jump to navigation

About That Renewable Energy… March 4, 2019

Posted by geoff in News.

Amidst the discussions over AOC’s silly “Green New Deal,” we have a sensible voice emerging from the crowd: a gentleman who pitched his own, less ambitious, Green New Deal more than 10 years ago:

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. Our proposal was for a $300 billion dollar investment in renewables. We would not only prevent climate change but also create millions of new jobs in a fast-growing high-tech sector.

Our efforts paid off in 2007 when then-presidential candidate Barack Obama embraced our vision. Between 2009–15, the U.S. invested $150 billion dollars in renewables and other forms of clean tech. But right away we ran into trouble.

The “trouble” he mentions falls into 3 categories:

  1. Solar and wind energy require large acreage and have significant environmental impacts. Both are also very site-reliant, especially wind energy.
  2. Solar and wind energy are intermittent, requiring either energy storage or backup energy sources. Both cause their own set of problems.
  3. Building solar panels involves environmentally unsavory materials, so disposal of panels at the end of their (short) lifetime is problematic.

One consequence is that energy savings from renewables haven’t been realized. Take solar panels, for example:

…one-time cost savings from making them in big Chinese factories have been outweighed by the high cost of dealing with their unreliability.

Consider California. Between 2011–17 the cost of solar panels declined about 75 percent, and yet our electricity prices rose five times more than they did in the rest of the U.S.

He then notes that the energy source that is actually the cheapest and cleanest is one that has been with us for 65 years:

*** Nuclear Power ***

In something of a coincidence, I was recently writing a proposal concerning fusion energy, and ran across a paper comparing the ultimate cost of various energy sources, including construction, operation, and environmental costs. Here is their final summary chart:

Yup, the cheapest power source is the one all the way to the left:

Good Old Nuclear Power


1. geoff - March 4, 2019

Of course that last chart didn’t help my fusion proposal any.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: