Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Green energy dustup

Many people advocate putting large solar powerstations in arid regions. The reasoning behind this idea is that the land isn’t much good for anything else, and that the low rainfall will mean few clouds and high insolation. Trouble is, a lack of clouds does not necessarily mean that a lot of light is reaching the ground. For example, see the picture below.

This is a cloudless desert morning, and yet, the poor solar panel shown is producing very little power. The reason, of course, is that a dust storm is blanketing everything in yellow gritty haze. During the winter, the solar panel plus battery kicked the ass of our generator, which is cumbersome, old, messy, and often difficult to start. But after a day of hot dust, we had to recharge the battery from the car, and eat whatever meat had thawed. Cleaning it the next day was a bit of a pain as well.
On the other hand, a wind turbine would have been awesome, at least in the short term. I suspect that the full sized suckers, if installed in this environment, would eventually create dune deposits in their wakes. And the sandblasting probably wouldn’t do the rotors and bearings any favors either.

5 comments:

Tuff Cookie said...

I seem to remember seeing an article somewhere about a new kind of solar cell that's thin enough to be applied to plain old window glass, and still be seen through. Having spent a lot of time in the desert, I agree with you on the dust - you'd have to go out and sweep the darn things off all the time. But if we put solar cell windows in buildings in sunny places, that's all taken care of when the windows get washed.

Tuff Cookie said...

Here is the link. (Turns out it was some sort of special dye, not a new cell, but cool nonetheless.)

Wednesday said...

Position wind turbines such that dirt is blown off or away from the panels.

EcoGeoFemme said...

Does the sandblasting damage the solar panels as well?

Chuck said...

This storm was more dust than sand- so the main issue, aside from no light was that we got a spatter of rain over night which coated them (and us, and our truck) in mud. I can't see how sandblasting would be good for them, though. If we'd stayed out another week we would have found out, but I actually flew out on the last plane from Alice before they started enforcing sandstorm-related delays...