All right let's have a serious discussion about commercial fusion energy and it's viability as a major energy source for society.
I'd like to start by saying that, even though the physics behind fusion and the engineering required to make fusion reactors is undeniably dank, I don't think it's gonna be a major power source for society. Not because we can't do it, but because we won't do it.
Fusion, compared to other energy sources like solar, biofuel and hell, just regular oil, is just too damn expensive. However let's be idealistic and ignore polluting energy sources like fossil fuels and nuclear fission. Still, the price of solar power is steadily going down and heading for dirt cheap, and battery technology is advancing nicely to complement it. There's also biofuel which is a much smoother replacement of regular fuel in all modes of transportation. I just don't see fusion ever getting an economic/financial advantage over solar, and because of that, I don't think we'll see fusion reactors except in research and maybe some extremely niche industry.
Fusion strikes me as solar panels on the moon: A really cool idea, but unlikely to ever actually happen because it's just too expensive compared to the cheaper, much easier alternatives, and fusion doesn't really offer any qualities that could overpower its massive economic drain. Also, although I hate to admit it, public opinion massively favours solar panels because nuclear fusion has the word 'nuclear' in it, and public opinion matters.
>Still, the price of solar power is steadily going down and heading for dirt cheap, and battery technology is advancing nicely to complement it.
I think you have neglected an important fact, in that some places it is not very sunny, and that winter exists. Battery technology also isn't really advancing that rapidly, at least not in the areas that are important for grid-scale storage- I'm not sure where you got that impression. (However, development in redox flow batteries is looking very promising for solar as a viable main energy source. Batteries aren't advancing rapidly, but they're undeniably moving towards the world where solar rules the grid.)
While I understand using solar storage as base-load power over the course of days or weeks, I don't know if it's really practical to store enough power to supply energy through months of dark, cloudy upper-latitude winter where energy demands for heating spike.
And while long-distance transmission of power can be very efficient, it would require very expensive infrastructure overhauls to offload all of the world's power generation onto sunny areas and transmit that to places like Seattle. Or Alaska.
Fusion plants, on the other hand, would be far more easily integrated into the grid. Considering all this, I suspect that (assuming commercial fusion ever, you know, actually happens) economics will favor some combination of solar, fusion, and other energy sources (Iceland is going to be geothermal for the rest of time). Fusion may be expensive, but overhauling the grid is REALLY expensive.
That said, all this depends on just how expensive fusion really is. Most current *commercial* fusion approaches have the potential to be relatively cheap, or else those commercial ventures wouldn't be able to afford to work on it. If those don't pay off and it turns out that ITER-but-bigger is really what a fusion plant looks like, certainly fusion will never be competitive.
Public opinion is retarded.
Solar panel manufacture is massively polluting.
Also, has net energy gain over the lifetime of the panels been achieved yet?
Sorry to say but you're a victim of clever marketing and you are about to be dashed upon the jagged rocks of reality.
>Also, has net energy gain over the lifetime of the panels been achieved yet?
Yes, and they have since 2010. In fact, by some estimates, the energy deficit from all the years that solar panels were a net energy loss has already been paid off.
(Also, it's not by a small amount. Current solar cell lifetime is projected as 20 - 25 years with proper maintenance; they generate enough energy to "pay back" the energy needed for production and installation in just 1 - 4 years.)
There's not even consensus that genuine information about LENR *exists.* it's generally considered a fringe topic, if not outright woo.
One of the only reasons that LENR hasn't been written off as crackpottery entirely is that Widom and Larsen have published a few papers that give a plausible explanation of how the Coloumb barrier could be bypassed under the conditions of claimed LENR observation. (They were at least plausible enough to pass peer review in a non-crank journal.)
So I'd start by looking at http://arxiv.org/abs/0810.0159 , and then checking out the other papers it cites.
While solar is definitely a good idea, as during peak it is basically free (if done right, which nearly nobody does). But it can't replace fusion's on demand ability.
People have no idea how freaking expensive and energy intensive a battery buffer to smooth out solar (and most other sources) are.
Not the same person, but I can say that we have are capable of net gains. Most are between 5%~15% depending on which type is used and how it is modeled, but a global 5% gain can really add up. I personally think it is more like 2% given how much trouble it was to manufacture the ones for my electric materials class, but we didn't have the best equipment and it was a very small scale.
That said the few firms that did do it right went bankrupt or change to a lower standard. The US had a detailed plan to lead the world in renewable solar production (modeled after Germany who really started it doing it right).
But shortly after it started taking off China copied it without the rigorous standards. The flood of suddenly cheap Chinese solar panels lead to a boom in the amount of solar, but also destroyed it as a green renewable option because of how they made them.
In short we can make solar a green renewable, but it takes a lot of time and money that people won't pay when cheaper things are available. And to be honest most people can't tell the difference, which is a huge part of the problem. Not helped by a flood of poor information.
Got involved in some fusion projects during my time at uni
In my opinion we actually have the science to achieve fusion like right now. It's the fucking management shit that's screwing things over, big time. And a lot of people will tell you this if they've worked in the field. It's a travesty of shitty human mistakes, but these mistakes set us back decades in this field.
>Battery technology also isn't really advancing that rapidly, at least not in the areas that are important for grid-scale storage-
Sure it is. It's not flashy stuff, but rapid progress is being made in developing practical ways to make long-lasting, efficient, easy-to-care-for stationary batteries out of cheap, abundant materials.
Tesla's priming the market for cheaper kinds of batteries with their efficient manufacture of lithium-ion grid batteries. Companies like Aquion are going to follow.
>I don't know if it's really practical to store enough power to supply energy through months of dark, cloudy upper-latitude winter where energy demands for heating spike.
Not batteries, but fuel production. Batteries are just for the day-night cycle, and minor day-to-day variation, not for the seasonal cycle.
Pic: The results of increased roof albedos are shown in the bottom row.
Anyone knows how would black rooftops influence energy consumption? Would the energy gained with solar panels really pay off all those air conditioners? I find it hard to believe, really, that all these extra expenses could make solar a rational approach to power generation.
>herp dee derpity doo
a) isn't necessary for stationary batteries, and
b) is not in practically-limited supply, since it can be extracted from sea water.
What, did you get that from Watchmen? Alan Moore's an amusing writer, but shortage of lithium was never what was holding back the electric car.
Lithium-ion is leading the way in affordable stationary batteries because it's being produced in quantity for electric cars, and it's being chosen for electric cars because of its energy density and specific energy.
Stationary batteries can be made of cheaper stuff, like sodium-ion or organosulfur, but it's been hard to get their manufacturing volume up (and therefore, price down) without an established market for stationary batteries.
Solar farms are dramatically less dumb, I think you'll find.
Why would you even put "solar" and "roadways" in the same sentence? Even if you insert a "freakin'" in there, it's still too dumb of a concept to even mention.
What about that shit where they have the balloons underwater to store energy to create electricity later? I also saw one where they did it with a cement block on a railroad track on a hill. They aren't really batteries, but they are energy storage that works in a grid sense and can be pretty effective
Molten Salt is best.
People here complaining about intermittency don't know that when hooked up to molten salt batteries, solar farms can produce CONSTANT power 24/7, albeit with a slightly reduced capacity.