Energy chat


Honestly, harvesting sunshine in the deserts has got to be the ultimate solution to this planet’s energy needs. It’s just a question of how long it’s going to take for the powers that be to accept that, and of how much of a mess they make of the place before they do.



I’m not claiming any genius or original thought here but it’s long occurred to me that the deserts are the perfect place given how inhospitable they are. No bugger wants to live there!

Further it’s an emerging market. You’d have thought that all the capitalists would be diving in with lorry loads of money.

Clearly nobody has come up with a convincing business plan then, otherwise they would be.

My plan for desert solar is to mount panels at some height above the ground, thus reducing the insolation by 50%, and making it prime arable land. Probably a long term plan though.

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The problem is that once the required global infrastructure is in place, which it now is, land-based fossil fuels can be very cheap to supply, as long as you don’t factor in the cost of a trashed planet. New technologies, on the other hand, will always start out relatively expensive. Early entrants to the game will likely be the ones who have to make all the mistakes. The second generation will learn from these, but there won’t be a second generation if there isn’t a first generation.

The solution is priming investment from an organisation with sufficient funds to withstand the initial losses and with enough long-term vision to sustain projects through the first few decades. Once upon a time very large corporations would have done that. A few eccentric individuals (Musk, Bezos, etc) still can. But capitalism’s descent into the pursuit of ever shorter-term returns has put paid to it, at least in the case of individual shareholder-driven entities (there is at least one example of a whole industry working out a collaborative solution to the ‘first adopter will fail’ problem though). I’m afraid that these days ‘a convincing business plan’ has to promise all the investors that they will become stupendously rich within the next year or three.

The alternative is for governments to support this kind of activity. Sadly quite a few relatively rich ones (ours in particular) are now following business down the ‘do as little as we can as cheaply as possible with no thought for the future’ toilet pan. The ones who aren’t (China in particular, but even Morocco it seems) will, in the long-term, prevail. As some old cynic once said, of course, “In the long-term we will all be dead”.


Yup. All true VB.

Perhaps it’s time for the west’s domination of the world to come to a natural end?

What I really don’t understand is why the Saudis haven’t got into this. Literally blinded by the oil business perhaps ?


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If electrical power has to be transferred 1000 Miles aren’t the losses about 10%?

Shipping it out, so to speak. not an easy way to get it to Europe.

yea, but about 100% when transmitted over Turkey :slight_smile:

The Moroccans are using the sun to heat a liquid and then using that to drive a heat engine. The hot liquid is at 750F which is about 670K. Assuming they can operate with the low temperature reservoir (presumably the lake) at 300K or so then the maximum (Carnot) efficiency will only be 55%.


It is.

Conceptually it may be beautiful, but aesthetically it’s a nightmare.

I do wonder what the expected life of that horrendously expensive hardware will be in the harsh desert conditions.

Getting it to Europe is not their problem. Once they’ve got cheap electricity the world will become centred on them (Rio Tinto, Alcoa and Century all built aluminium smelters in Iceland and shipped bauxite there from all over the world). If Europe doesn’t want to sink major resource into long-term investment then it will fade into oblivion. It won’t be able to afford electricity.


Good point. One would hope they’ve thought that through.

Hope, yes.

Certain of it, not so sure.


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That’s exactly the kind of mistake that early adopters have to accept they’ll make. Being first is tough. The payback should come when your experiences eventually let you work out much better solutions. The trick is then to stop others from capitalising on all your hard work (owning the desert helps with that).


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And is probably the main reason that all of @charliechan’s capitalist investors haven’t coughed up yet.

It’s not like you can patent it.

True. No one wants to take the risk. Which I find surprising. It’s obvious enough to everyone that at some point fairly soon, 10 to 25 years say, we will need more and more renewables.

I’d have thought the very large worldwide companies, Shell for example, would want to get in early.

But that’s probably why I wander around the house all day in my shorts doing nothing much of anything and I don’t run a multinational corporation.

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