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Blogosophical Investigations
Thursday, November 21, 2002  

How to afford solar energy: give up using electricity

I never tire of calculations about solar energy. They are a guaranteed corrective to environmentalist blather. Here’s a fine one at the splendid HowStuffWorks site:


How many solar cells would I need in order to provide all of the electricity that my house needs?

Lots of number-juggling leads to the crux:

… From our calculations and assumptions above, we know that a solar panel can generate 70 milliwatts per square inch * 5 hours = 350 milliwatt hours per day. Therefore you need about 41,000 square inches of solar panel for the house. That's a solar panel that measures 17 feet by 17 feet or so (5.18 meters square). That would cost around $16,000 right now. Then, because the sun only shines part of the time, you would need to purchase a battery bank, an inverter, etc., and that often doubles the cost of the installation.

If you want to have a small room air conditioner in your bedroom, double everything. …

OK, so as a Brit I’m not going to be using an air-conditioner, small or otherwise, in my bedroom. More assumptions favourable to the solar enthusiast follow:

Because solar electricity is so expensive, you would normally go to great lengths to reduce your electricity consumption. Instead of a desktop computer and a monitor you would use a laptop computer. You would use fluorescent lights instead of incandescent. You would use a small B&W TV instead of a large color set. You would get a small, extremely efficient refrigerator. By doing these things you might be able to reduce your average power consumption to 100 watts. This would cut the size of your solar panel and its cost by a factor of 6, and this might bring it into the realm of possibility.

The thing to remember, however, is that 100 watts per hour purchased from the power grid would only cost about 24 cents a day right now, or $91 a year. That's why you don't see many solar houses unless they are in very remote locations. When it only costs about $100 a year to purchase power from the grid, it is hard to justify spending thousands of dollars on a solar system.

Well said, and it can’t be said too often.


Industry-leading solutions for your restriction orifices

If you want to know more about electricity, you could do a lot better than go to this page , maintained by an outfit called Flowsoft: I was chortling smugly over the inadvertent humour for half a paragraph before I realized it was hilariously advertent.

On another page you’ll find a large collection of Murphy’s Laws-type jokes, some of which could provide substantial matter for a sermon. Still other pages provide the sorts of jokes that engineers like.

And what do the fun-lovers at FlowSoft do? They “provide flow element sizing and control software for the chemical, petrochemical, and power industry.” Their prize product is ORIFICE for Windows:

ORIFICE for Windows is a Windows based flow element sizing software package. ORIFICE is suitable for size orifice plates, flow nozzles, venturis, lo-loss flow tubes, and restriction orifices.

No, my best guess is that this is not a joke. No matter: FlowSoft deserve our thanks for globally distributing such lines as “thanks to men like Edison and Franklin, and frogs like Galvani's …”

12:29 AM

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