Solar panels less of a no-brainer

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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by siggboy » Thu May 12, 2016 12:42 am

I agree a lot with what bobucles said, he said it better than I did in my last post.

I'd like to add that solar is really unique in that aspect, in that it requires no maintenance. Everything else in the game requires some sort of maintenance (what bobucles called "solving a puzzle"): machines might run too slow or fast, or they don't get materials fast enough, or can't output fast enough, your conveyor belts might get clogged, your trains can deadlock, your ammo towers run out of bullets, etc. etc.

Solar is really the only important "thing" in the game that has no such drawbacks, at all -- and that's why "managing" your power supply in the late game is reduced to "make a number increase and then forget about it for a while".

I've watched Xeteth a while ago building one of his megabases, and he had this HUGE steam power setup that he needed to make work for his gigafactory (the problem he had at that point was balancing the coal supply). Then someone on stream asked him "why are you doing this, you've got solar", and he said "well I want to see if I can do it" (basically he expressed "I'm doing it for the heck of it, because solar is not a challenge in this area and I want a challenge").

I'd rather have the game give us the challenge, naturally, and not make us force ourselves to use an inefficient method just so we have something interesting to do.
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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by The Phoenixian » Thu May 12, 2016 12:43 pm

fandingo wrote:Edit: I want to reiterate that I like the idea overall. My tone may have been more severe than I intended. I think my complaints are relatively minor or correctable.
Don't worry , that came through clear.

Besides, I specifically asked for exactly the criticism you gave and you gave it well. It's important to have a proper understanding of the thing, flaws and all.
fandingo wrote:
The Phoenixian wrote: Part of it is that people are naturally drawn towards being efficient, what one might call "laziness" is really just letting us focus our limited time and attention on more important issues. The downside of that, if you have a boring, powerful system in a game then another, more interesting but less potent system might see less use, even if it's much more fun, simply because it's less efficient.
I guess my main take is that choosing your own adventure is a big part of sandbox games. I certainly won't deny that many players go entirely solar to make things easier -- perhaps simpler is the better word -- or even just because they're not experienced enough to understand all the issues and tradeoffs. I don't see any problem with that. Games are about having fun, and how that's achieved varies greatly between players. Having power "just work" or not be an ongoing risk seems like a reasonable decision players may like to take, especially in their first bases.
I think there's a philosophical difference here, and one with a range of valid opinions. On the one hand you've got types like my old mentor where the idea is "The primary choice of the player is whether or not they play the experience I have provided, Once they make that choice, I call the shots." and on the other you've got tabletop RPGs and even far older games where "Players can and should be trusted to craft their own experiences, we're just providing a system here."

I think it depends quite a lot on what exactly the designer is trying to accomplish. One type of experience requires a great deal of freedom, another needs a narrower path.
fandingo wrote:
That's part of why I suggested Solar-thermal.

Given your particular perspective, I'm actually quite curious of what you'd think of the proposal I made earlier for Solar thermal, in particular the concept of efficiency scaling with complexity. In your analysis, would it work as the sole form of Solar Panels, as well as a means to let players choose their own difficulty? (Certainly a system with a subtle invitation to ask players to challenge themselves but one that is not meant to be pushy, and still works in its most basic form no matter how late in the game you are.)
I like it, but I have some concerns and comments. I don't think they're particularly serious, and the system could be a fine fit. I wouldn't want photovoltaics gone though. (I'm fine with essentially any linear readjustment of build cost or output of photovoltaics to incentivize the more complex systems, but I think the inherent reliability and trustworthy functionality needs to be preserved.)

First, I think it adds a really good quality logistics chain, and that importance shouldn't be understated. By my count, there's up to five different types of non-transport entities involved (offshore pump, solar heater, steam engine, pump jack, and heat exchanger with the latter two optional). I think that's a good balance of depth and feasibility.

