Solar showdown: weeds -vs- silicon

Pierre Gosselin points out this absurdity on his website:

Weed-Covered, Neglected Solar Park: 20 Acres, $11 Million, Only One And Half Years Old!

German solar skeptic website SOLARKRITIK.DE here provides the background on the rundown, weed-covered solar facility in former communist (and now “green”) East Germany, which I presented in my last post here.

Loeschke_PVSolar_Markranstaedt_201106

It’s much worse than we thought. The story behind the above photo and the project itself appears here at the online Leipziger Volkszeitung newspaper. The facility is sprawled over an area of 20 acres. The Leipziger Volkszeitung newspaper wrote just before the facility went into operation:

More here

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Looks like they run a mower between the rows, but have’nt figured out how to keep the weeds down under the panels.

I suppose “RoundUp” would be sacrilege to them.

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102 thoughts on “Solar showdown: weeds -vs- silicon

  1. Now, with all that power being generated, you’d think they could at least afford to hire somebody to push a weed-whacker-on-wheels down the aisles, which would cut off the weeds under the panels.
    Green Jobs? We’re looking right at an opportunity. Not happening, is it?
    So this build & forget technology: How is it any different than urban sprawl?
    I’m guessing that the profits were guaranteed to Go Green at near 100%, so maintenance is not an option.
    Now, the weeds themselves are quite the story in the story. Simply change the environment a little, and nature rushes in with a weed to begin the process of reclaiming. The weeds have something to say about climate change, do they not?

  2. Epic picture that is worth more than a thousand words. The future of green energy!

    John G

  3. Looks like my green job of the future will be hand pulling the weeds from beneath solar panels. It’s either that or squeegee man on a wind turbine, but I’m afraid of heights.

  4. UK’s Daily Mail is on a warming mission of late, so here they go again, no writer attribution again as well:

    5 July: UK Daily Mail: Attack of the jellyfish: Sea creatures shut down ANOTHER power station amid claims climate change has caused population surge
    By Daily Mail Reporter
    A huge swarm clogged up the Orot Rabin plant in Hadera, Israel, a day after the Torness nuclear facility in Scotland was closed in a similar incident…
    Almost 2,000 beach-goers were stung as they celebrated Independence Day weekend in the surf at Volusia County, Florida.
    Beach Patrol spokeswoman Captain Tamara Marris reported the staggering statistics but stressed that no victims were seriously injured…
    The influx was thought to be down to onshore winds bringing more jellyfish into contact with bathers…
    Scientists say the number of jellyfish are on the rise thanks to the increasing acidity of the world’s oceans…
    Studies have shown that higher levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere doesn’t just trigger climate change but can make the oceans more acid…
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2011565/Jellyfish-shut-power-station-amid-claims-climate-change-caused-population-surge.html

    there are obviously a variety of reasons other than CAGW that could provide an explanation, but “scientists say”….

  5. I am just waiting to snap a similar picture at a big solar farm next to a school near Easton, MD.

  6. Plants compete with each other for sunlight. Now we have introduced a new competitor for sunlight, and it isn’t very good.

  7. “Looks like they run a mower between the rows, but have’nt figured out how to keep the weeds down under the panels.” …. Do the Germans know there are weed whackers, I think they are invented by a German

  8. The panels absorb sunlight, the weeds absorb CO2 — isn’t that win-win? It’s, you know, Sustainable!

  9. Surely if the panels were absorbing all the sunlight properly there would be no weeds.
    Or are they deemed to be ‘bio-fuel’ ?

  10. Solar power is not feasible on this scale. It is pretty obvious.

    Solar power is, however, something that can be added to a home or business. In fact, instead of painting those ceilings white (as some cities have been doing), why not put solar panels up there? The grid can hang around to back things up. That is a much more feasible plan. In fact, it is the common sense way to go. The only problem I really see is the capital intensive nature of generating electrical power. Power would likely be more expensive by kilowatt hour if this went into effect widespread, which would likely skew prices geographically as areas like Seattle would probably end up bearing the brunt of costs.

  11. Now why would anyone want to disturb that lovely green carbon storage? That would also be disrupting the new habitat for the wildlife, they appreciate both the foliage and the shelter from the weather. Gee, I wonder if over time trees will grow there and lift up whole sections of panels.

    Strange, I don’t see any provision for tilting the panels and they look set rather low to the ground for the location. Doesn’t look like they are expecting much production during the winter months. Are the windmills going to be making up the difference?

