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[Phys-l] Concentration of Energy by PhotoVoltaic Solar Panels (was Purpose of Life)

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Bud Nye (2012), in his Physoc post "Purpose of Life" wrote [bracketed by lines "NNNNN. . . .; my inserts at ". [[insert]]. . . .]] :

After reading five of systems ecologist Howard T. Odum's energy-focused books. . . .[[see e.g., "Environment, Power, and Society for the Twenty-First Century: The Hierarchy of Energy (Odum, 2007)" and Amazon's "Howard T. Odum book page" at <>.]]. . . , it strikes me that the probable "purpose of life" involves doing what ALL life, from the most primitive to the most complex, does: CONCENTRATE ENERGY; move energy along the energy hierarchy from the lowest quality, most disbursed carriers, such as sunlight, into the most dense, highest quality, highest transferity carriers possible, such as electricity and information, thus minimizing the entropy of systems over time . . . . . . . especially since the industrial revolution, we, especially those of us in the West and in the U.S., have functioned in ways that work directly opposite this (probable) purpose of life (assuming that life has any such teleological "purpose", as many people wish to believe that it does). We have worked extremely hard to DISPERSE energy, not concentrate it. We have worked not to minimize the entropy of systems, but instead to maximize various life systems' entropy. This does not bode well for our long-term future. . . . . .

One method of "concentrating energy" or "decreasing entropy" . . . . . . . [[see, e.g., "Removing the Mystery of Entropy and Thermodynamics" (Leff, 2012)]]. . . . is available to individual citizens: installation of photovoltaic solar panels (PVSP) on citizens' roof tops.

Some discussion list subscribers might wish to consider the following "Fermi Problem" <>:

What fraction of the yearly total U.S. fossil-fueled electrical energy (and thus fraction of yearly tons of CO2 emission from fossil-fueled electrical energy production) could be eliminated by PVSP in the U.S. if ALL roof tops in the U.S. were covered by PVSP?


(1) According to CARMA (2007) the total electrical energy production for 2007 in the U.S was 4.19 x 10^9 MWh/y [MWh/y = MegaWattHours/year] of which 69% was fossil fueled.

(2) According to the population clock at <>, the population of the U.S. on 5 Feb 2012 = 313 x 10^6.

(3) According to <> "A typical '150 watt' solar panel is about a square meter in size. Such a panel may be expected to produce 1 kWh every day, on average, after taking into account the weather and the latitude."

But before recommending, on the basis of one's answer to the above Fermi problem, that all U.S. rooftops be covered with PVSP, one should consider the EMERGY associated with such a plan - see "Environmental Accounting: Emergy and Environmental Decision Making" [Odum (1995)].

Richard Hake, Emeritus Professor of Physics, Indiana University
Honorary Member, Curmudgeon Lodge of Deventer, The Netherlands
President, PEdants for Definitive Academic References
which Recognize the Invention of the Internet (PEDARRII)
Links to Articles: <>
Links to SDI Labs: <>
Blog: <>
Academia: <>

REFERENCES [All URL's accessed on 05 February 2012, most shortened by <>.]

CARMA. 2007 CARbon Monitoring for Action, "Center for Global Development"; online as a <>.

Leff, H. 2012a. "Removing the Mystery of Entropy and Thermodynamics - Part I," Phys. Teach. 50(1): 28-31; online to subscribers at <>.

Leff, H. 2012b. "Removing the Mystery of Entropy and Thermodynamics - Part II," Phys. Teach. 50(2): 87-90; online to subscribers at < >. Parts III-V will be published in Phys.Teach 50 (2012).

Nye, B. 2012. "Purpose of Life," online on the CLOSED!:-( Physoc archives at <>. Post of 3 Feb 2012 10:43:11-0800 to Physoc. To access the archives of PHYSOC one needs to subscribe, but that takes only a few minutes by clicking on <> and then clicking on "Subscribe or Unsubscribe" in the right-hand column. If you're busy, then subscribe using the "NOMAIL" option under "Miscellaneous." Then, as a subscriber, you may access the archives and/or post messages at any time, while receiving NO MAIL from the list!

Odum, H.G.1995. "Environmental Accounting: Emergy and Environmental Decision Making." Wiley, publisher's information at <>. information at <>, note the searchable "Look Inside" feature." See esp. pp. 156-157 "Solar Voltaic Power." On page 1, Odum writes: "EMERGY, spelled with an 'm,' measures both the work of nature and that of humans in generating products and services. By selecting choices that maximize EMERGY production and use, policies and judgements can favor those environmental that maximize real wealth, the whole economy, and the public benefit." On page 156-157 he writes" "EMERGY evaluations of solar voltaic arrays have yet to show any net EMERGY yield. The power grid at Austin, Tex., . . . is taking more EMERGY out of society than it is generating. . ."

Odum, H.G. 2007. "Environment, Power, and Society for the Twenty-First Century: The Hierarchy of Energy." Columbia University Press, publisher's information at <>. information at <>, note the searchable "Look Inside" feature.