Scott Adams mentions recent reports on Trump wanting to put solar panels on “The Wall.”
Persuasion, etc., aside, this is the first time I’ve heard something related to large-scale solar that almost makes sense.
I ran numbers once in a discussion of Solar, and realized that at then-current output, solar panels could provide the reported needs of the US in an area the size of a corner of Nevada.
This sounds pretty awesome – it leaves a LOT of teh US alone – but the issues were several.
First – baseline power. I have to look no further than the nearest metals plant to find examples of something that draws a fairly constant, large amount of power that can’t just shut down when the sun goes down or it’s a cloudy day. Batteries you say? Batteries to power one large server room for a couple hours come in sets larger than tractor trailer rigs. Suddenly that free energy ain’t so free.
The space is also deceptive. The panels will not be transparent. They will throw shade for most of the day under a large swath of ground under them – which means spacing them apart. Incidentally, you’ll also need maintenance roads, etc. – so all of a sudden your tying up a lot more space. Don’t get me started on the bird-frying mirror arrays.
And maintenance. All those panels will have to be inspected. Trucks will be needed to go out. For the maintenance overhead of one large turbine/steam plant, you’ll only be able to the panels supplying a fraction of that power output.
Distribution rears its ugly head. At high enough latitudes, or places like the Smokies, you’re not going to have lots of sunny open ground nearby – and long transmission runs from the sunny parts of the country present their own engineering issues and vulnerabilities.
Nevertheless, as the quality and output of solar cells improves, as the management circuits and systems to prevent fluctuations from taking out the main grid improve, and for applications that are completely off grid, I’m sure that it will find more and more use.
But how is the wall relevant? Well, the ideal side to mount panels would be on the Mexican side, so theft and sabotage will be issues, but you’ll have a ready- built structure with maintenance roads that will need power available right there for lights and other infrastructure. As an ex-nuke I can almost squint and see how, in this application, it almost makes sense.
On another topic, given how SJW’s project, and have an unerring talent for attacking people with the very things that they are vulnerable to, what am I to make of his recent effort to provide a awkwardly-named “Trumpi-leaks“?