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Friday, July 22, 2011


An item on National Radio NZ yesterday (22/07/11) stated that the sum of bonuses paid in the UK over the past year was 13.6b.  That is 13,600,000,000 pounds sterling.  This link says that it was 14b, not 13.6, and that this was just to the employees of the banks.  It further says that this sector (the banks), which employees 4% of the people in the UK are getting 40% of the bonuses, which are paid in the UK.  Doing a bit of math (14/0.4) it would suggest that the total bonuses paid in the UK equaled 34billion pounds sterling.  I find it hard to get my head around big numbers like these so I am trying to get a handle on what it means.

Now the population of the UK is just below 62 million and the average wage is 500 pounds per month or 6000 pounds per year.  Unemployment is 2.45 million.  The GDP of Great Britain is $2.17trillion US or in today's money, 1.33 trillion pounds.  That is 1,330,000,000,000 pounds sterling.  The national debt of Great Britain is 0.8 of GDP or 1.06 trillion.  Lets look at these figures in a few different ways just to gain some perspective.  The figures are too large to grasp as they are.

How many of the unemployed could be employed at the average UK wage if we used the bankers bonuses to pay them.

We divide the 14b pounds of bankers bonuses by the average wage of $6000 pounds a year.  Answer - 2.3m.  That is just short of the 2.45m that are reported to be unemployed.

How many of the unemployeed could be employed at the Average UK wage if we used all the bonuses paid in the UK

We divide the 34b by 2.45m unemployeed.  Answer - 13.8m or far more than are unemployeed.

What wage could all 2.45m unemployed be receiving if we used the bankers bonuses.

We divide the 14b by 2.45m.  Answer - 5,714 pounds per year - just under the average wage.

If we used the bonuses of the banks to pay off the National debt, how long would it take,

We divide the national debt of 1.06trillion by the 14billion pounds of annual bonuses,  Answer - 75 years.

How about if we used all the 34b of bonuses to pay off the national debt.

We divide the 1.06trillion by 34billion.  Answer - 31 years.

Now I don't know what you think about bonuses to bankers but here is my take.  Firstly, these so called guardians of our economy; these people who produce nothing of intrinsic value and simply transfer money around the place so others can produce; these people who skim off some of the money every time it passes through their sticky little fingers,  have shown themselves demonstrably and conclusively to be incompetent.

It would be reprehensible but understandable if they had seen the looming economic crisis and had positioned themselves economically to make a killing from it.  Not hard.  You liquefy all your assets (turn them into cash) and then buy them up following the crash.  They didn't.  they didn't even understand the likely results of their actions. They are totally economically incompetent.

Then they are incredibly venal.  The very crisis they caused by pushing more and more credit on the public (toxic mortgages, for instance and ever increasing credit card limits) so that they could rake off a commission from every transaction caused the crash.  We bailed them out.  Money from our taxes was put into the banks so that they wouldn't fail.  We ensured that they would continue to have jobs ( we were not so lucky) and what did they do.  They used our money to award themselves obscene bonuses just as they did before the crash.

We, the public, at least, showed a modicum of good sense.  We stopped buying.  That kept inflation from going wild as various countries practiced quantitative easing (printing money).  We paid down debt (if we still had a job) instead of buying.  While that kept inflation in check, it put the squeeze on our businesses who had to discount heavily in an attempt to get us to part with our cash.  Now we face a further insult.

All that quantitative easing is potential inflation; inflation just waiting to happen. In essence the money supply equals the sum of all goods and services.  If you have more money and still the same pool of goods and services, the more you print, the less each dollar or pound is worth.  That's inflation.   Do you have a savings account.  The numeric amount of money in the account won't change but it's buying power will.  It is a stealthy way of stealing money (buying power) from your bank account without ever touching it.  You are being robbed without any need to point a gun.

I haven't yet got the figures for the US of A but I'll do the same calculation for them. I can't help wondering where these jokers get their amazing, unexamined conviction of their own self entitlement.  They produce nothing, gamble against each other and against us, bring down the economy produced by hard working people and then in the very year that the whole edifice crumbles, award themselves fat bonuses from the bail out we provided. 

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Solar Energy Quesions

The cost of solar panels is decreasing.  I have seen advertisements which talk about $1.75US and even $1.50US per nominal watt* (July 2011).  We are getting close to the magic, oft-quoted figure of $1.00US per watt which is said to be the figure at which solar becomes competitive with conventional energy generations.

*Solar panels are rated by the number of watts of power# they will generate when the rays of the sun are shining directly at a right angle to the panel from a clear blue sky.  This is their "nominal watt rating"

#A Watt is a unit of power.  It is the rate at which energy is produced.  A 10 watt panel if it produced energy for an hour will produce 10 Watt hours.  A watt hour (or a kilowatt hour) is a unit of energy. Some people call a kWh a "unit".

I'm trying to get myself educated as to the inns and outs of solar power in preparation for the magic day when panels sell for a dollar per watt.  I'll put down the questions and then put in answers as I get them, either from my own reading or from responses from people who are knowledgeable in the subject.  If you want to put in an answer (or a question), put them in comments and I will put them in the body of the text.  I'm only considering a grid connected system.  The cost of batteries is just too expensive at present. 