  12. A couple of observations . The idea that PV electricity is free is idiotic. It costs money to keep weeds and undergrowth from taking over. And the panels need to be cleansed of dust and bird droppings regularly. My guess is this costs more than the feed in tariff generates and the owner is just walking away from it. Subsidies probably paid for the purchase and instalatlion of the panels, so it’s the government that’s taking a bath, not the operator.

    The other is the total misdesign of the project. There is no room to get mechanized mowing equipment under the panels. They should be 8 feet (2.5 meters) high so mowing equipment can get under it. Also there is no edge protection for the panels. They are vulnerable to contact from maintenance equipment.

    I thought Germans did better design work.

  13. Naturandyscrase says:
    July 5, 2011 at 9:09 pm
    I hope they use organic methods to clear those weeds :)

    Ah, the joy of weeds!
    I know of only 1 organic method of weed control: Get down on your hands & knees, insert long screwdriver and pop it up by the roots. Replaces with native grasses as the years go by.
    A perfect job for the Green-minded, and for those of us who don’t take kindly to weed-killers that work better on humans than the darn weeds.
    Of course, you know how to differentiate between native grasses and weeds, don’t you?
    The native grasses like trimming, but take years to spread inches by slow-growing roots.
    The infernal weeds multiply by billions as you weed-whack them into new shoot material, flinging the debris about and spreading the joy. OMG…Nature saw us coming with weed-whackers, and had its thorny revenge all worked out millions of years in advance.

  14. I am puzzled about the effect of putting a large solar farm in the middle of a desert might have on the region. The farm will absorb a LOT of energy, and may have quite a significant effect on the local climate. Will the shade encourage plants to grow? How will it affect evaporation etc,

    Do they even know what affect it will have ??

    Maybe that is exactly what is required to bring the plant life back to the Sahara….. seems to have worked in Germany ;-)

    Does anyone know?

  15. I suppose that the green answer to those weeds would be goats.

    But, I have some trouble figuring out how solar can be viable in places like Canada and northern Europe. In December in Berlin, the day is only 8 hours long and the sun angle at noon is only 17 degrees. That means that the panels would need to be pitched at what? 70-80 degrees? and spaced appropriately to avoid shading each other? Yes, solar might work in June, but in Winter you’d probably do better with candles for heat and warmth.

    Solar is certainly a viable technology for heating water and generating electricity … in the tropics and subtropics. And, unlike wind, it should interface rationally with power grids. But … in Germany????? I have a lot of trouble seeing how it can be successful that far North.

  16. I’m surprised no one here saw this:
    There is no sun! The sky is completely clouded.
    Installing solar panels in places like that are truly a waste of time and money. And of course – payment is on the citizens – courtesy of the government via heavy subsidy.
    No wonder they cannot afford maintenance.

  17. Earth’s plants have evolved over 3 billion years to fight “tooth and nail” for every square millimeter of sunlit surface. When we deny them any of the earth’s surface, they always fight back.

  18. Put some soft tires (one side with huge tires) on a ride around mower with a skinny driver and drive it right down the middle of that glass road. Weeds be gone. Make it electric too. With a long cord. Or maybe one of those obsolete hover-mowers (fly-mow?) would do it…

    Or one 20 acre sheet of black plastic. That should cover it.

  19. Granted, the weeds present in this site will be having a serious effect on the panels outputs, as shading causes loss of power. But solar panels do work, even here in the north of Scotland. I live off-grid with panels providing some of my power, together with wind and occasonally diesel.
    They do work this far north, and in summer we have long hrs of daylight, albeit much less in winter, but then its windier in winter.
    @Eyal Porat
    Panels do not need direct sunlight, they work perfectly well with diffuse light as well

  20. No wonder solar panels don’t work. They generate water to keep weeds alive. Water is a greenhouse gas.

  21. As for the desire for installing solar in deserts, hasn’t anybody involved even heard of sandstorms?

    How many desert solar installations would survive the sandblasting inflicted by even ‘one’ severe sandstorm? All that ‘shiny’ isn’t going to stay shiny for very long, that’s for sure.

    Also, windborne sand would make weed control look a non-issue, as dealing with new ranges of sand dunes built by solar panels and reinforced by solar panels, would be an extremely expensive ongoing headache.

