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December 15, 2007


Cyril R.

Both silicon and non-silicon thinfilms have their own problems.

Take CIGS thinfilms, there's enough indium and gallium for now but when CIGS production capacity is greatly expanded things might get difficult. They could use less of these materials with better manufacturing etc. but there's limits to this; too thin and efficiency suffers. As a result you'd need more area per watt peak production and that means more materials. If you screw it up, you'll might just end up using more rare materials per watt peak.

Amorphous silicon thinfilms on the other hand don't have any inherent material shortages, but haven't proven reasonable lifetimes yet without too much degradation. CIGS scores much better here, but eventually silicon would be the more promising material of the two.

Then there's all those nano tech things, nanocrystals nanogeometry etc which are very promising but also very risky investments.

Good comment about wind and PV being seller-dominated. We could see a serious decrease in prices in both wind and PV once that gets corrected by additional manufacturing capacity coming on line for both.


Any of these breakthrough technologies in solar PV panels are individually risky, but there are so many and so various ideas around that it seems to me that some of them are going to work - hopefully Nanosolar will be the first, but before shortages of indium hit there should be alternatives.
In a slight change of subject though, it seems a shame that people nowadays ( I don't mean you!) tend to find a problem in every opportunity - they don't seem to have a constructive mentality.
For instance, there was this today in the papers:
Now I'm betting this will lead to much wailing and nashing of teeth - but what is it actually saying?
Why, that for a major power ( around the forth biggest industrial power in the world) it would be possible with current technology to vastly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to approximately half, for the next 60 years or so, and that without doing any mining at all, and without using any more resources, just making use of what is currently looked on as a nuisance, and all that at risk levels much lower than current, as we already have a nuclear program and future reactors will be orders of magnitude safer.
This will not increase the waste that we have to deal with, and there is the possibility of stretching the resources still further through the use of fast reactors.
Pretty good news, I would have said, although no doubt that is not the gloss which will be put on it!

Bob Wallace

Indium and gallium might be available in limited amounts, but that doesn't mean that they can't be part of the overall solution.

In the same way hydro is limited. And geothermal (as we now utilize it) is limited.

So we make as much thin film as we can with existing supplies of indium and gallium which takes care of some part of our need for clean energy. And we recycle older thin film materials if new and better applications appear.

Let's get as much <=$1 thin film as we can if that's the least expensive energy source available. Then move on to silicon PV, wind, etc. as required.

Every gig of thin-film electricity that we can put on line is one less CO2 producing gig of electricity that we have to generate with coal/NG/oil.

Every bucketful of greenhouse gas that we don't pump into our atmosphere is one less bucketful to heat us up over the next decades.

It is unlikely that we will find a single solution to our energy needs. We don't use a single system now, but a combination of systems. We just need to put our emphasis on maximizing what works now while we look for even better approaches.


Agreed. Negative posters are a PITA.

Being able to identify a potential problem is not a sign of intelligence.

Intelligence is displayed by the ability to generate useful solutions.

Udo Stenzel

After all that discussion nobody has yet seen the errors in the original posting? You dudes are lame. "wind power is less expensive than conventional power in some locations" No, it's not. Wind power is (in some locations) cheaper than burning natural gas. Conventional power, however, means mostly coal. Wind power is cheaper than burning coal exactly nowhere. "compressed air storage makes wind power dispatchable" No, it doesn't. It uses some wind power to get more efficiency out of a natural gas turbine. Natural gas is dispatchable anyway, is a fossil fuel, is a potent greenhouse gas and emits a greenhouse gas when burned. "phasing out of fossil fueled power" Yeah, sure. See above. In summary: -1 Flamebait.


Wind is cheaper than coal in Guangdong, China where the wind is strong, and the coal is far away, and the railroads are congested.

Coal resources are concentrated in the northern areas, leading to higher electricity prices in areas like Shanghai, due to transportation costs. The residential price of electricity in the coal rich northern areas are on the order of 3.6 US cents per kWh, while the price in coastal Guangdong province last year was 13 US cents per kWh. In the short term, these are the most promising areas for wind.

Table 2 lists the six existing wind concession projects. Two projects, Jiangsu–Rudong #1 and Guangdong, were contracted in 2003. Construction has started, and production is expected to begin at the end of 2006. The four projects selected in 2004 have been contracted, and developers are in negotiation with manufacturers. The prices range from 4.6 to 6.2 US cents per kWh

Cyril R.

Wind power is on the rise in China. Low cost of labour, low cost of capital, availability of domestic heavy machinery and equipment manufacturing, good infrastructure, excellent wind resource, skilled and willing engineering workforce and strong government initiative are factors pushing wind up really hard.

The strategy is to reduce the dominance of coal in the grid, and right now that typically means hydro, nuclear and wind. Utility scale solar thermal power looks promising too, but hasn't received much attention yet.

The targets set are very ambitious, it'll be interesting too see if they can do it... and damn important too, considering China is the world's manufacturing facility.

Cyril R.

It is unfortunate though that China is still heavily subsidizing coal. The price of coal is kept artificially low (even without considering GHG) to lower energy costs. They're working on lowering the subsidies, but it's not enough. These subsidies have to be phased out almost completely or they'll scare away more foreign energy investors and limit the expansion of things like hydro, nuclear, wind and solar thermal power.

Alternative energy in China doesn't need much subsidizing. Just lower coal subsidies drastically. Let the market take care of it.


