Thursday, August 19, 2010

How to use the land?

(Photovoltaic elements outside of Heby in Sweden)

Will solar energy farms be a solution for the future? Is it really more efficient to use solar panels on farm land than to grow biomass?

Well, photovoltaic elements seem to have an efficiency of 12-15 percent, e.g. 12-15 percent of the incoming solar energy is captured by the cells and converted to electricity. The photosynthesis supposedly has only a few percents efficiency. I am not hundred percent sure of the math here, but that is what you get from literature. So from that perspective the choice is easy.

Notably, the miracle of the photosynthesis is NOT to just capture energy but to (re)produce life, something quite more remarkable than electricity. Nevertheless, in an energy scarce future we will have these kinds of discussions. Not to speak about the conflict between energy and food...

Another similarly interesting discussion is if you have a dam of water. Will you use that water for:
1. Hydropower
2. Irrigation of biofuel crops
3. Irrigation of food crops
4. Industrial water
5. Household water
6. Tourists water
7. Flooding wet lands to preserve bio-diversity
8. Tear down the dam to restore nature?

In a nature scarce world, there are tough choices to be made.

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