Tuesday, March 5, 2019

The Open Secret No One Talks About - Renewables Can't Provide Our Needed Energy

Donald Sensing over at Sense of Events has great little article about the physical impossibility of the Green New Deal.   It's called "The Green New Deal - a unicorn and butterflies dream factory", and opens with a question that I haven't seen on the news.
But if renewables are going to put fossil-fuel companies out of business, then why have oil and gas investors,
... made a political alliance with renewables companies, and why oil and gas companies have been spending millions of dollars on advertisements promoting solar, and funneling millions of dollars to said environmental groups to provide public relations cover.
The answer is simple: for a few reasons (some of which I bet you know), it's not possible with any known technology that current renewable energy sources can provide the world's energy needs.  Everyone in the energy industry or following the subject knows it.  The folks working in renewables know it and the people in the oil and gas industries know it.  The oil and gas companies spend money on "advertisements promoting solar" to try and get some of the that sweet gubmint money that will flow to the solar and wind energy companies.  The solar companies will need power generation for when the sun doesn't shine; not just night but during cloudy weather (I understand many of you call that "winter").  There either needs to be massive energy storage or fast-reacting energy production systems.  Massive energy storage technologies don't exist and those fast-reacting production systems tend to be oil or gas based.

Better yet, Don links to "Why Renewables Can't Save the Planet", by Michael Shellenberger, an author with genuine cred to the greenies.  He's a Time Magazine “Hero of the Environment,” and president of Environmental Progress, an independent research and policy organization.  In many ways, this reads like a personal story of how he came to his conclusions, more than just a recital of those conclusions.  I really think it's worth your time to read.  As usual, I'll excerpt some parts here to whet your appetite.
In 2002, shortly after I turned 30, I decided I wanted to dedicate myself to addressing climate change. ...

I thought the solutions were pretty straightforward: solar panels on every roof, electric cars in every driveway, etc. The main obstacles, I believed, were political. And so I helped organize a coalition of America’s largest labor unions and environmental groups.
The first [trouble they ran into] was around land use. Electricity from solar roofs costs about twice as much as electricity from solar farms, but solar and wind farms require huge amounts of land. That, along with the fact that solar and wind farms require long new transmissions lines, and are opposed by local communities and conservationists trying to preserve wildlife, particularly birds.

Another challenge was the intermittent nature of solar and wind energies. When the sun stops shining and the wind stops blowing, you have to quickly be able to ramp up another source of energy.
Shellenberger has met reality and been slapped around by that stone-cold bitch.  Wind farms kill birds; not the small, plentiful birds like the billions of sparrows, jays and other common birds that house cats kill around the world; wind farms kill large, rare and endangered birds like hawks, eagles, owls, and condors.  Wind or solar farms require large, high-voltage transmission lines and towers that cross from the remote sites to power substations.  One of my wife's favorite stories is when she found that a group of environmental protesters were shocked to find their wonderful wind turbines needed transmission lines - power lines - to connect to the grid; they had simply never thought how the electricity got from the turbines to the users.  It just magically appeared at their outlets.

The reason for the large solar and wind farms is that both forms are energy are dilute in area (which is good, or they'd kill us).  Solar energy is only available at a concentration of roughly 1100 Watts per square yard, and with photovoltaic efficiency considerations you can figure 300 Watts per square yard - maybe less.  You can see how a solar farm big enough to produce megawatts would take enormous amounts of space.  Shellenberger puts it this way:
You can make solar panels cheaper and wind turbines bigger, but you can’t make the sun shine more regularly or the wind blow more reliably. I came to understand the environmental implications of the physics of energy. In order to produce significant amounts of electricity from weak energy flows, you just have to spread them over enormous areas. In other words, the trouble with renewables isn’t fundamentally technical—it’s natural.
In a move that might get Shellenberger declared a non-person by his green colleagues, he comes to the conclusion that the only reasonable answer is nuclear power.  He points out that contrary to most peoples' expectations, wind turbines kill many more people than nuclear power.