    Same goes for HVDC powerlines proposed to transmit all this power for 1,000’s of miles, which are extremely vulnerable to both high winds and sandblasting (neither uncommon in desert environments). Never mind, as long as vast amounts of Public Money can be siphoned off into the feeding trough, eh?

    There’s a similar problem with solar furnaces in such environments too. The frequent replacement of mirror coatings will be far from cheap (the excellent coatings on my telescope mirror will do well to last 12 years, and believe me, that mirror is absolutely pampered).

    You have to wonder if some people ever make it out of mom’s basement, to interact with the real world?

  22. Step 1. Fill in forms. Apply for grant
    Step 2. Ignore local objections and pay off Bureaucrats.
    Step 3. Clear land. Lay concrete bases. Install panel units
    Step 4. Bureaucrats inspect facility and hand over grant.
    Step 5. Buy house in a warmer country and lay on the beach laughing at the sucker tax payers back home.

  23. Not sure anyone ever said solar was maintenance free, but several above seem to think that is true, but then I’m not sure what a few weeds in one poorly maintained site is supposed prove about solar itself working, other than the petty nature of skepticism.
    I’m sure, If I could be bothered I could find 100 photos of weed free sites from around the world.
    It was a little funny that the pop add that appeared on this site when I opened this comment was this http://www.solarquotes.com.au/?gclid=CIGgyvaq7KkCFQYlpAodPUMAXw

  24. Plans have been announced to turn the WHOLE of a town near me into a solar PV Farm by fixing PVs to every house roof in the district. See the article in the local paper here:

    http://www.leamingtoncourier.co.uk/news/will_southam_be_the_uk_s_first_solar_town_1_2821995

    “Eos Energy hopes to install photovoltaic panels on every suitable roof in the town after receiving £20 million funding to help households with the cost.

    Homes, farms and businesses could benefit from free energy if they are eligible for installation, paid for by a Government scheme to encourage green energy.

    Director Lee Summers, who hopes to introduce similar schemes for heating, claimed the scheme could save the 21,000 homes in the area £30 million-a-year and “take some of the fear” out of investing in green technology.

    He said: “We are trying to make our local area the greenest in the UK and a blueprint for the rest of the UK.”

    The money comes from an “ethically focused” private equity firm, which does not want to be named.

    Normally, a householder would pay £8,000 to £12,000 for installation, receiving a ‘feed-in tariff’ from the Government, saving money on power and being able to sell any surplus power to the National Grid.

    In Eos’ offer, the firm will pay for installation, maintenance and insurance, in return receiving the feed-in tariff. The householder will save money on fuel and can still sell on surplus electricity, owning the panel outright after 25 years.”

  25. Pierre Gosselin. Thank you so much for this!
    “Meanwhile Europe is planning a $600 billion monster solar facility in the SAHARA called Desertec”.

    Beyond insanity! Ask anyone living in Cairo what it is like to live in a house there during and after a sandstorm. It is a total waste of time to clean or dust for at least 3 days after! Now imagine these panels in the storm getting sandblasted. Forget the dust laying on the panels, they will be useless within hours and these windstorms happen all through the year and are so predictable that the Arabs have historic charts that tell you within three days when one will kick up!

    The Coptic Gale Chart is named after one of the ancient religions and was devised many years ago in Egypt (Alexandria?) and I have used the chart since the 1960’s and it is surprising how accurate it is! Maybe not scientific but those Arabs have been using it for many centuries.

    Now imagine a panel after it has been blasted by just one years worth of these wind driven sandstorms. $600 Billion! Blood boiling time again!

  26. We are all familiar with the Gore Effect.

    Now there is the Obama Effect.

    Read the sad story about the green company Obama praised.

    http://www.rushlimbaugh.com/home/daily/site_070511/content/01125109.guest.html

    Cardinal Fastener & Specialty Company, a Cleveland-based manufacturer of screws and bolts for wind turbines, i.e, green energy.

    http://www.wksu.org/news/story/28755

    Kind of sad to see people being misled about the promises of green energy.

    Reminds me of the eduscams advertisements we see on late night TV. The ones that promise high paying jobs in some industry after you’ve laid down the money for training.

  27. Gary Hladik says:
    July 5, 2011 at 10:23 pm

    No goats in Germany?
    I was going to suggest sheep.

