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Thread: Can solar replace oil

  1. #1 Can solar replace oil 
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    can solar replace all current day oil consumption? surely oil is used for many more things than say electric generation, but perhaps solar is how we get the energy needed to make alternative products once made using oil.

    how about the electric needs of say just the US. can solar panels supply all the electric needed? lets say US is independent from everyone, we would need 100% of daily use made during a 10hr window (three distinct US zones each providing 7hrs of power, 1hr overlap between them).

    can we deploy enough panels to do that, how long would it take?

    then where do you store the other power needed for night use?
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  2. #2  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Physics_Kid View Post
    can solar replace all current day oil consumption? surely oil is used for many more things than say electric generation, but perhaps solar is how we get the energy needed to make alternative products once made using oil.

    how about the electric needs of say just the US. can solar panels supply all the electric needed? lets say US is independent from everyone, we would need 100% of daily use made during a 10hr window (three distinct US zones each providing 7hrs of power, 1hr overlap between them).

    can we deploy enough panels to do that, how long would it take?

    then where do you store the other power needed for night use?
    In raw terms, yes, even with today's technology, photovoltaics could -- in principle -- generate enough to satisfy US electrical demand. There are practical considerations (such as the capital expense of manufacturing all of those panels, and then integrating them into the grid, cost of land, etc.) but no fundamental barriers. The earth has plenty of silicon, so we won't have a problem there.

    Energy storage is trickier. Many exotic proposals have been (and are being) considered, but the current state of affairs is that the best storage technology is merely to pump water (or otherwise move a mass upward) up a hill, and recover the energy as it comes back down. Low tech, yes, but sometimes low tech is best.
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