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What's the best (or worst) form of renewable energy?

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

Featured Debate 32


We've talked about biodiesel and nuclear...but of all renewable energy technologies up against each other (biofuels, wind, hydro, solar, nuclear, etc), which one wins?



(And just because there's an image of wind v. nuclear, you're not limited to those two...I just got lazy looking for other images)

Edited by stins - Tue, 02 Sep 2008 17:54:20 GMT
post #2 of 15

Well nuclear isn't renewable, so I'm going to leave it out!


Personally I like solar thermal power because since it stores energy as heat, it can be used for baseload power.  Also because there's so much solar energy avaialble, especially in deserts.  For example, there's enough solar energy in a fraction of the Sahara desert to power the entire world, assuming you could transport it anywhere.  There's also enough solar power in the US southwest to power the whole country.  Plus there are already lots of plans to build huge solar thermal plants, like PG&E planning to build 500 MW in the Mohave desert.


PG&E is also building 800 MW of solar photovoltaic in California.  However, PV doesn't have the option of easy energy storage, so solar thermal wins.


Wind has the same problem - storage is very difficult, and it's not very reliable.  A good cheap source of energy though.


Geothermal is similar to solar thermal, and if you dig deep enough, it's available anywhere.  The only question is how much it costs to dig deep enough where shallower geothermal energy isn't available.


There are a few others too (i.e. wave power), but overall solar thermal is my favorite.  If we're counting nuclear, then it's probably the worst for various reasons (i.e. radioactive waste, uranium mining, potential for meltdown, etc.).

post #3 of 15

Nuclear Fusion is renewable, or at least we are highly unlikely to run out of hydrogen atoms before we kill ourselves off or the sun goes red giant, or something like that ;)


I think Solar PV will win. It's scalable, ie drop it on all the rooftops in America and we're pretty much covered (literally!). The efficiency rate for Solar PV is increasing and the cost is decreasing, soon it will hit the magic cost-effective numbers and explode across this country. We can currently use the grid as storage and very soon someone is going to invent a much better battery (for the automotive industry) to overcome the storage issue.

post #4 of 15
Originally Posted by mattress:

Nuclear Fusion is renewable


It's also non-existant (on Earth)!

post #5 of 15

Nuclear fusion is kinda the holy-grail of nuclear - just have not figured it out yet... so as far as waste issues, is currently an unknown.  Nuclear fission - is what we have today.  Messy, concern for a failure or terrorist attack, etc.  So if we are counting it at least as alternative energy - even tho it is mainstream - it is my least favorite (worst).


My fav is wind - if you have enough turbines, like a series of turbine farms from Texas to Montana - linked to the grid, the reliability becomes far less of an issue as the wind will be blowing along that corridor all the time in several places.  Solar thermal has great potential - with some sort of medium to store the heat energy, like molten sodium, to run 24/7.


I also think that rooftop solar (PV) for commercial and residential sites is key to stabilize the grid as it does it's best in the peak usage hours of the day.  It helps consumer costs, and helps avoid the need for peaker plants.   ...everything counts!


Tidal needs more time to get the technology right - it holds much promise as well as should be 24/7 power.


Geothermal is great, but seems to be more area limited due to cost if you need to go real deep.  I would think Hawaii would be all over geothermal...

post #6 of 15

I would have to agree with SoCal that I'm optimistic about the potential of solar thermal as well because it isn't relying on the photo-voltaic conversion and therefore isn't dependent on massive numbers of panels made up of expensive, non-renewable, hard to acquire materials (though I do love PV too.)


I'll find a more appropriate thread, but I have some questions about Geothermal. I'll do some research....



post #7 of 15

I'd agree with solar.


Imagine the potential when we move beyond solar "panels". Solar paint shouldn't be too far away....

post #8 of 15
Originally Posted by SoCalSolar:

I also think that rooftop solar (PV) for commercial and residential sites is key to stabilize the grid as it does it's best in the peak usage hours of the day.

Since I drive an electric vehicle I am always interested in recharging batteries.  An article was pointed out concerning (lack of) safety of solar panel construction.  I did not consider that article until I thought more about it later.  Pretty disturbing, thinking about sending old computers and electronics over to China and relying on China for solar panels (what the article was about).  I was thinking of recharging my 4 12 Volt batteries using solar panels for many years, but after a day or 2 of that article, I am confused about this energy use.  I tried to find that writing but could not find it: an overlooked very different way of looking at re-charging!

post #9 of 15
I too drive an electric vehicle (in my case an electric/human hybrid trike) and my wife drives our converted electric Porsche. We charge mainly from solar panels accumulated over many years. We bought panels from a manufacturer that we trusted for quality, lack of oil industry ties, and environmental respect. But I'm sure as demand for PV increases we'll see vastly more panels made in countries where both people and their environment are considered disposable. Any solid resources out there that could help new buyers of renewables would go a long way to making something potentially green a lot less brown in the long run. Links anyone?
post #10 of 15

Solar (both photovoltaic and Solar thermal)!  But the biggest renewable energy is still hydro. The one feature that I enjoy about solar photovoltaic is there are no moving parts to break or wear out. Also with solar pv system it is the only off-grid solution that is affordable. You can start out small and add later as your energy needs increase. Lets face it electric cars are in our future. The worst renewable energy is 10,000 times better than fuel or coal.

