Solar PV – an irresistible disruptive technology?

This is a guest post by Graham Palmer, author of the book Energy in Australia: Peak Oil, Solar Power, and Asia’s Economic Growth. A short bio is given at the end of the post.

With rapidly declining costs and a favourable EROI, solar photovoltaics (PV) is often assumed to be an irresistible “disruptive technology” that is on a preordained trajectory. This faith is typified in Paul Krugman’s recent article in the New York Times in which he imagines that “drastic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions are now within fairly easy reach”. Yet in two recent posts Solar Scotland and The efficiency of solar photovoltaics, it is apparent that all may not be as simple as it seems. In my book, Energy in Australia: Peak Oil, Solar Power, and Asia’s Economic Growth, published as part of the SpringerBriefs series, I elaborate on some of these issues and try to draw out some of the nuances.

Since the EROI of global oil supply is taken at round 10:1 to 18:1 and on a downward trend, but solar PV is taken at around 10:1 up to 60:1, and rising, it could easily be concluded that the net-energy available from PV is superior to current oil production, and may actually begin to approach the very high net-energy figures that used to be available in the Golden Era of oil gushers in Texas and Louisiana.

Yet, intuitively it is not at all obvious that PV has the same value to society vis-á-vis fossil fuels. A nation’s PV fleet could be turned off for a week and few would notice. Nor would it adversely affect system reserve margins or loss-of-load assessments. Yet even minor disruptions to gasoline supplies, natural gas, cancelled trains, or the internet can have a major effect on daily life. The curious thing is that the literature on PV life-cycle analyses seems to readily accept these high numbers without questioning what these figures really mean. Yet high-school science and maths students are regularly taught to question whether their answers “make sense”.

It is only recently that more rigour has been applied to trying to understand the figures, leading to Prieto and Hall’s (2013) examination of the large-scale deployment of PV in Spain through 2009 and 2011. Coincidentally, I was researching a paper on PV, which was published in Sustainability Journal and posted on BraveNewClimate shortly afterwards. Both of us came to similar conclusions on EROI (between 2 and 3), which is significantly lower than commonly quoted figures, and below the critical minimum EROI required for society (Hall et al 2009).

The difference between my analysis and Prieto and Hall’s is that I started with data from a published paper that used conventional boundaries, but I broadened these to provide a more real-world inquiry, whereas Prieto and Hall conducted a comprehensive bottom-up analysis for Spain. As Prieto shows, there are a myriad of societal costs that are simply ignored in conventional PV-LCA analyses, and that solar PV is completely dependent upon the fossil fuelled system in which it is embedded.

At the heart of the PV-EROI issue is the methodological guidelines established by the IEA-PVPS program (Fthenakis, V., et al. 2011). The guidelines establish the boundaries and methodology for PV-Life Cycle Analyses, and provide a coherent and consistent framework for comparing PV systems. The issue is that results calculated with the constrained IEA-PVPS boundaries are being used to compare PV with other energy sources, leading to a gross overestimation of their true value to society. The critical issue of intermittency is ignored, the system boundary for PV panels is truncated to exclude upstream energy costs, and many other important system-based factors are deemed to lie beyond the standard boundaries.

Similarly, the often assumed idea that a “suite of renewables” with smart-grids and electric vehicles to achieve some sort of “optimized synergy” is frequently overstated. It is well established that geographical smoothing, along with “technology-diversity” smoothing can improve the statistical performance of integrated systems, but cannot deal with the “big gaps” events, particularly during winter.

Similarly, combining electric vehicles with solar PV seems like a great idea at face value, but how would it work at a system level? Will motorists want to “fill up their tank” during the middle of the day at peak tariffs, and sell back to the grid at night? How will the vehicle get recharged so it has full range by the morning? What happens to charging during winter? Is there a business case for cycling a large proportion of system energy through EV batteries and what amount of degradation is acceptable given that batteries are cycle limited? The batteries remain the weakest link in the marketability of EV’s, and car manufacturers are more interested in optimising battery capacity for driving range and longevity. (Instead, the more obvious synergy is between baseload, which can provide low cost and predictable year-round off-peak power for charging when most vehicles are parked at home, whilst underpinning the load factor for baseload generators in the event of the electrification of the motor car fleet.)

