Monday, September 16, 2019

The Awful Cost of Renewable Energies

I know most of my readers are painfully aware how absurd the arguments are that we hear for renewable energy from AOC (Twitty McTwitface), the squad, and the rest of the clown cars about the Green New Deal.  I happen to like seeing numbers to show me the size of the problem and I know some of you do, too.  The fundamental problem with wind and solar energy is that they're intermittent, so any amount of generation that comes from those sources needs to backed up with equivalent generation capability.  Cartoons by Josh, semi-resident cartoonist for Watts Up With That showed it this way in 2011 and it's as correct today as it was then.  In the old days, we built power stations for what we need.  Today we install the bird and bat choppers and build a backup plant capable of delivering all the power the choppers could deliver for those times when its not windy.

Applying generously diced birds to the land under the wind turbines will, indeed, 'green the land'.  In the organic fertilizer sense. Technically maybe they're not diced, just killed.

Foreign Policy offers us a summary of analysis done by the World Bank, a couple of years ago (strangely enough) in 2017.  Although they start from the standpoint of believing we need to build wind and solar farms, they bring some real data to the table.
The phrase “clean energy” normally conjures up happy, innocent images of warm sunshine and fresh wind. But while sunshine and wind is obviously clean, the infrastructure we need to capture it is not. Far from it. The transition to renewables is going to require a dramatic increase in the extraction of metals and rare-earth minerals, with real ecological and social costs.

We need a rapid transition to renewables, yes—but scientists warn that we can’t keep growing energy use at existing rates. No energy is innocent. The only truly clean energy is less energy.
The way I always heard that last sentence is "the only truly clean energy is the energy you don't use".  Same idea, different words.  The article begins by pointing out that the World Bank study modeled the increase in raw material extraction (primarily mining and refining the mine output) that would be required to build enough solar and wind utilities to produce an annual output of about 7 terawatts of electricity by 2050, or enough to power roughly half of the global economy. By doubling those numbers we can see how much more of those materials are required by 2050 to reach Twitty's goal of no carbon emissions at all. 
[T]he results are staggering: 34 million metric tons of copper, 40 million tons of lead, 50 million tons of zinc, 162 million tons of aluminum, and no less than 4.8 billion tons of iron.

In some cases, the transition to renewables will require a massive increase over existing levels of extraction. For neodymium—an essential element in wind turbines—extraction will need to rise by nearly 35 percent over current levels. Higher-end estimates reported by the World Bank suggest it could double.

The same is true of silver, which is critical to solar panels. Silver extraction will go up 38 percent and perhaps as much as 105 percent. Demand for indium, also essential to solar technology, will more than triple and could end up skyrocketing by 920 percent.

And then there are all the batteries we’re going to need for power storage. To keep energy flowing when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing will require enormous batteries at the grid level. This means 40 million tons of lithium—an eye-watering 2,700 percent increase over current levels of extraction.
That's just for electric power generation; essential but far from the only essential.  With no fossil fuels to run an internal combustion engine, there is no transportation left on the planet.
This year, a group of leading British scientists submitted a letter to the U.K. Committee on Climate Change outlining their concerns about the ecological impact of electric cars. They agree, of course, that we need to end the sale and use of combustion engines. But they pointed out that unless consumption habits change, replacing the world’s projected fleet of 2 billion vehicles is going to require an explosive increase in mining: Global annual extraction of neodymium and dysprosium will go up by another 70 percent, annual extraction of copper will need to more than double, and cobalt will need to increase by a factor of almost four—all for the entire period from now to 2050.
Quoting directly from their letter:
The metal resource needed to make all cars and vans electric by 2050 and all sales to be purely battery electric by 2035. To replace all UK-based vehicles today with electric vehicles (not including the LGV and HGV fleets), assuming they use the most resource-frugal next-generation NMC 811 batteries, would take 207,900 tonnes cobalt, 264,600 tonnes of lithium carbonate (LCE), at least 7,200 tonnes of neodymium and dysprosium, in addition to 2,362,500 tonnes copper. This represents, just under two times the total annual world cobalt production, nearly the entire world production of neodymium, three quarters the world’s lithium production and at least half of the world’s copper production during 2018. Even ensuring the annual supply of electric vehicles only, from 2035 as pledged, will require the UK to annually import the equivalent of the entire annual cobalt needs of European industry.
Got that?  For the small country of the UK to replace their entire fleet of fossil-fuel powered cars, they would need twice the world's annual cobalt output, the world's annual output of neodymium, 3/4 of the world's lithium, and half the world's copper production.  It goes without saying that every other industrialized country on Earth will also be trying to double or triple mine productions on all these minerals, for their use.   

