Solar vs. Fossil Fuel; how long until solar renders Fossil Fuels obsolete?
When will battery and solar technologies be able to compete with conventional energies?
- “Solar will account for over 40 percent of new electricity generating capacity in the U.S. [in 2015]… More than 250,000 solar projects will be completed this year” (Kann, 2015).
- Battery technology is set to get cheaper (Hiatt, 2015).
- Home solar can stabilize the grid (Fairly, Feb).
- Hemp based graphene super-capacitors promise to reduce battery costs (Hiatt, 2015).
- Despite this, Big oil seems to want to burn it all (COHAN, 2014),
The price of oil is subject to dramatic variations historically and recently, as anybody who has paid any attention to world news can attest.
- Oil impacts our daily life with the cost of gasoline and other products and oil “extracted per day has increased from 66 million barrels in 1990 to around 87 million barrels in 2010” (Ahmad Ahmadian, 2013).
- Currently, oil supplies are at their “highest levels in 80 years” with crude down to under $50 a barrel (Morrison, 2015). Despite this, in the local market, gas prices have inched back up from $.96 per liter at the end of January to $1.129/L on February 27, 2015 in Victoria BC, according to Victoriagasprices.com.
- This price volatility and seeming disconnect between the world price of a barrel of oil and the local price of a liter of gas is a huge source of cognitive dissonance for consumers.
- According to NASA , atmospheric carbon was higher in 2014 that it has been for the previous 650,000 years and the scientific evidence shows that, “large changes in climate have happened very quickly, geologically-speaking: in tens of years, not in millions or even thousands” (NASA, 2015). This means that the time to act is now, but how?
This graph, based on the comparison of atmospheric samples contained in ice cores and more recent direct measurements, provides evidence that atmospheric CO2 has increased since the Industrial Revolution. (Credit: Vostok ice core data/J.R. Petit et al.; NOAA Mauna Loa CO2 record.) (NASA, 2015).
Looking for a better way, the race worldwide to lessen dependence upon fossil fuels is in full swing with solar power and battery technology developments being reported regularly as any Google search will show.
Green energy solutions include wind, tidal, geothermal, and solar, as well as energy storage solutions and power grid stabilization. This white paper will focus primarily on solar and battery storage technology as an increasingly viable solution to the challenges faced by modern society.
- Solar is feasible today, and will get more so in the future as, “the largest proportion of costs occurs during deployment rather than generation, contrary to coal and natural gas power plants. In other words, the opportunities to achieve economies of scale are greater during the solar PV manufacturing stage than at the generating site itself” (Mahdi Yaqub, 2012).
- Recent breakthroughs in solar technology promise a grid parity future sooner than later and, “[a] new type of solar cell, made from a material that is dramatically cheaper to obtain and use than silicon, could generate as much power as today’s commodity solar cells (Bullis, news, 2013).
Presented neutrally, Solar vs. Oil facts seem to lead toward Solar:
|Energy derived directly from the sun||Energy derived from fossil fuel|
|Energy source will never be exhausted in our lifetime||Energy source is finite and located in only certain locations in the earth|
|Energy must be converted into electricity or heat using solar converters such as photovoltaic cells, thermal cells, mirrors, or ovens.||Energy must be converted into electricity or heat by the use of converters that use fire to burn the oil, such as: turbines, engines, and fire|
|Energy can be used directly||Energy cannot be used directly|
|Converters are passive and once commissioned will operate for years without maintenance||Converters are active and have several moving parts. These will require extensive maintenance to operate for extended periods|
|Energy is only directly available during the periods of sunshine||Energy is available at all times as long as the fuel is available|
|Amount of energy decreases as the latitude increases||The amount of energy produced is not a function of the location at which it is being used|
|Zero pollutions is produced by the converters||Significant amount of pollution is produced by the use of fossil fuel|
|Zero health effects from the use of the solar converters||The pollutions from the use of oil may cause respiratory and other health hazards|
|Energy produced by the converters may be stored in batteries, vats and hot water tanks||No storage medium needed|
|Converters for transportation is limited as few electric vehicles are on the market||Oil is the primary fuel for transportation|
|The levelized cost of energy for solar systems is now comparable to that of oil||The levelized cost of energy for oil systems is now comparable to that of solar|
|The cost to install a solar system requires a capital expenditure||The cost to install a new oil electric plant is much larger than a solar plant but most oil plants have already been established and operational|
|Solar electric plants are the only systems that can be developed and installed on any scale, small, medium of large||Oil electric plants require extensive capital and are often only used for medium and large scale systems|
|Solar plants are the simplest to be installed and used the least amount of parts||Oil plants are often significantly complicated and requires extensive training to develop|
- Although not fully functional yet, Tesla’s home storage batteries are set to power your home in the near future and maybe allow you to sell power back to the grid (Fung, 2015).