  28. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:
    July 5, 2011 at 10:01 pm
    “Strange, I don’t see any provision for tilting the panels and they look set rather low to the ground for the location. ”

    These would be so-called “Tracker” systems. They are not cost-efficient anymore as the price of panels has dropped too far. You produce more electricity/Feed In Tariff profits by spending your investment on more panels instead of panels+tracker.

  29. A weed eater would likely break their upkeep budget and make the project uneconomic. During installation they could have placed a poly barrier on the ground and covered it with a few shovel fills of gravel. Better to add to the installation budget when you are being subsidized than to have to pay from your production afterword.

  30. Combine it with a rabbit farm, problem soved. Or else crank up the bio-diesel generators (Spanish style) to offset any losses.

  31. The waste of money and of perfectly good land borders on criminal. From an environmental, and even a carbon-centric POV a tree farm would make more sense. Go Green. No really, just go.

  32. So THAT’S where all those “shovel-ready” jobs went.

    Maybe they need to import some workers to to the jobs the Germans won’t do…

  33. From looking at Google Sat Maps the solar farm is on the same property, where there is a smelting operation, Curiously the street view is blocked with in 4 miles of the site. Through out the local area there are what looks like surface mining operations for maybe sand for making glass?
    The label on the building complex says “zf services deutschland gmbh” a Google search shows they make auto parts, and overhaul wind generator gear boxes just to the South East of the solar farm.
    Seek and you shall find ( gawd I love the internet!)

  34. Yes the panels are low enough that goats would be running up and down the racks of panels, would last less than a week with 60 goats working over the weeds.

  35. So we can’t build solar here in the US because it might disrupt the growth of native species. But this proves exactly the opposite, The greenies are wrong AGAIN, who’d a thunk it.

  36. What delicate little assemblages they are.
    The solar panels’ lifespan would have been even shorter, had they been erected in Oklahoma.

  37. When the ratepayers are paying 10-20 times the fair rate for the energy these panels produce, the best thing that could happen is they get completely covered with ” real solar panels” plants.

  38. The desertec project was mentioned. If you go to the desertec webpage you will see they are asking for donations for this and other projects. An indication to me that they cant do this themselves and in the future they will need subsidies or more “donations” from other sources to keep things running even for the short term.

  39. AndyG55 says:
    July 5, 2011 at 10:30 pm
    I am puzzled about the effect of putting a large solar farm in the middle of a desert might have on the region. The farm will absorb a LOT of energy, and may have quite a significant effect on the local climate. Will the shade encourage plants to grow? How will it affect evaporation etc,

    Do they even know what affect it will have ??

    Think I would be more worried about the sand storms and the moving sand dunes, nothing stops them.

  40. Here’s a thought. Weeds are a renewable source of energy. They grow rapidly, converting CO2 and water, using the sun’s energy, into fuel. Has any one calculated the rate of energy production of 20 acres of weeds and compared it with 20 acres of solar panels? Which would produce the most electricity for the least cost?

  41. Solar panels in a German winter, I would love to see the output. I live in Melbourne and have a 4.997kW system, at 4:00pm on a cloudy winters afternoon my systems output was 37 watts, last week on a clear sunny day at 16°C, max output was 1.498 kW and total for the day 5.521kW. You are not going to run too much heavy machinery on that.

  42. Any smart farmer would attest to the need to have a cover crop in between the rows of as yet non productive mature fruit trees. The alternative to this ‘cover’ crop, is to create financial incentive to offset the maturity calendar costs by subsidizing the actually costs via some as of yet undiscovered loop hole in the final line of the tax code. Energy costs would necessarily skyrocket to farm in this manner.

    Does this presented little ice age theory have a Northern Hemisphere fitment with say the Mt Rainer glacial data records?

  43. Thistles – oh joy!
    You can’t get rid of them just by pulling them out by hand:

    ‘Creeping thistle persists and spreads chiefly by means of the horizontal underground creeping roots that can exceed 5 m long. Fragments of root from plants in the field margins can be carried into the field and spread during cultivation. The collection and burial of root pieces by rodents has resulted in the unexpected appearance of the weed in previously clean areas. There is also evidence that undisturbed pieces of swollen root can remain dormant in the soil for several years until disturbed by cultivation.’
    Link: http://www.gardenorganic.org.uk/organicweeds/weed_information/weed.php?id=5

    Solar ‘farms’ like this one – I’m sure there are others – are hugely detrimental to the environment. But we already know that watermelons don’t mind environmental destruction as long as it ‘saves’ the planet.

