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April 11, 2021

3/23/2021 9:49:00 AM
What's Wrong with Wind and Solar? Physical Reality

Dear Editor;
Not long ago, I met someone who told me he was watching them bury old wind turbine blades as they are not reusable/recyclable. I thought he was lying but I took a look. You may not be familiar with Mark Mills, Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, but in a recent talk he summarized the TOTAL costs of wind and solar energy. Environmentalists think they've found a magic solution for energy on earth in the form of wind and solar power. They think all the energy we need can be supplied by building enough wind and solar farms; and enough batteries. The simple truth is that we can't. Nor should we want to-not if our goal is to be good stewards of the planet.
He then summarizes some basic physics, efficiencies, economics and ecological concerns:
11) All sources of energy have limits that can't be exceeded. The maximum rate at which the sun's photons can be converted to electrons is about 33%. Our best solar technology is at 26% efficiency. For wind, the maximum capture is 60%. Our best machines are at 45%. So, we're pretty close to wind and solar limits. Despite PR claims about big gains coming, there just aren't any possible. Remember, wind and solar only work when the wind blows and the sun shines. But we need energy all the time. Recently, German who is "a leader" in solar and wind has been suffering brownouts when the wind doesn't blow and the sun doesn't shine. The solution we're told is to use batteries. Again, physics and chemistry make this very hard to do.
22) Consider the world's biggest battery factory, the one Tesla built in Nevada. It would take 500 years for that factory to make enough batteries to store just one day's worth of America's electricity needs. This helps explain why wind and solar currently still supply less than 3% of the world's energy, after 20 years and billions of dollars in subsidies.
33) Putting aside the economics, if your motive is to protect the environment, you might want to rethink wind, solar, and batteries because, like all machines, they're built from nonrenewable materials. Consider that a single electric-car battery weighs about half a ton. Fabricating one requires digging up, moving, and processing more than 250 tons of earth somewhere on the planet.
44) Building a single 100 Megawatt wind farm, which can power 75,000 homes requires some 30,000 tons of iron ore and 50,000 tons of concrete, as well as 900 tons of NON-RECYCLABLE plastics for the huge blades. To get the same power from solar, the amount of cement, steel, and glass needed is 150% greater. Then there are the other minerals needed, including elements known as rare earth metals. With current plans, the world will need an incredible 200 to 2,000 percent increase in mining for elements such as cobalt, lithium, and dysprosium, to name just a few.
So when they talk about the "efficiencies" and good that wind and solar provide, remember it's cost to the environment and the earth's resources. Next week - social costs.
John Curran
Dodgeville, Wisconsin

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