I think the brittish one used parabolic troughs, and lots of them. That is a design that could just as easily be used decentralised (indeed, there were some attempts at that in California in the late 19th century) as the basic component was not that big.

If looking for lost opportunities I also think the french solar panels of the late 19th cnetury looked really promising. Essentially it was panels like todays solar heating panels but the heat was used for mechanical energy instead (and as everybody should know, mechanical energy and electric energy is just a conversion away from each other).

Cheap oil ended an era of solar experiments.

In the end I am positive to these new developments in solar technology even though it is an attempt by big companies to retain control. Solar energy is decentralised in its distribution to the planet and short of building panels in space to block that it will stay that way. Developments in big thermal solar energy is very likely to benefit small thermal solar energy development as it is very similar.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Thu Jul 16th, 2009 at 07:05:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
the first proposals of thermal solar plants in the Sahara was at least from the 1850'ies and formulated by the french government

Could you bring more about this?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Jul 16th, 2009 at 07:26:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Upon checking, my memory put it in the wrong decade:

Mouchout

By August 1866, Mouchot had developed the first parabolic trough solar collector[1], which was presented to the emperor Napoleon III in Paris. Mouchot continued development and increased the scale of his solar experiments. The publication of his book on solar energy, Le Chaleur Solaire et les Applications Industrielles (1869), coincided with the unveiling of the largest solar steam engine he had yet built. This engine was displayed in Paris until the city fell under siege during the Franco-Prussian War in 1871, and was not found after the siege ended.

In September 1872, Mouchot received financial assistance from the General Council of Indre-et-Loire to install an experimental solar generator at the Tours library. He presented a paper on the generator to the Academy of Sciences on 4 October 1875, and in December of the same year he presented to the Academy a device he claimed would, in optimal sunshine, provide a steam flow of 140 liters per minute. Later the following year he sought permission from the ministry to take leave from his teaching position in order to develop an engine for the Universal Exhibition of 1878[2], and in January 1877 obtained a mission and a grant for the purchase of materials and execution of his solar engines in French Algeria, where sunlight was in abundance. The director of science missions recommended Mouchot to the Governor of Algeria, stressing the importance of his mission to France, "for science and for the glory of the University".



Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Thu Jul 16th, 2009 at 07:46:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The reason I wondered was that electricity supply began still a few decades later (1881, if Wiki is to be believed), so these could not have been "power stations" in the modern sense. I find that these were used to produce ice or supply steam for steam engines or heating. But, if they produced steam, producng electricity would have only needed the addition of a turbine and a generator.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Jul 16th, 2009 at 08:05:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In general they converted heat to mechanical energy which could be used to drive the heat-pump in a fridge, pump water, run a machine or something else. Steam was a popular choice, but some worked with other media then water and some with just expansion (not conversion) of a the heated substance (for example air or other gases).

This was in an era when power source and power use was co-located (except in the case of city gas), so yes there where no power plants (at all) in todays sense. That all came after the break-through of electricity.

The big one outside Alexandria produced electricity however (as it was finished in 1914).

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Thu Jul 16th, 2009 at 09:50:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Solar energy is decentralised in its distribution to the planet and short of building panels in space to block that it will stay that way.

However, local zoning regulations, feed-in laws and the rates in them, resp. subsidies and grid access regulations are controlled at another level. Distributed solar can be choked at the same time as Big Solar is pursued, by the same companies.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Jul 16th, 2009 at 07:30:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Correct. Decentralization does not directly follow.

Friends of mine from the late 70's wrote a book on the history of solar energy dating back to the Greeks and Romans.  A Golden Thread: 2500 Years of Solar Architecture and Technology, published 1980.

from an interview on ABC.


John Perlin: The Europeans and North Americans were working on the first seamless information highway which was the telegraph. They were cabling from continent to content for example, and they were using selenium as a testing device, and what they found was that selenium would be a great testing device when it was covered, but when sunlight reached it, its conductivity changed tremendously, and so that excited all of Europe and they began experimenting with selenium and light, and they found out in 1876 that if you shine some light on selenium, you would produce an electrical current.


"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anas Nin
by Crazy Horse on Thu Jul 16th, 2009 at 10:58:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
See discussion of Gregor Czisch, LQD: Green Grid," 14 March 2009.

Illustrated.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Tue Jul 14th, 2009 at 09:59:25 AM EST


Display:
Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]