Intermittency is readily accommodated in conventionally powered grids but absent balancing from large-scale hydro, integration limits of intermittent energy remain unknown beyond about 20% of grid penetration. Low cost storage is key, but the paradox of storage is perhaps best summed up by John Morgan when he states

.. the idea that advances in energy storage will enable renewable energy is a chimera – the Catch-22 is that in overcoming intermittency by adding storage, the net energy is reduced below the level required to sustain our present civilization.

Nonetheless, intermittent sources of power can still play a useful role in fuel savings, emissions abatement, and trade balance (for example, the case of wind in Portugal) but at a cost. Treating PV as an extension of, rather than as a substitute for, the fossil fuel enterprise enables a more productive discussion of PV’s niche role in electricity generation. For example, with a small amount of distributed storage, solar PV could provide a potentially valuable contribution to network support in summer-peaking grids. And in isolated grids reliant on high cost diesel or gas, PV provides a valuable fuel-saving role.

EROI is important because it is a foundational issue that can’t be remedied with markets, price signals, or support mechanisms. In the case of PV, the technology is perfectly functional – improvements in efficiency or cost of panel won’t substantially improve the “extended EROI” – it is the system-wide issues needed to remedy integration that erase the gains. A wider understanding of these issues is sorely needed.

Graham Palmer is a professional engineer with qualifications in electronic, industrial and renewables engineering, working in the HVAC (heating ventilation and air conditioning) industry in Melbourne Australia. He is also an independent part-time researcher in the sustainable energy field, contributing reports, articles, and papers in the energy efficiency and sustainable energy fields. His research interests include understanding the broader societal consequences of energy, climate policy and technology.

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14 Responses to Solar PV – an irresistible disruptive technology?

  1. Euan Mearns says:

    EROI explained:

    Energy return on invested is a concept I believe developed by Professor Charles Hall that is rooted in ecology.

    EROI = energy procured / energy required to procure energy

    The sister concept of net energy = EROI-1

    Industrial society runs on net energy. If our primary energy source had an EROI = 1 then every human on the planet would be involved in acquiring the energy required to survive. When humans stumbled upon fossil fuels we discovered an energy store that had enormous EROI. The amount of energy required to drill a gusher in Texas or Saudi Arabia was tiny compared to the energy stored in the oil that was produced.

    For centuries Man was not bothered about EROI since our energy sources were so high it made little difference to energy availability as the chart shows. But as EROI declines an increasing amount of the energy procured is used to procure energy manifest as the number of people involved in the energy extractive industries. You just need to look at the human effort involved in US fracking, Canadian tar sands and in producing the last few drops of oil in Aberdeen. The best energy sources are those that require least effort to access and so when you hear a politician speak of creating lots of energy jobs you should be concerned since it normally means unviable and expensive energy technologies.

    The location of solar PV on this old chart needs to be revised. Chart based on earlier work of Hall and Hagens. With EROI less than 10, society falls off the Net Energy Cliff.

    • Clive Best says:

      We should perhaps define it as ‘controllable’ energy return on investment. Wind and Solar PV would then both be zero. The figure for nuclear in the chart above is nearly a factor 10 too small. France seems to have the cheapest energy in Europe.

      • Euan Mearns says:

        I agree your comment about nuclear. My number is based on this source:

        Life cycle energy and greenhouse gas emissions of nuclear energy: A review Manfred Lenzen, Energy Conversion and Management 49 (2008) 2178–2199

        I’ve always been suspicious of it, much depends on energy allocated to decommissioning and waste storage. we need to wait and see how France gets on building next generation while decommissioning current generation of reactors.

      • Wait a little until we reach, as the minimum, to the semidesintegration period of plutonium produced in last and this century (+24,000 years) to see the real costs embodied in nuclear energy. It is just a matter of time. The same criteria used for solar PV should be used for nuclear energy, a totally underpinned energy on fossil fuels. The EROI analysis to date do not include many energy input extended boundaries.