- A material that can make solar dirt cheap, perovskites, is gaining traction:
““Between 2009 and 2012 there was only one paper. Then in the end of the summer of 2012 it all kicked off,” Snaith says. Efficiencies quickly doubled and then doubled again. And the efficiency is expected to keep growing as researchers apply techniques that have been demonstrated to improve the efficiency of other solar cells” (Bullis, News, 2013).
- Tesla has released its electric vehicle patents in an effort to jump start the industry (Solomon, 2014) and is building a gigafactory that will single handedly produce more electric vehicle battery packs by 2020 than the entire world supply in 2013, and lower vehicle battery pack wholesale price 30% by 2017 (Tesla, 2013).
Solar is the future; the future is now.
Ahmad Ahmadian, A. H. (2013, December 01). The Impact of Oil Price Fluctuations on the Automobile Industry. International Journal of Business & Economics Perspectives. Access via library:http://libsecure.camosun.bc.ca:2078/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=db1480fa-6402-4d4a-86f3-77065ccfdc5f%40sessionmgr4003&vid=3&hid=4213, p. 02.
Bullis, K. (2013, August 08). news. Retrieved from Technologyreview.com: http://www.technologyreview.com/news/517811/a-material-that-could-make-solar-power-dirt-cheap/
COHAN, W. D. (2014, December 29). BIG OIL WANTS TO BURN IT ALL. THE NATION, pp. Accessed via: http://libsecure.camosun.bc.ca:2078/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=a713838e-fea1-46a0-9ec1-391a0d22881f%40sessionmgr110&vid=4&hid=113.
Fairly, P. (Feb, 2015). How Rooftop Solar Can Stabilize The Grid. North American, http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?tp=&arnumber=7024493.
Fung, B. (2015, Febuary 12). blogs. Retrieved from washingtonpost.com: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2015/02/12/this-new-tesla-battery-will-power-your-home-and-maybe-the-electric-grid-too/
Hiatt, E. (2015, Feb 25). Hemp Supercapacitors — Cleaner, Greener Battery Components. Retrieved from Reset.Me: http://reset.me/story/hemp-supercapacitor/
Kann, S. (2015, Feb 23). shayle-kanns-solar-predictions. Retrieved from greentechmedia.com: http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/shayle-kanns-solar-predictions
Mahdi Yaqub, S. S. (2012). Feasibility Analysis of Solar Photovoltaic. Engineering Management Journal. Via Camosun Library: http://libsecure.camosun.bc.ca:2078/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=9e38fdd1-7059-49c5-a33f-f8cd9df96ef2%40sessionmgr4004&vid=6&hid=4213, 12.
Morrison, M. (2015, February 27). Canadian Dollar up amid Rising Oil Prices. Retrieved from Global News.ca: http://globalnews.ca/news/1854513/canadian-dollar-up-amid-rising-oil-prices/
NASA. (2015). Nasa. Retrieved from Causes: http://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/
Solomon, B. (2014, 12 06). Brian Solomon. Retrieved from Forbes.com: http://www.forbes.com/sites/briansolomon/2014/06/12/tesla-goes-open-source-elon-musk-releases-patents-to-good-faith-use/
Tesla. (2013). Gigafactory.pdf. Retrieved from Teslamotors.com: http://www.teslamotors.com/sites/default/files/blog_attachments/gigafactory.pdf