post #11 of 15
depends on what you have; geothermal or hydro are my favourites, as both can be used as baseload, and even better as backup to intermittent powerful sources like wind and solar.

ideal for short term; supergrid connecting large hydro and tidal barrage storage with multiple intermittent wind, wave and solar. ultimately, solar with huge chemical battery backup, e.g. molten salts and flow batteries. nothing is as simple as 'best and worst'.
post #12 of 15
Nuclear is by no means a form of Renewable Energy. Solar PV is really affordable for home and office use. Solar thermal uses huge amounts of land to generate heat to make steam or run a thermal motor. Geothermal is great for special areas of the world. Wind is also great because of locations. Solar thermal hot water heaters reduce a home or business's electric bills but more important it adds sustainability to a home or office. Biofuels are just a band-aid to our fuel problems. Now for transportation needs. Solar PV seems to be the right answer to this problem. Electric cars should be DC. Solar panels and batteries are DC. I guess Thomas Edison was right. AC is good for fixed locations and DC is good for our transportation needs. Mr. Edison once said " I'd put my money on the sun. What a source of power! I hope we do not tackel that before oil and coal run out."  He said that over 70 years ago. Now we are not running out oil or coal. What we are running out of is clean air, water and good usable land. Albert Einstine once said " You can not fix a problem by thinking the same way that created the problem." I feel we should go 100% renewable energy. Forget feeding the grid. Think of being energy independent and sustainable. The grid is really a outside source of electric power. We can do this on our roofs. Who needs power poles and wires? There are over 40 million homes here in the United States. If all those homes were independent of the grid using solar PV. The United State's people pay over $1.2 trillion dollars a month for electric power total. Kill that bill! We have the tools to do it with. The money is available (maybe???). I look at this problem from the problems of the past. The industrial war is over. Rnewable Energy won a long time ago. It is just like cell phones. Make it affordable and the land line phones will vanish over time. Does anyone besides me remember when we only had 5 digit phone numbers? It will take time but I feel that renewable energy will be just like cell phones one day. Every home will be powered by solar pv and the electric utility companies will be the back-up or stand by power. It is not against any laws that I know to reduce our electric bills. For the last two years Americans have reduced our gas driving miles and reduced our pump purchases by 8%. The reason was simple. Gas cost too much back then. The best part is we are importing 8% less crude and the prices have dropped because our reserve fuel is at a all time high. Well I don't know how to tell anyone this one fact. Electric Power is really free. All we have to do is generate it ourselves.  
post #13 of 15
Hi Jim, The only problem with it is that you in effect have to prepay your electric bill for the next 10 to 20 years. The only advantage there is that you 'fix' your rate. You do the same but with more flexibility when you use the 'grid tie type of system.

In the event you go for 'grid independent' you spend considerably more and have the ongoing expense of batteries and disposal concerns as well. You also have to reduce your load far more than most people are interested in doing. 

Electric cars are great. Solar on cars I consider a bad joke. Too small an area plus parking problems - can't have any shade or it is totally out. With batteries (no grid tie), in poor weather conditions how do you supply your home or car with power?

Gas where I live costs about 7 USD per gallon and the roads are still full of cars - of course there is a better public transportation system due to the expense of driving.

To supply power for the electric transportation will require large amounts of new generation capacity to be built. The nuclear plants will become far more popular in the next 20 years I expect. 
post #14 of 15

Common sense is soooo refreshing. Perhaps we could import some from Turkey!

Russ hits it on the head: "You also have to reduce your load far more than most people are interested in doing."


I followed this site for some time and find the group hug thing unpersuasive. Practical, competitive, entrepreneurial science, gave us all the leisure to speculate what we should all do with our respective (if limited) resources.

Open minds will follow reasonable solutions that will alleviate some of the pain people are feeling now. Ignoring practical solutions is not productive.

Truly GREEN solutions are start with efficiency. Productive -dare I say profitable- enterprise, wisely using human labor, natural and man-made resources. Everything that suppresses the human spirit (such as mandating compliance to arbitrary energy policy) is counter-productive in every way.


post #15 of 15
Hi parkerized, Thanks for the note!

I am a transplant, born in Seattle and grew up in Oregon on a farm so I hope nobody blames the Turks for my opinions as many aren't too popular with the greener groups.

Turks are a wonderful people and I enjoy the place - hate to be a cause for people to throw stones at them. 

On I just saw their five favorite 'green' gadgets. Not one is useful in my eyes and not one was in the least bit practical. Another I just saw was a full plastic enclosure for a bicycle as rain protection - wow! - I would hate to have to pedal the thing plus the wind load would make it terribly unsafe.

I love the 'idea of the week' thing that is quite popular - somebody comes up with a harebrained scheme and many people go. "Oh! Ah! How wonderful - it will save us!", and then get irritated when someone points out the impracticality or impossibility. Then someone writes, "Don't be negative!" or makes some 'cave' comment.

There are many workable solutions and your last paragraph is very correct:

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
"Truly GREEN solutions are start with efficiency. Productive -dare I say profitable- enterprise, wisely using human labor, natural and man-made resources. Everything that suppresses the human spirit (such as mandating compliance to arbitrary energy policy) is counter-productive in every way.
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