My biggest issue is oil. It simply doesn't make sense as a working fluid due to low critical point (water is +100K and 11x pressure), which is the primary consideration for any major heat transfer liquid where high pressure is feasible. I'm willing to let that slide to some extent in a game, but it throws a major wrench in the player discovery aspect. Unless there's a big flashing light saying that oil is much better, I would never even think to try it because that's not how physics works. Second, consuming oil doesn't make sense. There's no way it'd be used in an open system. The pollution would be far more substantial than burning it. Oil contains carcinogenic and toxic compounds; at least burning oil destroys them, but boiling it into the atmosphere (the only explanation for where it goes)? Biters gon be mad. I guess my point is that, sure, bend reality to use oil, but it either needs to be a one-time fill-up (like people do with water in Uranium Power mod) or a build-time cost for the fabricating assembly plant (obviously that hurts some of the logistics complexity you're seeking). I spent some time last night reading and watching Uranium Power mod info, although I haven't tried to build my own. To me, having a pressurized water resource and recipe makes a lot more sense than oil -- at least it's intuitive and more congruent with reality.
Hmm, my thought was that many solar-thermal plants actually did use oils. I may have used "working fluid" wrong though: The intent wasn't that the heat of the oil actually drives the steam engines themselves, just that it moves slower through the pipe and so requires roughly 1/3rd the space to heat the same amount of water into steam (plus whatever is given over to the exchange process, which shouldn't be too large)

As far as communicating that to the player, I think simply making a note of it in the tech tree, heat exchange recipe, and various item descriptions of what you're supposed to do should give the player enough of a clue of what to do. "Heat exchanger: Used to transfer heat from various oils into water in order to capture heat."

As far as consumption: I suppose the explanation I'd go with now would be that it's less a matter of the oil being burned or consumed and more a matter of "the high temperature of the oil is enough to significantly expand metal, and heat exchangers have a lot of uneven temperature points that are hard to manage."

Sort of like the SR-71, which notably cannot use rubber sealants on it's fuel tank due to the heat generated by friction in flight. (So it leaks fuel on the ground until it gets hot enough for the metal to heat up and seal up the gaps in the fuel tank.)
fandingo wrote:The only other gameplay issue I have is pipes. Pipes are annoying and boring after building. Yes, they present very real routing challenges, but afterwards, there's nothing. At least belts look cool and very obviously do something. Pipes are mostly obstacles, and pretty much the only ongoing interaction with them is to figure out how to get around them.

One issue with increasing the importance of water is that players must be cognizant of that when selecting a map. That's true for any of the settings, but if more and more power systems require water, "water only in starting area" means power generation is tied there -- at least without unreasonable piping. Not a blocking issue, but it is something minor to consider. I think some other suggestions have this same problem where water layout can put the player into a corner. (That being said, I use the water well and landfill mods, so I wouldn't be affected.)
Yeah, these two issues aren't something I think I can address. I don't think either is crippling but they are problems.

In the second case at least, a less thirsty power variant such as PV or something like nuclear power is probably better.
fandingo wrote:Can you explain nighttime power in your system? I feel that you're implying hot liquid storage, but I'm neither totally sure nor what they means for accumulators. For hot liquid storage, a couple of things. First, it creates a hard dependency on the night time sensor/circuit break to detect when to use hot liquids. I'm not usually a fan of ideas that require new functionality outside their specific parts because I recognize how scarce development time is and how that reduces the feasibility of the idea. It seems like the devs are already planning, to some extent, to include this functionality, so maybe it's not a big deal. Second, fluids are simply not as approachable -- mostly because it's hard to see what's going on with a pipe or pipe system. Belts, on the other hand, are really easy to tell if there's problems (backwards, misaligned, capacity issue, etc.). I think players may have a difficult time setting their night time volumes if it's just like normal tanks. Compare that to the accumulator bar and joules remaining status on the power screen. A similar thing would need to be done for hot liquids, but there's some added complexity if efficiencies are variable and there's piping limitations, too.
Hot liquid storage is one of three possibilities for nighttime electricity, all of which should be available to the player at any time.

The first possibility is backup coal power. Coal backup is the most basic option, but requires material input and supply. Basically, attach the normal coal setup to the back end of the heater and it will automatically take care of any problems.

The second, Hot water storage itself, needs night detection, as does any proper way to turn off the system.

Night and temperature detection already exists, though both are somewhat hackish versions rather than true items:

For sensing temperature, one can simply use a boiler (or several) and detect when it starts drawing fuel from a smart chest. Once that happens, the system can be shut off for an amount of time, either decided by combinator timers or some other means.

Though that is fairly hackish and requires advanced knowledge.

Thankfully PV solar panels are actually probably the better option for a night sensor since I think, a ratio of 2 small pumps (30 kW draw according to the wiki) to 1 PV panel (60 kW daytime output, assuming no adjustment) is even power draw and the fluid speed will then slow down at the same rate that the heat production does. (Ideally at least.)

Which still requires a bit more knowledge than I'd like, but it's possible.

In any event, hot water storage is simply a matter of producing more water than is needed by day and shutting the oil

Hot oil storage is probably a worse option all around, but just requires two tanks on either side of the exchangers, by day the forward tanks slowly fill up with excess oil, and by night the input to the forward tanks shuts off and the tanks drain to the cold oil tanks at the back of the system.