His final words in the article:
I think it’s natural that those of us who became active on climate change gravitated toward renewables. They seemed like a way to harmonize human society with the natural world. Collectively, we have been suffering from an appeal-to-nature fallacy no different from the one that leads us to buy products at the supermarket labeled “all natural.” But it’s high time that those of us who appointed ourselves Earth’s guardians should take a second look at the science, and start questioning the impacts of our actions.

Now that we know that renewables can’t save the planet, are we really going to stand by and let them destroy it?
I would let those be the final words to this article, but I like the words of Patrick Moore, former president of Greenpeace, to everyone's favorite green twit.

Yes I realize that to some greenies killing off billions of people is a feature, not a bug.  I've only been writing about it since 2011.  It's just that they're not all totally FN and not willing to learn new things.  This guy doesn't sound like he thinks the anti-civilization people are the model to follow.

Horses to bring food to the people?  People cutting down every available tree to heat their homes and cook their food?  Maybe Ms. Occasional Cortex could use to read my 2011 piece "When Gasoline Saved the World From Pollution".


  1. I'm (still) planning on a long-ish post about energy. So few understand it. And apparently nobody from New York does. Sigh.

    1. New Yorkers live in a world of intangibles. Money, fashion, politics. They have zero points of contact with reality.

      My favorite quote from a New Yorker - "You mean you can actually see the sun come up? Every morning? I didn't know it did that!"

  2. If you eradicate 80% (or more) of the people on the planet then "renewable" energy becomes much more viable. And the hardcore greenie fanatics on the left would cap human population at somewhere between 500 million and a billion people. And THEY would be the ones deciding who lives and who doesn't.

    1. It is more like they want to eradicate 90 to 95 percent of the world population. This is a feature of the GND and not a bug. As you said AOC and her ilk would want to be the ones deciding who died. They read the Hunger Games series and want to be the people in Capitol City.

  3. the ultimate renewable energy source is going to be.....fusion reactors. get used to it. it will happen. the chinese are going to send robotic systems to the moon to collect and return He3 and that with give them a viable tokamak reactor that will work.
    the chinese government is not stupid. they are arrogant and egotistical and self serving, but they understand the limitations of the coal fired power systems. they can run the way they are for another 150 or so years but they ask; then what.
    I swear a. occasionally cortexed is a chinese agent

    1. I think the first time I read fusion reactors were "20 years away" was just under 50 years ago. No later than '71 or '72.

      Everyone knows it's "the future", but nobody really knows how to make a practical, self-sustaining fusion reactor. It's hard for me to envision how He3 extracted from moon rocks/soil is going to be cost competitive with anything.

      I hope I live to see it, along with a few other things I've been waiting for all my life.

    2. I have grave doubts about the odds of sustainable economically useful fusion ever being achieved.....as in more energy out than in. We may eventually learn that sustained fusion requires the massive gravitational forces that allows the sun to be the sun. It may be physically impossible to achieve sustainable fusion outside a massive gravitational field.

    3. The closest humanity has come have been some short (<1 second) periods of "break even" where energy output exceeded energy input. There has never been a self-sustaining reaction putting out net positive energy for a whole second (to the best of my knowledge).

      It may be physically impossible to achieve sustainable fusion outside a massive gravitational field.

      All of the systems I'm aware of (and I only follow it casually when the subject comes up) are based on magnetic containment, not gravitational for obvious reasons. The use of magnetic fields is to simulate the gravitational compression in the sun's core. Unless there's some magnetic interaction that ruins the fusion reactions, the magnetic "bottle" should be equivalent, right?

    4. We don't know enough about gravity or magnetic force to say if they can be equivalent. I suspect in this case equivalent is NOT good enough. The outward pressure of the energy from a fusion reaction likely disrupts the magnetic field whereas the massive gravity of a star is due to MASS....which cannot be disrupted so easily. It takes YEARS for the photons created at the core of the sun to migrate to the coronosphere and escape into space. That sheer mass may be a key factor in sustainability.

  4. We'd been toying with the idea of installing the solar roof panels (there are programs that make that QUITE attractive for homeowners), but someone pointed out that the installation could up your home insurance rates.
    It turns out that firemen are not keen on electrocuting themselves by chopping into wired roofs.
    Go figure.