  2. Roberto Zavattiero says:

    Also the efficiency of pv panels does not change the production of kWp which is entirely related to the presence and angle of solar radiation during the 24 hours and during the seasons.

  3. Willem Post says:

    PV solar energy, without storage, is minimal or zero about 65% of the hours of the year, and wind energy in New England is minimal or zero about 30% of the hours of the year. Many of these hours overlap.

    That means almost ALL conventional generating units are required almost ALL hours of the year to provide energy when solar and wind are insufficient.

    It is called having “capacity adequacy” and it is NOT free, because all these generators would need to be
    – staffed,
    – fueled, and
    – kept in good working order, and
    – be replaced on a scheduled basis with new ones,

    to be ready to serve on a moment’s notice.

    Capacity adequacy, and its operation, adds at least 5 c/kWh to the cost of delivering wind and solar energy to users, a significant “externality”, in addition to the “externality” of an extensive redesign of existing grids.

    Here is a speech to a PV solar stakeholder convention in Germany by Sigmar Gabriel, Vice Chancellor, and Economics and Energy Minister, regarding the Germany’s Renewable Energy project, ENERGIEWENDE, verging on failure.

    The audience was stunned to hear the unvarnished truth regarding RE

    “The truth is that in all fields we under-estimated the complexity of the Energiewende.”

    “The complete exemption from paying feed-in tariffs is a model that is wonderful for you (PV stake holders and PV system owners) as a business model, but is one that is a problem for everyone else.”

  4. Glen Mcmillian says:

    In the end there are engineering problems and money or capital problems to be dealt with.

    They overlap quite a bit a good portion of the time.But they need to be considered separately and they cannot be considered rationally without a time frame mentioned.

    Fossil fuels come out of holes in the ground. They are growing more expensive in real terms on average and have been for a long time. There is so far as I can see absolutely no good reason to believe the long term upward trend in the real prices of fossil fuels is not set in stone.

    So- suppose we specify some time frames before we go all absolute in our pronouncements about what is workable and useful and what isn’t workable and useful.

    I don’t know how much longer coal and natural gas will last at today’s relatively affordable prices but I will hazard a guess that in a couple of decades they will cost twice as much – at least – in real terms.There are not only depletion and rising extraction costs to be considered but also such issues as resource nationalism.

    Barring a miracle the happy days of cheap oil are over-kaput!!!

    Now only an idiot would argue that it will take more fossil fuel fired generation capacity to supply the grid with renewables integrated at any level than it takes at the zero level.If there were no renewables we would still have enough coal, gas,and biofuel capacity to cover all peak load situations.

    SO – from a money or capital point of view the question we need to ask is whether renewables – meaning mainly wind and solar electricity – can save us enough fossil fuels on a collective or regional or national basis to justify the costs of the wind and solar installations and the costs of integrating them into the grid.

    Wind farms in the US saved us pretty closet to four percent of the oil and gas we would have burnt in order to generate electricity.Multiply that figure by the output of those farms for another twenty years at the very least and it is going to be a very substantial amount.

    On top of that there is the fact that any technology that suppresses the sale of a commodity also suppresses the price of that commodity.Just how much the price of coal and natural gas might be suppressed by a loss of four percent of their domestic market is another question I cannot answer but it must be an additional substantial sum.

    Now insofar as solar being the long term solution to our energy problems is concerned- from a real world perspective that is an academic question.

    It is perfectly reasonable to operate on the assumption that all the energy that might or might no be wasted building renewable infrastructure these days is going to be wasted ANYWAY.

    We are living in a fashion that is unsustainable over the long term in many respects.

    Industrial agriculture as we practice it today is not sustainable and not just because it depends on fossil fuels.

    We are wiping out the fish by over fishing and I suspect that we would do so now even with ships powered by wind and biofuels if bunker oil or coal were not available to power ships.

    We are wiping out the biosphere at a rate that may result in an ecological collapse that takes us with it.

    My point here is that survival is a short term issue first of all , a medium term issue after that, and a long term issue in the end.

