Saturday, November 22, 2014

Shock: Google Research Team Says "Renewable Energy Just Won't Work"

Most of you know that Google has a very left-leaning board, especially for a company founded by entrepreneurial engineers.  At least in their public pronouncements, they wholeheartedly accepted the idea of climate Thermogeddon, complete with swallowing the dire models produced by James Hanson of NASA.  Four years ago, they make a very big and public statement about going over to renewable energy sources.
Thanks to Watts Up With That, we get a link to IEEE Spectrum, the closest thing to a general interest publication that the IEEE has (IEEE is the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers).
“At the start of RE<C, we had shared the attitude of many stalwart environmentalists: We felt that with steady improvements to today’s renewable energy technologies, our society could stave off catastrophic climate change. We now know that to be a false hope …
Renewable energy technologies simply won’t work; we need a fundamentally different approach.”
The basic problem is that all known and predictable renewable energy technologies require more energy input in their implementation than can be paid back.
The key problem appears to be that the cost of manufacturing the components of the renewable power facilities is far too close to the total recoverable energy – the facilities never, or just barely, produce enough energy to balance the budget of what was consumed in their construction. This leads to a runaway cycle of constructing more and more renewable plants simply to produce the energy required to manufacture and maintain renewable energy plants – an obvious practical absurdity. [emphasis added: SiG]
A key paragraph in the IEEE article says:
“Even if one were to electrify all of transport, industry, heating and so on, so much renewable generation and balancing/storage equipment would be needed to power it that astronomical new requirements for steel, concrete, copper, glass, carbon fibre, neodymium, shipping and haulage etc etc would appear. All these things are made using mammoth amounts of energy: far from achieving massive energy savings, which most plans for a renewables future rely on implicitly, we would wind up needing far more energy, which would mean even more vast renewables farms – and even more materials and energy to make and maintain them and so on. The scale of the building would be like nothing ever attempted by the human race.”  [emphasis added: SiG]
I'm not surprised at the conclusion, I'm surprised they admitted it.  While I'm not dumb naive enough to think there's such a thing as Moore's law of batteries, I have been encouraged by the declining prices of solar cells and was thinking that since those are silicon, maybe some of the fabrications enhancements from the silicon microprocessors, memories and such would carry over to solar cells and reduce the price per watt like Moore's law; if not halving the price every two years, a 25 or 33% reduction.  But not only do solar cells have to become cheaper, batteries and the other infrastructure has to as well - you have to respect the duck curve.  

Unlike the people who earnestly believe those magic unicorn farts will someday power everything, a group of engineers tasked with finding a way to produce a billion watts of renewable power at a cheaper price point than a coal-fired plant has to face reality.  Reality is a tough taskmaster. 


  1. Or as Mr. Scott would say..."I canny violate the laws of Physics, Captain!"....

  2. I don't think Solyndra and the other alt. energy companies (which took their billion dollar subsidies and ran) pulled the wool over Barry's eyes. I think he merely decided to give it to them (weren't they donors to his campaign?) to deprive us - and our economy - of the proper use of it. (And Moochelle is doing her best to deplete the coffers further with her vacations and other multi-million dollar expenditures.)

    He said he would drive up the cost of electricity and gasoline, didn't he? Probably the only truth he has spoken in public since he began his run for President. I can't think of a single thing he has done since his inauguration which hasn't advanced the Cloward-Piven agenda.

  3. Welcome to planet earth. Ain't physics a bitch?

    It will be interesting to see if this conclusion propagates, or the only result is lefty think tanks divesting themselves of Google stock in retribution to the heretics.

  4. Reg T: "Word!" Exactly! But don't forget his vow to "spread the wealth." He has been working hard to do that also!

  5. Don't forget about the import tariffs, patents, and local utility companies saying no to buyback which are being used to make PV cells more expensive. A few years back in Germany I heard of a couple 400K SF factories being built to make PV which was put on a flexible backing with a "printing" process, spread with rollers like ink. Whatever happened to that? Patents ban competition.

  6. It is working exactly as planned. The goal is to enrich cronies, destroy the middle class through ever increasing taxes and higher costs and to pull America down a couple of notches. So far so good.

  7. nonnymouse @3:24

    Tell me who is going to invest the time, energy, and money to do any R+D if the result is your competitor(s) simply copying your work? You are an idiot.

  8. If the government can create billions of dollars out of nothing, why can't we do the do the same with electricity?


  9. "Unlike the people who earnestly believe those magic unicorn farts will someday power everything, a group of engineers tasked with finding a way to produce a billion watts of renewable power at a cheaper price point than a coal-fired plant has to face reality."

    Shoot, nuclear power solved that engineering problem in the middle of the last century, with zero carbon emissions. The remaining problems are political.

  10. Will,

    The US-style patent system doesn't do what the sales pitch says it does, and it never did. The behavior of humans under US-style intellectual property laws is now understood, and it doesn't work the way you imply. Check into the libertarian analysis of patents from the last 30 years. While you're there, notice that other kinds of monopolies don't work they way they're advertised to, either.