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posted by LaminatorX on Sunday March 23 2014, @11:32PM   Printer-friendly
from the Where's-my-20-hour-work-week? dept.

Papas Fritas writes:

"Jeremy Rifkin writes in the NYT that the inherent dynamism of competitive markets is bringing down costs so far that many goods and services are becoming nearly free, abundant, and no longer subject to market forces and while economists have always welcomed a reduction in marginal cost, they never anticipated the possibility of a technological revolution that might bring those costs to near zero. The first inkling of this paradox at the heart of capitalism came in 1999 when Napster enabled millions of people to share music without paying the producers and artists, wreaking havoc on the music industry. Similar phenomena went on to severely disrupt the newspaper and book publishing industries. The huge reduction in marginal cost is now beginning to reshape energy, manufacturing and education. "Although the fixed costs of solar and wind technology are somewhat pricey, the cost of capturing each unit of [renewable] energy beyond that is low (PDF)," says Rifkin. As for manufacturing "thousands of hobbyists are already making their own products using 3-D printers, open-source software and recycled plastic as feedstock, at near zero marginal cost" and more than six million students are enrolled in "free massive open online courses, the content of which is distributed at near zero marginal cost."

But nowhere is the zero marginal cost phenomenon having more impact than the labor market, where workerless factories and offices, virtual retailing and automated logistics and transport networks are becoming more prevalent. What this means according to Rifkin is that new employment opportunities will lie in the collaborative commons in fields that tend to be nonprofit and strengthen social infrastructure like health care, aiding the poor, environmental restoration, child care, care for the elderly, and the promotion of the arts and recreation. "As for the capitalist system, it is likely to remain with us far into the future, albeit in a more streamlined role, primarily as an aggregator of network services and solutions, allowing it to thrive as a powerful niche player in the coming era. We are, however, entering a world partly beyond markets, where we are learning how to live together in an increasingly interdependent, collaborative, global commons.""

 
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  • (Score: 2) by evilviper on Monday March 24 2014, @11:58AM

    by evilviper (1760) on Monday March 24 2014, @11:58AM (#20164) Homepage Journal

    solar panels need to stay clean and get replaced every so often,

    I've never seen anyone going around to clean off the solar panels installed on emergency "call boxes" along the freeways. In big solar installations, they seems to have ONE robot that takes care of the job at low cost and with minimal human intervention.

    Monocrystaline PV solar panels are usually guaranteed to "retain over 80% of efficiency even after 25 years of continuous use", which is a good, long, time, and should continue to output power at just slightly reduced levels thereafter.

    The "panels" in solar-thermal power plants are just mirrors, so their lifetimes are long, and the cost of replacement is quite nominal. You only really have to consider the minor maintenance of the central turbines, as you would in any power plant.

    these costs are why they are still more expensive than coal per kwh generated.

    No, actually the large up-front costs are why they are more expensive than coal. With coal, the plant is cheaper, and the coal is purchased in small increments over time, rather than up-front. The opportunity costs of having that money tied-up in your solar panels or wind turbines for many years until they break-even, means losing out on the interest or capital gains that money could be otherwise making.

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  • (Score: 1) by JoeMerchant on Sunday March 30 2014, @12:20AM

    by JoeMerchant (3937) on Sunday March 30 2014, @12:20AM (#22982)

    I'd say that a "large upfront" cost combined with a 25 year effective lifespan equates to an ongoing maintenance cost.

    When you build a solar plant, you have to put in the connectivity to the grid, clear the land, etc. But, ongoing, the weeds can't be allowed to take over (trees will grow if you let them...), transformers need occasional replacement, etc. In the rosy view of the future, 25 years from now, we'll have magic solar panels that are twice as efficient and half as expensive to make, and we'll be able to recycle the old ones into the new ones. In the more practical business plans, those panels are just a fixed replacement cost every 25 years - taxes on the land, whatever the equivalent of "spinning fees" for wind farms will have to be paid, and if, god forbid, you actually make a big profit, be prepared to give it over to every government with authority over you because you're an obvious fixed asset on "their" turf, just ripe for the taxing.

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