Merry Christmas, Cyril!
It is perhaps worth mentioning in this context that China is also the world leader in residential solar thermal, no question there of coal being more economical, I believe.
It has great advantages - it doesn't use the grid, and is much more efficient than using PV to make heat, as you don't have to do any conversion - no problems with storage, either.


All those wind devices needed in Europe and the UK will need to be manufactured somewhere. European comopanies are ahead in this area, even though GE and some smaller US companies are trying feebly to catch up.

My guess is China will quickly take up the slack, manufacturing at the lowest cost. That will impell a changeover to wind from coal in China itself.

Good news here in the northern midwest though. The port of Duluth/Superior mainly ships grain, iron, ore, and crap metal out, but now it is shipping a lot of huge wind parts in. The wind machines go all over the midwest for assembley and installation.

The near future? Scrap shipped to china, melted down and turned into wind machines, and shipped back. It looks like it. Bypassing the dying uS manufacturing sector. That needs to change, the US workforce needs to get into the game.

This is what national energy policy is for. But somehow that policy has gone missing.


Flame on! Udo. Looks like no one wants to troll with you. Hehehey.

That's a shame.

Kit P

Assuming Udo Stenzel is talking about the US, he is close to being right just a little out of date. Natural gas has become the second largest source of electricity passing nuclear generation and would be considered a conventional source of power.

Wind power is a useful but insignificant source of electricity only because of we use too much natural gas.

Cyril R.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Udo Stenzel

Kit P., you may think the high price of natural gas "proves" that conventional, fossil power is expensive now, but you're mistaken. Those gas plants have been built when gas was cheap (by idiots who haven't heard that rising demand causes higher prices). If the gas gets so expensive that replacement of these plants is economically viable, they will be replaced by something cheap, and that is coal. Comparing the price of wind power to that of natural gas is about as useful as comparing it to solar power, geothermal power, biogas, all of which cannot compete on price, and won't for quite some time to come.


Udo, another comment without replying to the criticisms of your prior post?
You are mistaken in your assertion that coal is everywhere the cheapest form of power generation, and you have not even replied to those who have given you sourced data to the contrary.
It is often very competitive, particularly since in most regimes no allowance is made for emissions other than carbon dioxide, but your sweeping statements are too much.
In any case, should CO2 emissions be felt important enough to warrant charges, then it's competitiveness at least against nuclear is much more doubtful.
Your assumptions as to the future supply of natural gas may also prove mistaken, should the experiments being carried out in Japan be successful.I would not personally put any money on it, but just the same you present your assumptions without addressing criticism, without reference, and in a sweeping manner which makes it difficult to take them seriously.


Apologies, my last s/be 'Should experiments being carried out in Japan on using methane hydrates to produce natural gas be successful, shortages should be overcome.'

Cyril R.

You'd have to compare new wind generation against new coal fired generation, to be fair. With more stringent emission demands, modern coal fired plants can be quite expensive compared to the past ones.

Then you'd have to remove any subsidies to get the real transparant market cost.

Coal may still be cheap after that but not two cents per kWh or some such nonsense.

Also, a bad omen has entered the horizon: carbon taxes. With the recent signs of cooperation of the US regarding climate policy, some form of carbon tax seems unavoidable. That could really change the economics of coal power, and investors know it. Especially considering viable large scale sequestration technologies just aren't around yet. It's a big investment risk that could very well increase the discount rates (if it hasn't happened already), in turn making coal more expensive per kWh.

Udo, you might want to read this:


Udo Stenzel

Okay, Dave, if you insist: on a rural farm, off-grid, conventional power means a Diesel generator, and that is much more expensive than a wind turbine. And if you include external cost, wind might even be cheaper than coal everywhere. So Jim may be technically correct, but still his statement evokes a completely wrong picture. What's the point of this? Is this a technical or a religious forum? Cyril: I see 15 empty pages and a diagram of a biomass gasification plant. Anyway, I live in Germany and I see new coal power plants being built all over the place. If "investors know it", they are definitely keeping it to themselves.


Spot on Udo - it drives me nuts that after all their green talk, the Germans are actually carrying out a massive expansion of very dirty coal.
With anything like present technology solar PV is an expensive fantasy at the latitude of Germany, although it is nice of them spending fortunes developing it.
All the time coal gets away with not paying for it's externalities it is bound to 'sound' cheap.

Cyril R.

Udo, the argument for those new plants is that they emit less CO2 (they are more efficient) than the older ones they will be replacing. True albeit not good enough.

Coal is subsidized is Germany, make no mistake Udo. Aside from that, there is sometimes a difference between a good investment and a utility's needs. Wind is cheap and getting cheaper, so yes investors are putting large sums of money in wind but wind is not enough by itself until sufficient CAES is installed. If someone can do it, it's the German engineers, as they were one of the first with CAES systems development. CAES is already competitive and will only get cheaper with scale-up.

However, you do not seriously think all of those plants will actually be built do you now? Cities in Germany are already protesting, and recently there was a coal plant rejected in the vicinity of Dusseldorf. Also, there are plans to limit coal plant approvals and to demand future CO2 sequestration compatibility. There is serious pressure to develop sequestration technologies too, and there's a good chance Germany will be one of first to pull it off commercially.

Having said that all I would prefer that Germany put it's dough in nuclear fission rather than coal sequestration, but then it may be prudent at this stage to try both.

If you see empty pages then perhaps you should consider having your eyes checked.


mensos cacas


Europe Energised-----will lights go out in 2050?



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