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Solar Peaks

Ah, the power of altitude...
  [vote for,

One thing I've noticed during my several years of flying is that there are a lot of mountains with large portions above the level of clouds. There are also a lot of cities and small towns built at the base of such mountains.

I say we should cover the entire above-cloud surface of these mountains with solar panels to provide energy for these towns. Think about it: they're above the level of clouds so there's always plenty of clear sunshine during the day to provide a constant source of free, clean energy.

21 Quest, Jun 25 2006


       Setting this up will be far from free.
Texticle, Jun 25 2006

       Also I'm assuming these mountains have snow on them? That's going to be an on-going problem right there, but it is also testament to the fact that sometimes they are below the clouds.
Texticle, Jun 25 2006

       Its about time those damn mountains started earning their keep.
bungston, Jun 25 2006

       You just put the solar panels on TOP of the snow, silly.
Galbinus_Caeli, Jun 26 2006

       //constant source//
The problem with mountains is the light will be blocked half the day (as well as all of the night).
ldischler, Jun 26 2006

       ldischler - you are assuming we are not cutting the entire top of the mountain off for the panels - that way there would be no problem with being on the shady side of the mountain. Easy fix!
trekbody, Jun 26 2006

       You could also put the mountain on a giant swivel and rotate to face the sun.

       So far as cutting off the mountain top, don't laugh, they are doing exactly that in West Virginia to get the coal out. Kind of like a softboiled egg.
Galbinus_Caeli, Jun 26 2006

       Bloody clever! This is one of those ideas that makes me say, "Of course!" Come on, guys, let's solve the problems, not exaggerate them.

       The panels are located on the south slopes of the mountaintop, and are slanted toward the south. They pick up more sun, and the snow slides off.

       The mountaintops will be cloud-free more often than the cities at their feet, and the air is thinner, so more power is available. But, when the mountaintop is covered with clouds, the wind will be howling fierce--fasten the panels down securely.

       Possibly positive side effect: the snow beneath the panels (I'm assuming they are up on stands) will last longer into the summer.

       [Later] Solar panels are generally appropriate for rural areas, far off the grid. Mountains are generally found in rural areas, far off the grid. Coincidence?
baconbrain, Jun 26 2006

       The big win on this system is that the air is cooler on mountaintops, and most kinds of solar cells are more efficient at lower temperatures.

       The extra shade should help keep the snowpack up there more stable for more of the year, so that should help keep water supplies more stable. Kind of an artificial glacier effect. Of course, to minimize the effect on plant life the arrays should be restricted to mountain areas above the tree line. Snow accumulation shouldn't be a big problem, the solar panels are dark and should generally be warmer than the surround, but a heater element in the back probably wouldn't hurt (self powered, of course). Snow burial could be an issue, so you'd want to mount them up high on poles. Could be a problem with high winds, but they could probably be engineered to be strong enough.

       So really, it's a win-win, solar power, stabilize water supplies, it's a good deal.
cordis, Jan 31 2008

       The power could be run down the mountain, and supply little hidden outlet boxes in the undergrowth. Then when you're out camping, just look for a currant bush.
lurch, Jan 31 2008

       One could build the panels to snugly conform to the mountainside. A fit of peak, so to speak.
bungston, Feb 01 2008

       Perhaps the solar panels could have heaters to keep them clear of the pesky snow.
coprocephalous, Feb 01 2008

       One could power the heaters with small accessory solar panels, or possibly windmills.
bungston, Feb 01 2008

       Think about the cost of getting all the equipment and workers up there and building at the top of a mountain. You also have to run high voltage power lines up the mountain. You would probably end up helicoptering everything up or building a switchback road up the mountain (remember that this mountain is above the cloud layer, so it is not gonna be short). Then you need to get people back and forth the whole time for maintenance. Now compare that to the cost of building solar fields on flat ground next to an existing road. Solar power can hardly pay for itself as it is. Climbing mountains just makes it even more cost prohibative. The gain of 20 or 30% or even 100% more solar energy would not offset the massive cost of going up a mountain.
DanDaMan, Feb 02 2008


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