Your Questions About Solar Energy International

Maria asks…

Is it true that wind turbines can never produce enough energy in their lifespans to offset its creation?

I’ve heard on several occasions that wind turbines are not economically feasible because it takes an inordinate amount of time and money, such that it will never produce enough energy to recoup that which was lost in building the turbine. Is this true? Can anyone give me a source?

admin answers:

Hey Patrick, this concept has been around since about 1998 when it first surfaced in regard to solar panels. There was a lot of complaints that solar panels never earn back their, “Embodied Energy,” which is a phrase referring to how much energy it takes to mine raw materials, ship them to a factory, build the product, ship it to it’s destination and install it. To be honest, it is difficult to put an exact energy price on something like that, there are almost limitless variables, such as which mine was used, where it was shipped, how it is installed and used in the end, and so on. A non profit group called, Solar Energy International finally offered some grants to a few colleges to research this. In the end, they couldn’t come up with an exact timeline, but a range based on the above variables.

First of all, solar panels actually do repay their embodied energy some time between 1.5 and 6 years after they are installed. Virtually all manufacturers warranty their product to last at least 25 years, and typically they operate well beyond this time. Similar work was done later with wind turbines, and the results are very similar. The main difference being the range of payback time is wider, meaning it’s possible for a turbine to repay its embodied energy faster, like in less than a year, but it may take as long as 9 years. This is because shipping a utility sized wind turbine can take a huge bite into its embodied energy budget depending on how far it has to go. Solar panels can fit in the back seat of a good sized car, some wind turbines have specially designed hauling vehicles that might have to drive across the country, or across the street. But when you look deeper down this rabbit hole, you eventually learn that non of this matters, I’ll explain.

Electricity has been around since Thomas Edison nearly burned down his house running high amounts of current through bailing wires inside old mason jars, so it isn’t going away anytime soon. The question becomes, “What is the best way to produce it?” Let’s assume you build a 10 KW wind turbine, and put it alongside an efficient conventional power source, say a natural gas fired turbine 10 KW generator. Which will earn back its embodied energy faster? The answer is the gas generator never does. You have to remember that once you build a natural gas generator, coal plant, or any other non renewable energy based power plant, you now have to feed it fuel for the rest of it’s life. It’s conversion rate will always be something below 100%, so in the end it slowly digs itself a deeper and deeper energy hole that it can never crawl out of. At least the wind turbine has a chance to get even in it’s lifetime. This is the key to what makes renewable energy so great, it’s really the difference between buying a home and renting an apartment, one day the home will be paid off, the apartment never is.

We live in a home that is powered by the wind and sun today. About 12 years ago we started looking into solar and wind when our electricity was constantly going out. It began as a small backup plan, just to run a few lights and some electronics. Over time it became more of a hobby and lifestyle, like growing your own tomatoes instead of buying them at the store, we just grew electrons in our garden. Now our home generates over 90% of its own electricity, and we use the power company as our backup source. Even though it will take years to get even with the power bill, it’s worth it to us, and we’ve turned a lot of heads. Once each year now I am invited to the local schools to teach solar power to the 5th graders, then they run a field trip out to our house to see a working solar and wind powered home. Since then the power companies have been busy building wind farms and looking into solar, geothermal and biomass energy. They even have a methane plant alongside a landfill in the next county. Most people are not aware of these things, but they are happening. They are busy complaining about wind mills never earning back their manufacturing energy, solar being too expensive, or hybrid cars not really saving and gas. There is research on these subjects, and it’s available for the asking if you look for it online. My suggestion is you look into it and become better informed insteading of asking hacks like me online for advice. I’ll include some sources below. Hope this answers your question. Good luck Patrick, and take care, Rudydoo

Jenny asks…

Do you think investing in solar energy companies at this time would be wise?

I came across “Envision Solar International Inc.(EVSI)” today. They are building solar trees in parking lots. The solar panels can track the movement of the sun to allow the panels to absorb more of the sun’s energy during the day. In addition to providing shade for electric vehicles, customers will also be able to charge their vehicles. One is already in use at the Dell Co. headquarters. It’s a penny stock currently selling at around $0.47 per share. This is the first company to do this. I’m thinking about purchasing 10,000 shares for the “future”.

admin answers:

I think it would be. Alternative energy is becoming very popular these days. Furthermore, the “Green Collar” economy is getting off the ground, so people of all economic backgrounds could potentially benefit from it, and not just the wealthy. Most western countries are ahead of the USA in alternative energy, so it’s only a matter of time before we catch up.

Furthermore, technology like that would be incredibly helpful in places like sub-Saharan Africa where there is a lot of sun. With purchasing power, the cost of producing and buying these “solar trees” will decrease and thus they will become more abundant, in accordance with supply and demand.

If you can afford it, I say go for it 🙂 I wish I could

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