So backup boilers and hot oil storage together might look like so, if both night detection methods are used:

Code: Select all

┌ ---Backup-Boilers-<--<----Solar-field----<---<---<---<----------┐
|  Fuel Consumption Detection                                     |   PV Solar panel on isolated system
v This pump turns off at night     *Oil Loop*                     ^ This pump also turns off at night
|                                                                 |
└ -Hot-Oil-Storage-0-00-Exchangers->-Cold>Oil>Storage>-0>0>0>0----┘
                         ╟╫╫╫╫╫╢
>--Water line->---------Exchangers-------Steam plant
Naturally, this is overly redundant but it shows both systems.



Accumulators form the third option. They may need to be changed a bit to make them more ideal spikes in power consumption, but they fit the midline between backup coal power's "dead simple" and fluid storage's "complicated efficiency" quite well. (being dead simple in and of themselves, but not truly necessary until an off switch for power is found)
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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by AutoMcD » Fri May 13, 2016 1:27 pm

+1 to what fandingo and others said.
Solar being simple power is the whole idea. And getting it going is not free. Not sure why people want this to be more difficult when there's so many other details to worry about. And to be honest I find getting solar going to be a huge investment.. to replace the boilers I have to stop the research so that I have enough batteries and circuits.

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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by thereaverofdarkness » Wed Jun 01, 2016 9:34 am

The Phoenixian wrote:I don't favor making power poles the target of alien attacks since it could have quite a lot in the way of unintended consequences. Lines to mining outposts need to be defended where before they could be made reliable for example.
I wish they were at least a bit of a target. I was running between two bases with barely enough room to squeeze past enemy outposts without getting attacked, and at first I figured if I set up electric poles along the way, they'd just get knocked down. Later I finally tried setting them up and found that attacks only came while I was present on the path. It was more fun when I believed they would be attacked. I had solar panels running my iron base and it would shut down ever night because I had no accumulators. My other base had lots of water and space, but no iron to mine. Power was no issue way over there but it was fun when getting power and resources between the bases was tricky.

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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by Aru » Thu Jun 02, 2016 3:48 am

fandingo wrote:... I think nuclear power would be a great mechanic because it can be "interesting" in that there's input and output, but the output would be the only resource in the game that requires disposal. (Whereas everything else is either constructed, consumed in a machine, or an intemediate input.) ...
In real life, they put spent fuel rods in wooden chests and then destroy the chest with submachine gun fire.
The Phoenixian wrote:...
I may have used "working fluid" wrong though: The intent wasn't that the heat of the oil actually drives the steam engines themselves, just that it moves slower through the pipe and so requires roughly 1/3rd the space to heat the same amount of water into steam (plus whatever is given over to the exchange process, which shouldn't be too large)
I think the term for that, is a heat transfer fluid. And, the oils are the best, second only to certain salts. They do use oils. They're not very popular now, but they used to use oils as heat transfer fluids in portable heaters in houses. The radiator fins got hot enough to burn you if you weren't careful. The metric for heat transfer fluids in power plants, is how hot you can make it. The working fluid for electric generator turbines is always water vapor, as far as I'm aware. The hotter the transfer fluid, the hotter the vapor, the more efficient the turbine is. That's the advantage of the salts, they allow turbines engineered for hotter vapor, which are more efficient. My guess is, the closer it gets to ambient temperature, the harder it is to extract useful energy. So if it's hotter to begin with, it's easier to extract a greater proportion of the useful energy. (edit: Also, the hotter it is, the more expensive and difficult the engineering of the various components, especially the turbine... we could probably go even hotter if the material science were there already, but there's a trade off, that you need very expensive or even not-yet-developed materials for turbines to run at certain high vapor temperatures without falling apart.)

Hot fluid storage is effective in real life. As far as I'm aware, it is the most practical way to store solar energy for night time use, perhaps the only practical way to store any intermediate energy. It's one of the primary advantages of solar thermal plants, they usually have big tanks that look like the ones in factorio. Even so, on the full scale power grids, we do not rely on any form of intermediate energy storage, but on the ability of power plants to be able to directly meet peak demands. So, our primary energy storage is the raw material itself, fossil fuels or rods of radioactive isotopes. Solar panels, wind turbines, dams, tidal, geothermal, are less reliable, so we also require fuel-based power as 'storage' to fill in the gaps that they leave. I think, many hydroelectric plants, and even solar thermal plants, incorporate full scale fuel-burning systems.
Last edited by Aru on Fri Jun 03, 2016 1:01 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by thereaverofdarkness » Thu Jun 02, 2016 7:07 am

If the day/night cycle was much longer, it would take much more accumulators to last the night. Perhaps individual structures could be told to not draw power from accumulators, to save the energy for other more important buildings.

