Re: Smart Meters in communities
From: Moz (
Date: Mon, 11 Jul 2011 16:35:23 -0700 (PDT)
Sharon said:
> I used to teach with a physicist who edited one of the best academic,
> peer-reviewed journals on physics. About 15 years ago, I asked her about
> the feasibility of solar power.  She said we don't know what it will do to
> the environment.

Well no. The same could be said for planting corn instead of grass. Or
deforesting the Sahara.

> No one has ever taken that much energy away from the sun
> before and converted to other uses.

The agricultural revolution had a much more dramatic effect - widespread
deforestation was a *huge* change in how we use solar power.

> How will that affect the sun?

Remember that we are not taking energy away from the sun - at most we are
changing the albedo (reflectivity) of a planet that receives less than one
part in a billion of the sun's radiated output. So I hope you're
misremembering that discussion. Counter-factual environmentalism is a
particular bugbear of mine.

So I think I can guess on that last question: it won't. A tiny change in
reflectivity on a little dot 8 light-minutes away from the sun will have
no detectable effect. The recent ice age would have had more effect. If we
launched a soletta and reflected *all* EMR straight back at the sun we
might be able to have some effect on it. What we're doing with solar
plants is a bit like asking what effect that USA flag we planted on the
moon will have on tidal flows on Earth. Yup, in theory it definitely has
an effect (we moved mass between orbiting bodies). In practice? Too many
leading zeros.

The effect we have on the environments down here is likely to be
noticeable. But I'm not sure quite what it will be. One that would amuse
me is if large-scale solar collector arrays had the effect of increasing
local rainfall and cloud cover. But that seems unlikely. More likely is
slight local cooling. But the decreased reflectivity might mean local


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