Note that they're not saying we’re going to run out of key minerals — although that may indeed be possible.  It will just drastically change the impact of mining for these minerals, which many greenies feel takes too big of an environmental toll as it is.

EDIT 1327EDT 9/17: URL for killed, rare bird wasn't loading properly from live blog, but would load from Blogger's editor.  Attempting to fix.


  1. I've seen several electric/hybrid cars running around here with stickers on them showing windmills and saying "My Car Runs On The WIND!", or some other equally stupid hive-mind nonsense.

    And in the two years we've lived here, and in dozens of trips up to Cheyenne, we've gone by the huge wind farm off I-25, and have NEVER seen ANY of the damn things turning!

    Watta CROCK!

  2. Just sayin'-coal. Coal is solar energy, condensed into practical and storable form, the basis of a very mature technology (and how did you think all that steel was going to get made?) If we're going to need all those other elements, maybe we should start grabbing asteroids and doing some vacuum refining.

  3. While there are countless math ignorant useful idiots on the left pushing for the end of fossil fueled vehicles they are exactly that....the math ignorant useful idiots....who are only valuable to the people on the left RUNNING things, for the votes they provide. The people in charge on the commie left aren't always the most scientifically knowledgeable people but they ARE clever. They are using the climate fear mongering to push one of their many agendas in their quest of TOTAL control of society. It is like their quest for the imposition of
    "gun control" agenda that has NOTHING to do with guns, crime or safety but is ONLY about the one thing that matters to them...CONTROL. The left is hiding behind the greenie movement seeking to get rid of fossil fueled vehicles which are to be replaced by "electric vehicles". A technology that has NEVER even come close to living up to the hype of the greenies. And it likely never WILL be a viable replacement for the current paradigm. And to those in charge THAT'S OK. Because their true goal is not to move us all from those dirty gasoline powered cars to the pretty shiny new EV vehicles. Their goal is to END FOREVER the ability of the average person to travel on their own. They want ALL of us TOTALLY dependent on "public transit" to be able to go ANYWHERE. Because once we can't just get in a car and go THEY can tell us when, where and IF we get to travel. Meaning THEY have one more tool to CONTROL us. THAT is the basic reasoning behind the never ending assault on gas/diesel vehicles. It's just another method they seek to impose CONTROL. The one and only thing the power mongers on the left care about.

  4. Make no mistake...they want US only using the sun for light, riding bicycles for transportation, living in mud or grass huts, and growing our own food. Meanwhile, they live high on the hog, flying around in private jets lecturing us how to live.

    There is only one true solution for those that wish to impose their will on us this way, and it involves ropes on gallows.

  5. Dan is spot on.
    There is no issue with clean energy, or guns, or equality- every issue has one core element- giving the Party more power. The Party is the only issue.

    The stakes, lest our memories dim- wholesale torture for the sake of cruelty in and of itself.

  6. Excellent assessment Sig. I worked at a mid-sized mfg plant where the combined utility bill was over one million dollars a month. If there were cost saving alternatives companies like mine would be on it before politicians ever heard of it. But those schemes that need government subsidies to work are clearly about something else.

  7. Mr. Pilecki and Dan are right on target.

    It's identical to "Common Sense Gun Control".

    It's not about the guns, it's about the control.....