It would also be neat to have other conditional power sources, such as geothermal vents that vary in intensity, perhaps geysers which provide a brief surge of energy every once in a while, maybe constantly changing wind speeds, or the rare volcanic eruption producing lava which can be used as a fuel source before it cools. Maybe the enemies could sometimes drop radioactive fuel which can be used for energy, but it decays over time.

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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by TheSkiGeek » Mon Jun 20, 2016 5:57 pm

Wow. Interesting thread.

I'm a relatively new player (closing in on a first rocket launch), and it does feel to me like solar is somewhat "OP". Yes, the initial material cost is higher - a LOT higher - but then you get reliable free power forever **with no pollution**. My base is pulling about 30MW right now, and I'm easily generating enough power from solar+accumulators without ridiculous amounts of space usage. Between solar and putting efficiency modules in high-pollution things like furnaces/mines I'm now barely getting attacked at all. If I was generating all that power by burning coal/oil I'd be under constant assault (or I'd need to clear a much much larger radius around my base - it didn't help that I started in a desert.)

I really, really like the idea of having efficient solar boilers and reducing the power output of PV panels. Especially if you could do things like heat exchangers and specialized high-specific-heat liquids to improve the efficiency. So you could still just "fire and forget" farms of PV panels, but you'd need a lot less of them if you used the solar boilers and dealt with the additional logistical problems. That feels like a more meaningful tradeoff. (A high-end nuclear plant option seems like a logical extension, although for just launching a single rocket it would be unnecessary with current power usage values.)

Accumulators could also be adjusted -- maybe they should have a small power loss per second (either a flat amount or something like 1% of the stored power). Or maybe their storage amount should be lower, so they're useful as a buffer for laser turrets or other power spikes, but less so to power your whole factory at night. That would encourage you to either store hot water/oil/whatever, or use backup coal/solid fuel at night. You could still build enough accumulators to get you through the night with pure PV, but you'd need a lot more of them. While you don't necessarily want to slavishly follow reality, inefficiency of batteries/capacitors (as well as extremely high cost and limited lifespan) is why we don't use giant batteries to store electrical energy at scale.

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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by siggboy » Mon Jun 20, 2016 11:55 pm

I'm playing with Nucular now. It's about 1,000,000 times more fun and interesting than solar farms, but you can still easily run megabases with it. Requires investment, maintenance, brains, with a big payoff. Something like it should be in the vanilla game.
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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by mr_rieper7 » Thu Jun 23, 2016 1:40 pm

It was suggested to make the PV panels degrade over time, I have a potential solution to this;

Give solar panels an efficiency rating.
When placed the rating is set to 100% and the rating slowly decays over several in-game-days to a minimum of... 25% (any number, just for balance but never 0)
This can be explained as they get dirty (as IRL ).
This research can also give you a new crafting item eg; 1 wood + 2 Plastic + 20 Water -> 20 Cleaning fluid.
(The wood is to make alcohol from, I use the treehouse mod so I have plenty wood.)

You can restore the efficiency in 2 ways, use the cleaning fluid or mine and replace the solar panel(pick up and wipe it).

From there you have several outcomes and interactions;
1> You just don't care, you just want some temporary power then pick up and go later.
2>You have to replace all panels every so often to maintain power.
3>You produce 4x as many panels as necessary and leave it alone.
4>Set up cleaning fluid production and get Roboport tech to automate the efficient production of power.

New players will either blunder through the setup of solar panels or get an online layout but will watch as their power output drops off over time.
So they have choices as to whether they want to simply make more expensive panels or constantly throw resources at the existing panels to keep them efficient.

I personally would be fine if the panels stayed, bland as they are, or have to clean them periodically as long at it's "cheap" to do so.

I make use of mods, one of which is the wind turbine that has varying power output which I am perfectly happy with even though it's output is far lower than expected compared to IRL.( AFAIAC )
If solar panels varied their power like the wind turbine between say 50 and 100% during the day due to weather I'd be fine with that.

I always leave my steam power system in place after I move to solar so even if I have a shortfall on solar I don't often notice.
The only thing is it runs at night even if my batteries are full but I'm not going to fiddle with logistics yet, hell 3 weeks in and I haven't even built combinators.