In no particular order:

Panel Shading
### With early solar panels, if a few cells were shaded, they acted as resistors and were often burnt out by the operating cells in the panel.  Diodes inserted in the panels solved this problem but the diodes themselves reduces the power output of the panel.  In addition, with present panels, if you have 10% of the cells shaded, you loose much more than 10% of the power.  This whole subject has further implications.  

Suppose panels become sufficiently inexpensive that it is worthwhile to clad your East and West facing roof as well as your North Facing Roof (I live in New Zealand) with panels.  You do this to have power more evenly generated throughout the day.  However the three sets of panels are now no longer co-linear.  Throughout the day, each set is producing energy at a different rate and a different voltage.  What technological solutions are already in place so that you get the full amount of energy which is being produced by all the cells in your various arrays of panels.  There is a further implication for electric cars.  

At present, you can retrofit solar panels to the roof of your Prius.  It is said to produce enough energy for about 10km of driving for each day in the sun.  A nice little bonus.  Before long, it may be possible to clad all the external surfaces of a car with solar cells.  However, on a car, with it's curved surfaces, no two cells will be colinear with each other.  Does the technology exist to  ensure that you are getting all the power that each cell produces into your batteries.

Generation Without Direct Sun
### What percent of the nominal power of a solar panel do you produce when the panel can "see" a clear blue sky but has no direct Sun shining on it

### Do I still generate power on a bright cloudy day (I know this is like asking how long is a piece of string but I am trying to get a feel for how much energy is produced under different conditions).

Optimum Panel Angle
### How much is my power reduced if my panels are not tilted at the seasonal angle*
*The angle of your Solar panels array can be tilted as a unit throughout the year so that at noon, the panels are at right angles to the rays of the sun.  If the panels are fixed at the best yearly average angle for your latitude, they will be producing less power than they otherwise could be if you adjust the seasonal angle throughout the year.

###  I'm a little puzzled by the optimum angle at which your panels should be set.  Clearly, the very best situation in terms of the amount of energy generated would be to have the panels follow the sun both in the East West direction and in their angle above the horizon.  This would ensure that the panels were always normal (at right angles) to the rays of the sun and hence were always generating the maximum possible amount of energy. Incase you are contemplating such a system there are some severe dissadvantages which I won't go into here.  Lets have a look at mid summer's day (Dec 23 in the Southern Hemisphere where I live).

My house is oriented toward true North.  That is to say, I have a roof surface pointing exactly toward each of the cardinal directions (N,S,E,W).  Lets draw an immaginary East West line through my house.  In the middle of summer, the sun rises over the horizon about 20 degrees South of that line.  It only begins to illuminate my North facing roof at around 9:00AM.  Up to that time, I am not getting any direct sun light on the roof.  Before 9:00AM, a panel would only be generating electricity from a clear blue sky.  The same situation occurs in the afternoon.  Somewhere around 4:00PM, the direct sun no longer shines on my panels and the sun sets about 20 degrees south of my East West line.

I wonder how much electricity I would generate, in comparison with panels which are fixed to my roof, if I had my panels fixed horizontally.  I wonder how much I would generate if the whole array changed its angle to the horizon during the day.  It is much easier to change the angle of the panels in one direction rather than in two directions.  The theoretical answer should be obtainable with a little spherical Trig and some slightly more complicated Calculus. 

Panel Cooling
### How important is it to allow a free flow of air below my panels to help cool them.  What is the effect on power production.  What is the effect on the longevity of the panels.

Single or Double Metering
### Is it lawful in my country to simply turn my meter backwards when I am producing more power than I am using or must I have two meters. (I'd like to find what the regulations are in different countries)

Are Meters Reversable
### Are there meters that will not turn backwards if I produce more power than I use or are all meters reverseable.

Protection of Grid Workers
### What sort of device do I need to ensure that if the grid goes off, I am not sending power into the grid (this is necessary so that workers, fixing a fault on the line will not be electrocuted when they think they have turned off the power to the area of the fault but micro generators are still electrifying the grid)

A Few Batteries??
###  If I am grid connected, would it  be economically worthwhile to have a small array of batteries as a buffer.  (note that for a stand alone system, you need enough batteries to store energy to carry you over periods of no sun.  For a really reliable system, this involves a lot of expense).

Peak Hours Geographically
###  Where can I find information on how many peak hours I have in my area


Note that all these sites measure something different.  Read the fine print carefully.  it is my understanding that peak solar hours are measured with a horizontal detector.  Clearly, if that is so, if you orient your panels at the average latitudinal angle of your location, you will generate more power than the peak hour figure would indicate.  If you go one step further and adjust the angle of your panels, say, each month to keep them normal (at a right angle) to the sun at that season, you will get more power still and if you go all the way and track the sun throughout the day, more power still.  ps.  In case you are going all the way with daily tracking, there are some definite dissadvantages of doing so so tread carefully.