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100% Renewables?

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Written by Brian King   
Thursday, 08 June 2017 08:18

100% Renewables?

 

Amid the growing concern over increasing C02 in the atmosphere and global warming, one often hears a reassuring mantra from green groups like 350.0rg. “We can quit burning fossil fuels and replace them all with renewable energy: wind, water and solar.”  The logical extension of this claim is often unstated: “We don’t need nuclear power.”

But, does either point jibe with reality?

In a word, no. The points do connect with each other, but what we should say is: “Getting all the world’s energy from wind, water, and solar will absolutely never happen, so we would be wise to look into other sources of carbon free energy, like nuclear.

Why do I say it like this? Some would contend that renewable energy is incapable of replacing fossil fuels. I think it is a mistake to put it this way. When the awesome productive power of human civilization is added up, it would be within the realm of possibility to conceive of building enough renewable energy to replace all of our fossil fuels. But at what cost? And, would we ever be willing to pay that price?

My Friend, Tim Maloney, has produced a paper entitled Critique of the 100% WWS (wind, water, and solar) Plan and published it on his website: http://www.timothymaloney.net/Timothy_Maloney.html. I encourage everybody to study this fine work of Tim’s. Much of the rest of what I’ll say here comes from Maloney’s website.

Mark Jacobson is a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University. Together with his colleague, Mark Delucchi, he published in the November 2009 Scientific American “A Path to Sustainable Energy.” Jacobson’s “Path” details what he claims is a way for humankind to cease the burning of fossil fuels in favor of energy derived from 100% renewable sources—water, wind and solar, or WWS.

Maloney follows Jacobson’s path for the U.S. step by step and concludes that a real attempt to go totally WWS would run into insuperable roadblocks. For example, land use would be an enormous problem. Maloney calculates in his critique, that the land covered by windmills would be equal to all of Kansas, West Virginia, and half of Vermont. Some say: “That may be true, but wind farm land can also be used for grazing cattle.” Perhaps, but living and working in earshot of windmills may not be possible for humans, they drive you crazy. There is already evidence of a mental condition that people develop from always listening to the constant low roar of windmills. In 2015, more than a hundred rural communities enacted anti-windmill ordinances.

There is also the very serious question of how many birds and bats are raked out of the air and killed. Most estimates I’ve seen hover around a million each per year, killed by existing windmills in the U.S. including thousands of beautiful predators, like eagles and hawks. We’re losing birds and bats to windmills at a time when we really need them to keep eating the dangerous insects that are coming our way because of global warming

The question of land use is especially striking when Jacobson’s WWS plan is compared with building nuclear power plants. Maloney calculates that enough nuclear power plants to enable us to stop using fossil fuels would cover an area equal to .015% of the land that would be necessary for Jacobson’s plan. When considering the comparison of WWS and nuclear for building cost, concrete used, and steel consumed, WWS comes out looking, again, not so hot. The following table is from Maloney’s “Critique:”

 

Factor of Difference Percentages

WWS/NuclearSteel: 793 million tons ÷ 22.9 million tons  = 34.6  times as much needed for WWS

Concrete: 1979 million tons ÷ 366 million tons = 5.4 times as much needed for WWS

Land: 375,900 Kilometers2 ÷ 59 kilometers2 = 6370 times as much land needed for WWS

( WWS 289,993 Km2 OK for agriculture but unusable for residential. 86,700 Km2 unusable for agriculture or residential. 86,700 Km2=1.1% lower 48 states)

Money: $16.6 trillion ÷ $9.2 T = 1.8 times as much needed for WWS

Nuclear/WWS

Steel:  22.9 million tons ÷ 793 million tons = 2.9%

Concrete:  366 million tons ÷ 1979 million tons = 18.4%

Land: 59 Kilometers2 ÷ 375,900 Kilometers2 = 0.016%

Money: $9.2 Trillion /$16.6 Trillion = 55.4%

 

 

A couple of points are worth considering from the (vast) factor of difference percentages. The amounts of money, land, steel, and concrete needed for Jacobson’s path to 100% renewables is so enormous, people might despair at some point, and then where would we be? For the second point, if nuclear is ruled out, the clearly rational path would be to continue burning gas, coal and oil until global warming overwhelms us. 100% renewables is never going to happen, because it demands too much of our scarce resources.

We need to choose between fossil fuels and nuclear. Nuclear power has earned its’ reputation as the “safest form of energy.” Compared with other non-carbon emitting energy forms, it’s very economical, too. During the 1970’s, after the big oil embargo, France decided to go nuclear, and within about 10 years they had built enough nuclear plants to generate 80% of their electricity. They have some of the cleanest air in Europe, and French electricity is among the cheapest on the Continent. They also pour a lot less C02 into the atmosphere. This could be done on a world scale, if America got behind it. Think of it: a Manhattan project to stop global warming. But we need to discard the 100% renewables illusion and get on with building nuclear.

 

 

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0 # malcolm d 2017-06-10 10:13
Oh, horseshit! Nuclear should be removed from any energy mix. Totally. Ask the folks at Fukushima, for one mere example.

And the owners are hoping they can decommission two nukes n central calif before they melt down and start irradiating people in San Luis Obispo County.

RSN, I'm embarrassed that you'd allow this propaganda on your website
 
 
0 # bpjking@comcast.net 2017-06-14 19:26
I really appreciate RSN posting my piece about renewables. Malcom said nothing about the main point, Renewables. But the worst thing he did was to swear at me. That's a form of intimidation that should not exist on RSN.

Brian King
 

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