I would still like additional power options to choose from though.

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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by PacifyerGrey » Mon Jul 04, 2016 7:42 pm

Playing around and studying real world cases I have come to a sort of a solution on the matter.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with solar panels themselves. You can add decay, weather factors etc but it will not make any major changes to the matter.

What IS the real problem is ACCUMULATORS. There is absolutely no way you could run entire factory from a battery source during every night. You probably could in theory but the cost of such operation would be way beyond economical reason.
So imagine accumulators totally gone from factorio - and you will see that free power from solar panels is just fine as you still need to think about night time operation.

Just like in real life. Thinking about powering a plant you need to rely on 2-3 independent sources of power. Planning on a grander scale you will rely on several types of power generation like solar, wind, burner, hydro or nuclear.

What I can suggest here.

1. Dramatically decrease accumulator storage. Using accumulators should be really expensive so you should really think about dedicating them to critical production rather than powering everything.
2. Introduce a daytime sensor to a circuit network. Paired with Power Switch this could serve to power off certain areas of a factory for a night time. For example you could power down mining drills and smelteries while production lines can run on reserve power system and accumulators.
3. You can add a sensor to a power pole which will read power satisfaction % and will be able to use power switch to turn off certain areas of factory if satisfaction is beyond certain % like 90% and turn back on if satisfaction goes higher than say 95% (two values needed to prevent jitter)
4. You might want to dedicate accumulator usage to certain areas of a factory only. This can be done in a several ways. IRL you would assign CoS to different devices. For example:
a) VIP. Should be at full power at all costs including accumulator access
b) Normal. Should get its share from power distribution (excluding VIP share). No accumulator access.
c) Leftover. In the case Satisfaction is not 100% this one is powered down completely.
Edit: 5. Make accumulators provide its power in the area around them like substation or even less. So you can't just build a distant fields of them.

Actually such changes can bring so much more fun into the game where daytime can actually become a factor to play with. Plan on making a buffer resource storages to be able to continue production at night while your smelteries are offline.
You can surely go for it and just make 24h production with steam engines but it will surely cost you a high pollution.

In addition I will add my suggestions on new types of power generation. I am 100% sure most of them were mentioned here and there but I will just compile my own list.

Wind

Wind should be a random factor varrying from 0 to 100% for the whole map. However differend biomes and presence of nearby trees and buildings should decrease the effectiveness of a tile. A wind generator should cover some area (similar to a pole) and calculate its effectiveness as an average through the covered area. Presense of nearby buildings and trees should have a major impact so placing wind generators close to each other or trees should be absolutely ineffective. For example a desert has 100% and a grassland say 60%. Every tree or building within 4 tiles from generator should decrease output by say 20%.

Water heating

Now we have only burners for heating and steam engines for using boiled water.
I propose adding next for heating:
1. Burner plant. Something like 3x3 in size that can act like a set of burners but produce a bit less total pollution. You may add another consumable to it like a replacable filter (along with fuel) to explain lower pollution. Or you might let a player use modules on it.
2. Nuclear heater. Not everyone knows that nuclear power plant actually consists of a nuclear heater and a steam turbine so it actually makes sense. This one will consume nuclear fuel which would be a separate minable resource.
3. Fusion heater. Actual fusion reactor uses only deuterium and lithium as a fuel and has no pollution. Its too OP to be in game so feel free to ignore it.
4. Solar thermal panels. These would heat the water during daytime and can be used in combination with other heaters to make it work at night time (or not). While I do like the idea to use oils to store heat in the tanks for night time I do find it pretty damn complex. However it really makes sense to let it work and introduce a heat exchanger that will transfer heat from a stored heated oil to a water which might be effective during night time. But this while being useful irl will effectively reintroduce current problem - having free power 24/7.

I propose next items for usage of boiled water:
1. Steam turbine. Should act like a set of steam engines but with greater effectiveness in terms of produced electricity per galon of boiled water consumed. You might let player use modules on it. Green for pollution, blue for increased throughput (and electricity produced) and purple for increased production per galon of water.
2. Thermal Electric Generator. A new type of generator which has no pollution and has an output of cold water so it can be used to create closed circuit of water through a tank so it can function without direct supply of water and will circularly use water stored in the tank. You may deliver the water to your camp using announced fluid wagon.

Water power

Currently there are no rivers or such in the game. So the only thought that comes to me is using wave power. So the wave power plant can be placed similar to offshore pump (but bigger). Wave power is also pretty random in nature but can add to the available set to cover some night troubles.