  44. The New Hampshire version of that photo is a picture of giant solar arrays in February with 20 inches of ice/snow on top of them…

    I think we should get Greenpeace, UEA and NASA/GISS to do the maintenance for these facilities (preferably with climate scientists doing the heavy labor).

  45. Don K says:
    July 5, 2011 at 11:08 pm
    But, I have some trouble figuring out how solar can be viable in places like Canada and northern Europe.

    Climate Scientists have already solved this. With the increase in CO2 there is much more EM radiation reaching earth as “back radiation” than there is as “solar radiation”. There are many pages of peer reviewed Climate Science calculations showing this to be true. This “back radiation” is what drives solar panel in northern latitudes and at night everywhere on the globe, making fossil fuels largely unnecessary for future power generation.

  46. I see another long journey for Anthony after his epic photograph as many surface stations as possible, next summer will be taking pics of solar and wind parks.

    Well at least it’s outside.

  47. @ Fred H Haynie…

    Compiled from Jack Herer.com Fuel:

    Farming 6% of the continental U.S. acreage with biomass crops would provide all of America’s energy needs.
    Hemp is Earth’s number-one biomass resource; it is capable of producing 10 tons per acre in four months.
    Biomass can be converted to methane, methanol, or gasoline at a cost comparable to petroleum, and hemp is much better for the environment.
    Pyrolysis (charcoalizing), or biochemical composting are two methods of turning hemp into fuel.
    Hemp can produce 10 times more methanol than corn.
    Hemp fuel burns clean. Petroleum causes acid rain due to sulfur pollution.
    The use of hemp fuel does not contribute to global warming.

  48. @TK who said: “Do the Germans know there are weed whackers, I think they are invented by a German.”

    The Weed Eater was invented by George Ballas, Sr., a Houstonian who was born in Louisiana, He died last month.

  49. Can one of our German readers get us some real information to go with the photo? Kinda like the Surface Stations project–run over there and collect factual local information about the ‘solar farm’ and get back to us with a guest post? (We acknowledge that the original photographer was ‘driving by’ after business hours and did his best.)

  50. Note that to allow access by vehicles they take up twice as much land as the panels themselves require, thereby undoing people’s estimates of how much land solar needs when they just count the panels.

  51. The West squandering its wealth and future, that is the essence of it isnt it? Doing the wrong thing at the wrong time for the wrong reasons with hundreds of billions pissed up the wall. And at the end of the day, when all becomes clear and the truth can no longer be hidden and the money has gone, what we will be left with is a scrap yards dream. Thousands of useless windmills and acres of useless solar panelling.

    What were our leaders thinking? What went through their minds I wonder, Homer Simpson is a genius beside these imbeciles and in fact I insult imbeciles when I compare them to our leaders. They have contrived not only to take the wrong road, they ignored the evidence and they scorned, insulted and scoffed at the people who warned of the disastrous consequences.

    God have mercy on us because our enemies will have none.

  52. Most of the large solar plants in the US are being put in deserts in the Southwest, so this isn’t really a problem here.

    Utilities here only get their renewable production standard credits for energy produced so there is a strong incentive to maintain output.

    And the large scale solar plants here are quite tall, especially the ones on trackers.

    Weeds are not likely to be an issue for utility scale solar plants in the US. I expect etching and clouding of glass and broken dust-inundated trackers are more likely problems. 20 years is a long time to sit in a desert.

  53. The past winter brought huge amounts of snow that covered solar panels for months.
    After that we had an extreme release of (sticky)pollen which also covered the panels.
    And we didn’t discuss the bird droppings.
    This is a major problem in the cities.

    We need base load electricity generation for a functioning society.

    Wind and solar is just a money pit.

    Just forget about it.

  54. ferd berple says:
    July 6, 2011 at 6:21 am

    Don K says:
    July 5, 2011 at 11:08 pm
    But, I have some trouble figuring out how solar can be viable in places like Canada and northern Europe.

    Climate Scientists have already solved this. With the increase in CO2 there is much more EM radiation reaching earth as “back radiation” than there is as “solar radiation”. There are many pages of peer reviewed Climate Science calculations showing this to be true. This “back radiation” is what drives solar panel in northern latitudes and at night everywhere on the globe, making fossil fuels largely unnecessary for future power generation.

