Global warming alarmists press for a day when wind and solar energy (and to a lesser extent, biofuels) will displace the use of all carbon based energy. One wonders if they ever pull out a calculator to look at the remarkable environmental impacts that will accrue if they get their wish.
For the moment let’s forget that the predictions for disaster have not happened. Let’s forget, as well, that CO2, no matter how jaded one’s opinion might be, isn’t ALL BAD. Rising atmospheric levels of CO2 fertilizes plants (that’s why greenhouse owners pump CO2 into their greenhouses), reduces deserts and increases the area of forests, grasslands, crop yields and human nutrition.
Let us instead look at what would be needed in resources to achieve their goals. “Renewable” energy, as it turns out, requires an immense amount of land and resources to meet their hopes and dreams. They might be shocked at the “environmental impact report.”
To achieve their goals requires a world-wide effort. So what would be needed in such an effort.
[Source: Monumental, Unsustainable Environmental Impacts, by Paul Driessen]
Climate scaremongers, government agencies and courts virtually never calculate the land, raw materials, energy, and water requirements of alternative energy. If you want to begin digging a new coal mine you had better not kill any endangered species. But that appears to be OK if you are building wind and solar power facilities (tens of thousands of birds, including endangered species, are chopped to death or burned to a crisp). They forget that they required billions to be spent moving power lines because EMFs “caused leukemia in children (which was proven to be wrong, by the by),” but give no thought to the enormous number of transmission lines required to fulfill their dream.
[From the Driessen article] The back-of-the-envelope calculations that follow provide a template. I cannot vouch for any of them… Ethanol derived from corn grown on 40,000,000 acres now provides the equivalent of 10% of US gasoline – and requires billions of gallons of water, and enormous quantities of fertilizer and energy. What would it take to replace 100% of US gasoline? To replace the entire world’s motor fuels?
Solar panels on Nevada’s Nellis Air Force Base generate 15 megawatts of electricity perhaps 30% of the year from 140 acres. Arizona’s Palo Verde nuclear power plant generates 900 times more electricity, from less land, some 95% of the year. Generating Palo Verde’s output via Nellis technology would require land area ten times larger than Washington, DC – and would still provide electricity unpredictably only 30% of the time. Now run those solar numbers for the 3.5 billion megawatt-hours generated nationwide in 2016.
Modern coal or gas-fired power plants use less than 300 acres to generate 600 megawatts 95% of the time. Indiana’s 600-MW Fowler Ridge wind farm covers 50,000 acres and generates electricity about 30% of the year. Calculate the turbine and acreage requirements for 3.5 billion MWH of wind electricity.
Delving more deeply, generating 20% of US electricity with wind power would require up to 185,000 1.5-MW turbines, 19,000 miles of new transmission lines, 18 million acres, and 245 million tons of concrete, steel, copper, fiberglass and rare earths – plus fossil-fuel back-up generators for the 75-80% of the year that winds nationwide are barely blowing and the turbines are not producing electricity.
Energy analyst David Wells has calculated that replacing 160,000 teraWatt-hours of total global energy consumption with wind would require 183,400,000 turbines needing roughly: 461,000,000,000 tons of steel for the towers; 460,000,000,000 tons of steel and concrete for the foundations; 59,000,000,000 tons of copper, steel and alloys for the turbines; 738,000,000 tons of neodymium for turbine magnets; 14,700,000,000 tons of steel and complex composite materials for the nacelles; 11,000,000,000 tons of complex petroleum-based composites for the rotors; and massive quantities of other raw materials – all of which must be mined, processed, manufactured into finished products and shipped around the world.
Assuming 25 acres per turbine, the turbines would require 4,585,000,000 hectares (11,330,000,000 acres) – nearly twice the land area of North America! Wells adds: Shipping just the iron ore to build the turbines would require nearly 3 million voyages in huge ships that would consume 13 billion tons of bunker fuel (heavy oil) in the process. And converting that ore to iron and steel would require 473 billion tons of coking coal, demanding another 1.2 million sea voyages, consuming another 6 billion tons of bunker fuel.
But, of course, these turbines and solar panels last forever… oh, wait, the general rule of thumb is that solar panels will degrade by about 1% each year. The wind energy industry and the Government tell us that wind turbines “enjoy” a lifespan of 20 to 25 years.
So plan on doing the project over again EVERY GENERATION!