Why did I bother with listing all the different types? Because you can make all of them depend on the generated map and kinda force player to make decisions based on terrain available to him. You have a desert around and mostly no water? Go for solar and wind. You have forests and much water? Go for wave and water heating. Make solar 100% effective when placed on a desert and 60% on a grassland. Play with map predefined values for weather and wind making it fluctuate within predefined boundaries. Really many options here but all of these make every game unique.
Last edited by PacifyerGrey on Tue Jul 05, 2016 5:17 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by Qon » Mon Jul 04, 2016 9:39 pm

I thought that maybe now that steam power has been buffed so much people would stop complaining about how OP solar power is. How naive of me.
  • New ore generation algorithm gives rich enough deposits that coal will not run out if you go far enough. Once you have set up your coal mining and steam power plant with train logistics you have power for hundreds of hours. The only real advantage to solar over steam is now reduced by a lot.
  • With landfill steam power is now blueprintable once you straighten out the shore.
  • With landfill you can now have at least 30 engines on a row, making it much easier to build a large multi GW power plant with steam than before and making steam even more compact.
  • Steam has always been much more compact than solar.
  • Steam still has a much lower initial cost compared to solar.
Solar is still better for performance and produces no pollution. But the pollution is not a big drawback late game except maybe for performance.

"Steam is obviously better than solar" some might say.
PacifyerGrey wrote:But this while being useful irl will effectively reintroduce current problem - having free power 24/7.
This isn't a problem really. You still need ore material to run your factory so you can't completely ignore resources. And there's a limit to how much fun you can have replacing mines over and over anyways, in the late game it gets easier but more tedious. The improved richness at great distances mitigates this problem without removing the need to keep track of your mines spare resources completely.

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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by siggboy » Mon Jul 04, 2016 9:56 pm

Each GW requires 15.000 coal per minute. Making a steam power plant might now be slightly easier, at this level it introduces very real logistic issues. Even if you have enough coal patches to deliver 15k/minute for hundreds of hours, as you say, you still have to get that to the power plant and into the boilers.

You talk about "multi GW"... so then we're at 30k, 40k coal per minute. Sustained.

Straightening out the coast line is not the problem here.

Oh, and those boilers stink to high heaven. Even at 150 MW the pollution cloud becomes crazy, if you play with biters and are near a desert this is a very annoying problem.
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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by Qon » Mon Jul 04, 2016 10:18 pm

siggboy wrote:Each GW requires 15.000 coal per minute. Making a steam power plant might now be slightly easier, at this level it introduces very real logistic issues. Even if you have enough coal patches to deliver 15k/minute for hundreds of hours, as you say, you still have to get that to the power plant and into the boilers.

You talk about "multi GW"... so then we're at 30k, 40k coal per minute. Sustained.

Straightening out the coast line is not the problem here.

Oh, and those boilers stink to high heaven. Even at 150 MW the pollution cloud becomes crazy, if you play with biters and are near a desert this is a very annoying problem.
I use big low frequency ore patches. I can get 1 GW from a single coal patch with 3 speed 3 modules in each drill. Or 2 patches if I use efficiency modules.
Transport is fairly simple since you don't have to transport your coal to your factory. If you build your powerplant where it is simple to transport coal then you can just transfer the energy by wire the long distances to your base.
The boilers don't stink that much compared to productivity modules in 0.12. I get a big pollution cloud from my test 0.5 GW plant, but it's tiny compared to what my 1GW factory produces with prod modules. If you are already using prod modules then the boiler pollution seems fairly insignificant to me. Have only eyeballed the pollution cloud though.

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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by siggboy » Tue Jul 05, 2016 5:11 am

I'm not saying the pollution cloud is a real problem, and I'm not saying that GW+ steam power is impossible, or should not be attempted. Real challenges are good and make Factorio interesting.

I've always played with RSO so I know how ore patches are supposed to look like, but it's not a valid point for balance discussions. We need to assume average settings, or many discussion points will be moot ("I use big low frequency ore patches" does not apply to the general case).

You can procure 15k units/minute with at least 125 mining drills and 3x Speed 3, you then you have (in 0.12) to build two loading stations at this outpost to even be able to get the coal where it's needed, or you need to use trains that are ridiculously long just for this purpose.

At the powerplant, you have the same kinds of challenges in reverse.

You go through 2 million coal in about two hours, and that ore patch above where you had to build two train stations will drop below the needed 15k rate way earlier because of depletion.

We're dealing with caveat after caveat here.