    LOL. Sorry to be directly offensive, but you are posting utter nonsense there.

    Solar cells are only 30% efficient at their theoretical limit. We’re not there yet. So whatever backradiation increases exist, the solar cells are only picking up 30% of that. Thirty percent of a <1% increase in backradiation (not incident radiation) is probably immeasurable with a handheld fluke multimeter off of any solar cell.

    By all means, keep posting your humor.

  55. Don K says:
    July 5, 2011 at 11:08 pm

    And, unlike wind, it should interface rationally with power grids.

    Nope…those things we sometimes refer to as ‘white puffy clouds’ raise havoc with solar and the grid. One minute you are getting a power spike as a result of the reflectivity of the cloud and the next minute you have a power dropout as a result of the shade from the cloud.

    Here’s a graph showing solar generation at 10 second intervals for the big solar farm in Arizona.

    There isn’t anyway for a fossil fuel plant to ramp up and down that fast to compensate.

  56. An enormous amount of work went into detailed intervisibility studies of that part of world, I can’t imagine how that facility would have ever been efficient.

  57. R. de Haan, I wish we could get greenies as a class of non-workers added to the next Civilization game as a negative feedback on prosperity for advanced societies.

  58. In the future solar panels could be designed to not grow weeds on them. I don’t see any problem with solar power if it is not forced by the government. It is nice to have your options open.

  59. #61

    “…Compiled from Jack Herer.com Fuel:

    Farming 6% of the continental U.S. acreage with biomass crops would provide all of America’s energy needs.
    Hemp is Earth’s number-one biomass resource; it is capable of producing 10 tons per acre in four months.
    Biomass can be converted to methane, methanol, or gasoline at a cost comparable to petroleum, and hemp is much better for the environment.
    Pyrolysis (charcoalizing), or biochemical composting are two methods of turning hemp into fuel.
    Hemp can produce 10 times more methanol than corn.
    Hemp fuel burns clean. Petroleum causes acid rain due to sulfur pollution.
    The use of hemp fuel does not contribute to global warming…”

    I’d like to add one more “perk” to the idea of burning Hemp as fuel:

    People living downwind are much happier.

  60. From DirkH on July 6, 2011 at 4:09 am:

    These would be so-called “Tracker” systems. They are not cost-efficient anymore as the price of panels has dropped too far. You produce more electricity/Feed In Tariff profits by spending your investment on more panels instead of panels+tracker.

    “Trackers,” as I understand them, are for the east-west sun-following movements, and would be a maintenance nightmare on such a large-scale panel project. I was thinking about simple tilting during the year to keep the panel roughly perpendicular to the incoming sunlight. There are various ways of mounting the panels in a rigid-enough manner that allow for a quick manual adjustment, once a month or so should suffice. It can be done as part of the regular maintenance, when they check the panels for damage, clean them… trim the weeds… etc.

  61. The weeds can capture and store energy, unlike those useless shiny black things.

  62. A hedge trimmer would make short work of the weeds, but perhaps there was no subsidy for that!

  63. Obviously, another project, designed for show and dough. Once the ribbon was cut and the political hay was harvested… the site had no further imperative. GK

  64. Ah in this whacky “post normal” science world, the government will fund a “scientific” study that will show that in order to keep the weeds down you have to remove the residual heat under the panels and then create some green employment by sending out a team of painters to paint all the panels white, to reflect the sunshine, and of course write it all up in a media lauded “peer reviewed” article for Nature or some other prestigious “science journal”

  65. A win-win for rabid environmentalists. Money will need to be allocated to remediate the site.

  66. Fred H. Haynie- “Has any one calculated the rate of energy production of 20 acres of weeds and compared it with 20 acres of solar panels? ”

    Biomass can produce a wide range of tonnage per acre-year, from 1 to >20 T/acre-year. Pick 10 T/acre-year as typical. Biomass can provide about 16 MBTU/T of heat, or 2000 kWh/T (assuming 40% efficient generation). For 20 acres at 10 T/acre-year, that comes to about 0.4M kWh/yr. Then you need to subtract energy needed to harvest and burn the weeds.
    The article claims the solar farm will provide 2.7M kWh/yr. So, the solar panels provide more electricity than burning the weeds from the same plot of land.

    Note that the farm is claimed to have a peak output of 2722 kW. This means they are expecting only (2,700,000/(365*2722) = 2.7 hours/day of full sunshine. Perhaps the weed shading is built into this calculation.

