Transport of Solar Panels Talking Point

There is a new anti-solar talking point up at the “Brave New Climate” propaganda blog (link omitted on purpose).

The author has discovered that it would actually cost way too much to transport all those solar panels. There would be unbelievable numbers of trucks necessary to get the job done.

I must admit that I had not understood the gravity of this problem before. I was thinking that transport cost is no big deal for solar. Else the Chinese wouldn’t be grabbing all those market shares in Europe.

But if you read that particular propaganda post, you will learn quickly that it is a major logistical nightmare to get all the solar panels into the desert if one wants to generate at larger scales.

There are three possible answers to that.

The first answer: Once solar deploys so much in the World’s deserts that we have to start worrying about truck capacity, it’s game over for fossil fuel. That would be one headache I would really love to have.

The second answer: Choose your deserts by keeping that aspect in mind. Saudi Arabia would get another advantage, since the Arabian Desert occupies about 80 percent of the Arabian peninsula and is therefore easy to reach with short transport distances.

The third answer is pointing (again) to the game changing Aeroscraft airship technology. That will be able to deploy 66 tons of cargo to any place in the desert without bothering to build roads. Forget about trucks and bring in these.

While for the time being the cost of transporting solar panels is very low as a portion of whole project cost, it is actually already now a factor for wind. Especially in a country with a lacking road infrastructure as Mongolia, it is rather difficult to transport the rotor blades to the desert site even with present blade sizes, which will only get bigger with technological advances in wind energy. And since onshore wind is still cheaper than solar, and will stay so for a couple of years, the Aeroscraft technology will make a difference for wind projects before it will make a difference for solar projects.

Published by kflenz

Professor at Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo. Author of Lenz Blog (since 2003, lenzblog.com).

5 thoughts on “Transport of Solar Panels Talking Point

  1. 66 tonnes with a helium blimp? A B-double truck can handle 40-50 tonnes, so 66 really won’t make a big dent in the problem … except you will need to build yourself tens of thousands of baloons, train pilots, find the helium, insure against accidents, etc etc.

    E.g., a chemical plant in Qld at Gladstone needed to shift half a million tonnes of salt a year 84 kms from the nearest salt field … Port Alma. They had a choice of rail, ship and road. Road was cheapest. The study makes for interesting reading.

    Click to access lg_chem_eis_addm_app3.pdf

    Anybody who thinks large scale logistics problems like this are trivial needs to speak to a little French guy who had a few problems with them back in 1812 … and he was really, really good!

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  2. The aeroscraft makes sense right now (and is marketed) to bring large scale wind turbine blades to remote locations. It may make sense for transporting solar panels if it gets bigger, as it will in the coming decades. It also has the obvious advantage of not needing roads.

    Anyway, if solar gets big enough that transport becomes a serious problem (it definitely is not right now), that will be great progress for the climate. There always is the possibility that nuclear fails to reverse its declining trend, so I for one don’t count on any such miracle technology to bail us out.

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  3. HI Karl, not sure where your reply that arrived on my email is on your website, so I’ll respond here. I’m not anti renewable. If you have the right rivers, like in Iceland and Switzerland, then that’s wonderful. Geothermal, great. But will they solve our climate problem? No. Vast populations have no access to such sources of clean energy. If someone comes up with a renewable energy system that actually scales, then fine also. But they haven’t, so why risk 4-6 degrees waiting for a miracle technology when we know we have a clean safe method of building a low carbon energy system? The anti-nuclear movement keeps pushing silly plans, which is what solar PV is, just plain silly. It’s as silly as biofuels … now using 40% of the US corn harvest.

    You claim the transition to solar and wind is starting now. No, in Germany it started with the feed in tarif in 2000. And even before that solar scientists were bragging about replacing coal in the short term. They haven’t. By comparison, every single country who tried to roll out nuclear during the 1970, succeeded in building a large amount in about a decade. Belgium, Switzerland, Sweden, Germany, Japan, France, the US. Nobody did as badly as the Germans have during the past decade.

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    1. My reply is where your comment I replied to is:

      http://k.lenz.name/LB/?p=9038

      “I am not against renewable” is somewhat hard to reconcile with “solar is silly”.

      Anybody asserting that latter point is anti-renewable, and part of the problem as far as I’m concerned. This is also a great way to increase opposition to nuclear. If your plan to stop the nuclear decline and get more support for playing with plutonium requires fighting solar, you will meet with fierce opposition from me, for one.

      Nuclear is unpopular to begin with. Back when I supported it I always thought it a strategic blunder to try fighting renewable. Now I don’t care, since I think nuclear is hopeless anyway.

      Two thirds of Germany’s solar have been installed in the last few years and are not in the numbers up to 2010. China is starting this year (they are expected to be the largest solar market in 2013).

      The reason for that is the dramatic decrease in price, something not observed with nuclear energy.

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    2. > “I’m not anti renewable. … solar PV is, just plain silly.”

      Your own nonsense claims contradict you. There are now 33 GW of “silly” solar deployed in Germany which right at this moment is pumping over 10 GW of clean electricity on to the grid.

      The clean energy revolution is really just starting globally now. Wind power is now cheaper than coal and gas in a growing number of places. Solar is cheaper in the sunniest regions and the area is spreading as solar continues falling in cost.

      > “…solar scientists were bragging about replacing coal in the short term.”

      No, you just made that up.

      > “nuclear during the 1970 [sic]”

      It’s not the 1970s any more. Nukes are not economically viable which is largely why they are in long-term decline. Renewables are growing exponentially as costs continue to fall.

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