Making a solar farm might be tedious but it's much, much, much easier.
Is your railroad worrying you? Doctor T-Junction recommends: Smart, dynamic train deliveries with combinator Magick

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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by PacifyerGrey » Tue Jul 05, 2016 5:34 am

Qon wrote:
siggboy wrote:Each GW requires 15.000 coal per minute. Making a steam power plant might now be slightly easier, at this level it introduces very real logistic issues. Even if you have enough coal patches to deliver 15k/minute for hundreds of hours, as you say, you still have to get that to the power plant and into the boilers.

You talk about "multi GW"... so then we're at 30k, 40k coal per minute. Sustained.

Straightening out the coast line is not the problem here.

Oh, and those boilers stink to high heaven. Even at 150 MW the pollution cloud becomes crazy, if you play with biters and are near a desert this is a very annoying problem.
I use big low frequency ore patches. I can get 1 GW from a single coal patch with 3 speed 3 modules in each drill. Or 2 patches if I use efficiency modules.
Transport is fairly simple since you don't have to transport your coal to your factory. If you build your powerplant where it is simple to transport coal then you can just transfer the energy by wire the long distances to your base.
The boilers don't stink that much compared to productivity modules in 0.12. I get a big pollution cloud from my test 0.5 GW plant, but it's tiny compared to what my 1GW factory produces with prod modules. If you are already using prod modules then the boiler pollution seems fairly insignificant to me. Have only eyeballed the pollution cloud though.
As you see I am not complaiting about steam engines. They are fine. And there is a good reason you should think about a way to support your 1 GW+ demand and not blindly seed enormous fields with solar+accumulators. Handling pollution is your choice.
If your play style can ignore pollution at some point - good for you. I do not run megabases yet (like I think the vast majority of players) and I mostly use effectivity modules to decrease pollution all around to make my factory not being attacked by biters every second. In this case pollution from steam plant is really significant and is the source of maybe half of pollution produced by my factory. So solar power is really good for my factories but it feels really cheating that it can just remove any of my needs forever without any threats or needs for upkeep or planning.

As I suggested in this post
Just fix ACCUMULATORS. This will make people think again.

and why not force people to handle night time needs? I find it really fun to plan handling another factor.

And yes, introducing additional power generation methods like wind will help supplement night time needs.

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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by malecord » Tue Jul 05, 2016 10:36 am

Imho Solar and accus are just incomplete now and by extension broken. Maybe is intentional maybe not. For sure the game as it is right now makes easier to focus on other aspects of the game (trains, weapons, big factories, etc) where user feedback is much more required. If it is intentional I don't blame devs if they don't plan to touch this till the release. This is an alpha and they need feedbacks.

Anyway, the vanilla game now is set to have artificially short nights. And it doesn't have weather at all. Just by having a 1:1 ratio between nights and days duration it would make you much more dependent on coal on mid game. Then if you add weather randomness (rain, snow, sand storms, etc) you could find that you need coal back up even on late game. Snow and sand storms could even force you to deploy some sort of maintenance robots (but it could just be construction robots) to remove the water/sand deposits on the panels. Adding complexity and different degrees of efficiency (basically by requiring you to have robot upgrade techs to get the most out of your solar farms).

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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by Qon » Tue Jul 05, 2016 1:03 pm

siggboy wrote: I've always played with RSO so I know how ore patches are supposed to look like, but it's not a valid point for balance discussions. We need to assume average settings, or many discussion points will be moot ("I use big low frequency ore patches" does not apply to the general case).

You can procure 15k units/minute with at least 125 mining drills and 3x Speed 3, you then you have (in 0.12) to build two loading stations at this outpost to even be able to get the coal where it's needed, or you need to use trains that are ridiculously long just for this purpose.

You go through 2 million coal in about two hours, and that ore patch above where you had to build two train stations will drop below the needed 15k rate way earlier because of depletion.
Well, I agree for the most part that we should assume average settings and no mods. But all settings are vanilla. And if you are going to build a megabase instead of trying to win the game then maybe you should turn resources up instead of saying that your medium setting are not enough for supporting your extreme goal, a megabase? You have the settings, and it's fine that medium is too low for a megabase as we have the option to make patches bigger for those game where we plan to go big. So here is a case where I disagree about medium being the only standard to balance around. And it's still feasible to do it with medium, I just don't find it an interesting challenge.

You need a train that is 8 wagons long (0.13) to transport 16k coal and makes the trip once a minute. The shortest train I've ever made had 6 wagons. In 0.13 wagons slow down your train less so now you don't need 1/2 times as many locomotives any more. And if the roundtrip is 3 minutes then a 22 wagon train is used. It's not that long...