  67. The real question is this. Which offsets more carbon; leaving the weeds to grow and allow them to absorb the CO2 or cutting them down to allow more sun light to hit the solar panels?

  68. I think it can easily be economically viable. If you turn it into a solar farm-grow-op.

  69. Anthony,
    It would be an illuminating study if some of your surface station volunteers, who live close to wind farms, could shoot a short movie panorama each month that you could then host, so we could do a count of the operating Vs. non-operating windmills over the course of a year. Wonder if we would discover something similar to the obvious loss of capacity as shown in the solar farm article above. Even a one-time effort could prove interesting.

  70. Sort of OT, but has anyone experience with silicon solar cells in areas that have hail somewhat frequently?

  71. AndyG55 says:
    July 5, 2011 at 10:30 pm
    I am puzzled about the effect of putting a large solar farm in the middle of a desert might have on the region. The farm will absorb a LOT of energy, and may have quite a significant effect on the local climate. Will the shade encourage plants to grow? How will it affect evaporation etc,

    Do they even know what affect it will have ??

    Dont worry, Mother Nature is way ahead of us on this issue.

    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/07/090731-green-sahara.html

  72. How can they have been so deranged as to not lay down even “weed weave” for protection against weed? Or were they just hoping the onlooking hippies would smoke it all in some delirious, but colorful, state, not knowing one weed from the next?

  73. The panels are undoubtedly functioning as moisture condensers, which then drips through the gaps between panels, so that the weeds under them are well watered.

  74. I’m surprised that the original article doesn’t have information about the actual output of that facility. They’ve got the rated capacity – would be really interesting to see what it’s actual performance has been.

    As to goats that several people have mentioned – they’d have an absolute field day (no pun intended!) jumping up on those solar panels, racing up and down them, chasing each other, leaping off the far side, etc. Goats love to climb and leap on things. Using goats for weed control would be a great way to very rapidly ruin the entire facility – but the goats would sure have a lot of fun in the process! I have no idea if sheep would be a similar problem or not…. or if sheep are even willing to eat weeds like goats are, or if sheep are more particular.

    If those are actually thistles/nettles…. well, I don’t know about present day “Round Up” weed controller, but back 10 years or so ago, you could just about drench nettles/thistle here in the US with Round Up and it’d have relatively little effect. The durned things are pretty resistant to weed killers and awfully resilient.

  75. re post by: henrythethird says: July 6, 2011 at 8:57 am

    I’d like to add one more “perk” to the idea of burning Hemp as fuel:

    People living downwind are much happier.

    Henry, not sure if you’re serious or joking – soooo…. the thing about hemp is that it doesn’t contain the psychoactive compounds that marijuana does. Or at least, commerical hemp that is used to make cloth, rope, and a ton of other products doesn’t. It LOOKS like marijuana I gather, but you’d get zip if you smoked or ate it – and it apparently does have tremendous commercial value. It’s a real shame that you can’t legally grow it as a crop here in the USA (or at least, last I checked you couldn’t).

  76. Eddie says:July 6, 2011 at 11:11 am
    “The real question is this. Which offsets more carbon; leaving the weeds to grow and allow them to absorb the CO2 or cutting them down to allow more sun light to hit the solar panels?”

    Another question would be – how many months, years, will it take to break even CO2 wise with this facility?

    It is going to be a lot longer if they don’t do some maintenance soon as they are missing out on the theoretical max output time of the year. I hope the design of the system is such that the panels DC output is converted to AC quickly (with only a few panel per inverter) otherwise those weeds are going to effect entire strings of panels output.

    The weeds look a lot like the ones in my front pasture- which are finally drying out now that we have hit the upper 90”s(F) here in CA. My little 6.12 kw (sts rating) generated 35 kwh yesterday. With our still and hot temperatures yesterday my output was down about 10% from it’s theoretical max output for an early July day. Heat, dirt/dust/bird droppings and shade/clouds are not good things for PV output.

  77. You Don’t understand they are running an experiment to see how much sunlight the “plants” absorb and how this affects the running of the solar panels.

  78. The panels absorb sunlight, the weeds absorb CO2 — isn’t that win-win? It’s, you know, Sustainable!

    Damn you man, you made me spew my coffee!

  79. I think that dust in the panel gaps provides the growing media. Think what damage those roots are doing. Much reduced efficiency.

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