Go further if you find richness to be too low.
PacifyerGrey wrote: If your play style can ignore pollution at some point - good for you. I do not run megabases yet (like I think the vast majority of players) and I mostly use effectivity modules to decrease pollution all around to make my factory not being attacked by biters every second. In this case pollution from steam plant is really significant and is the source of maybe half of pollution produced by my factory. So solar power is really good for my factories but it feels really cheating that it can just remove any of my needs forever without any threats or needs for upkeep or planning.

As I suggested in this post
Just fix ACCUMULATORS. This will make people think again.

and why not force people to handle night time needs? I find it really fun to plan handling another factor.

And yes, introducing additional power generation methods like wind will help supplement night time needs.
Well if you use effectivity modules then you can't use any other modules in that machine. And if you did use prod modules and speed beacons on just a single machine then that thing alone would be a massive pollution generator and energy drain compared to anything else if your power generator is scaled for your efficiency factory. By using efficiency modules you are losing something. It's a valid way of dealing with biters, and the cost is that your module slots only are only for efficiency in every single one of your machines until you get high level modules (with efficiency 2 and up you can use speed with -80% energy).

But electric boilers and solar thermal panels would be intresting additions and could replace high capacity electric accumulators.

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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by AutoMcD » Tue Jul 05, 2016 1:11 pm

Most of these suggestions about nerfing accumulators, day cycle, weather effects, etc all basically amount to 1 thing: Just having to build more solar+storage to accomplish the same thing.

The entire mid-game for me involves spending a HUGE amount of resources towards solar, it's an investment that pays off. And I like it that way, I don't think this needs to be more difficult.

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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by PacifyerGrey » Tue Jul 05, 2016 2:31 pm

Qon wrote:But electric boilers and solar thermal panels would be intresting additions and could replace high capacity electric accumulators.
Electric boilers? This thing alone defies physics - you can't use electric to generate electricity. I just suggested using large burners and allow modules to be used it them
And solar thermal panels as an entity has no means to replace accumulators as they can't save energy for a night time and only serve as a day time boilers. However using specialized tanks to store heated liquid and using heat exchanger to boil water using that liquid's temperature - is a solution. Heating that liquid however can be done by any means starting from solar thermal panels to common boilers.
AutoMcD wrote:Most of these suggestions about nerfing accumulators, day cycle, weather effects, etc all basically amount to 1 thing: Just having to build more solar+storage to accomplish the same thing.
My idea of nerfing accumulators is not targeted for you to invest even more resources into the same solution. It is targeted to make this particular solution so limited in functionality and expensive that you consider other options such as steam (and other proposed) or even turning off parts of a factory for night time. Cause now daytime only effects the proportions for accus/solar panels that you build. That is definitely not the case in reality when you plan power provision. A cost of solar power is really low. But the cost of power coming from a battery is a great multiple of that. Have you ever met UPS system capable of supplying production for a night? NONE! It may supply critical areas for an hour at max giving you opportunity to start your backup generators.

Edit: And sure thing this kind of a nerf should be backed up with the proper ways to cover the gap - other forms of power generation. At least those large burners with module slots as the most simple way to make burners stink less.

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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by Qon » Tue Jul 05, 2016 4:37 pm

PacifyerGrey wrote:
Qon wrote:But electric boilers and solar thermal panels would be intresting additions and could replace high capacity electric accumulators.
Electric boilers? This thing alone defies physics - you can't use electric to generate electricity.
Facepalm.

No. An electric boiler heats water with electric energy. You have one of these in your kitchen.

Using electricity to generate electricity doesn't violate any physical principles, as long as you don't get more energy out of it than you put in. Please don't tell me how physics works, you can't teach me anything.
PacifyerGrey wrote: And solar thermal panels as an entity has no means to replace accumulators as they can't save energy for a night time and only serve as a day time boilers.
What is a water tank? Solar thermal panels heat liquids or other good thermal conductors. You can store liquids at 100 degrees in a water tank with 42 times more energy than an electric accumulator and they are cheap too.
PacifyerGrey wrote:However using specialized tanks to store heated liquid and using heat exchanger to boil water using that liquid's temperature - is a solution.
What specialized tanks? The ones we have right now can store heated liquids already. Heat exchangers are only necessary if you don't want to run the liquid heated by the solar thermal panels through the steam engines.
PacifyerGrey wrote:Heating that liquid however can be done by any means starting from solar thermal panels to common boilers.
Or an elecric boiler.

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