    The question we should be asking now is whether wind and solar technologies are going to help or hinder us over the next few decades.

    It seems quite clear that wind and solar power are not generally worthwhile investments for the most part if one disregards pollution and assumes fossil fuel prices will remain constant.But for the most part does not mean in all cases. It seems that wind and solar power are about ready to compete on a cost basis in some situations where the wind and sun resource is very good to excellent.

    Personally I am not willing to disregard pollution or assume that fossil fuel prices are going to hold steady over the long term.

    I will not be here in forty years and probably not in twenty years. MY guess is that well over half of the participants in this forum will be dead by 2050 or 2060 at the latest.

    People living in the decades closing in on 2100 will have to solve their own problems as best they can.

    My gut feeling is that renewables will prove to be a priceless asset in terms of buying us time to adjust to life with ever more expensive fossil fuels.

    The current energy paradigm is busted beyond hope it will heal itself or that we can repair it.The business models employed by the conventional generating industry are dead men walking.I don’t pretend to know what the electricity industry will look like in thirty or forty years but it is safe to assume it will be very very different from the one we know today.

    Tobacco was never an essential part of the economy but it was never the less a product that enjoyed the patronage of a hundred million of us and one that generated enormous fortunes for the people who owned the cigarette companies.

    Society decided the time had come to change the rules of the tobacco game and despite the fact that the industry was super well financed and able to purchase unlimited legal talent and numerous elected officials via campaign contributions the rules were changed.

    Society will change the rule book that covers the electricity industry too when the need becomes a little more obvious.

    My guess is that the changes are for the most part not going to please the people who own the conventional generating capacity.

    If we were rational we would be building a new generation of nukes of course.

    • Willem Post says:


      The current, heavily-subsidized dabbling with solar panels and wind turbines is unsustainable and not going to lead to the quality and quantity of energy modern civilization needs.

      Fossil fuels will be used until something equivalent or better comes along. People reduced using wood in the 1830s, as fossil fuels mass production became feasible (steam driven pumps, etc.). Anything that replaces fossil fuels has to have similar advantages that fossil fuels had over wood.

      The only such fuel is uranium and thorium, and a closed nuclear cycle to minimize waste. At some point nuclear plants will have a comeback, because they are the only energy technology that can power modern civilization 24/7/365.

      The plants will likely consist of multiple, factory-built, modular units, about 150 MW each, built at a rate of about 100 – 150 per month, similar to the way jet airliners are built by Boeing and Airbus. That mode will likely be in place near the end of this century.

      And the fuels for future jet planes, etc? They will be synthetics.

      • Glen Mcmillian says:

        Personally I am not convinced that ” the current, heavily-subsidized dabbling with solar panels and wind turbines is unsustainable and not going to lead to the quality and quantity of energy modern civilization needs.”

        There is a lot to be said for nukes and that’s a fact. I personally am in favor of building a new generation of nukes even in the face of the mathematical certainty that sooner or later there will be a truly catastrophic accident at a nuke that will wipe out a million people if we continue to build them.

        The only thing that scares me more than a world with lots of nukes – remember aa good many of them will eventually be in the hands of people who shouldn’t be trusted with running a three car funeral- is a world without nukes when fossil fuels run really short.And run short they will, eventually.

        Civilization may very well HAVE to accommodate itself to primarily depending on renewables.There are numerous ways we can adapt to most of our power being intermittent so long as we have SOME reliable base load power.Progress in the sense that life is always going to get easier and more convenient is nice but so far as I know there is no reason to believe it is inevitable.I for instance have already accommodated myself to driving a compact pickup truck. A couple of day ago I had occasion to drive a full size pickup of the sort we owned since the fifties and the cab felt like a parlor and driving it felt like driving a ten wheel dump truck.

        I just installed LED lights in my house. They run so cheap enough that compared to the incadesents I was using ten years ago I probably could run them on batteries for the same money if I could charge the batteries with my own solar power.

        If the average person in the United States were to spend as much on upgrading the energy efficiency of his residence over the next ten years as he does on unnecessary purchases of new automobiles and trucks then he could easily cut his home energy consumption in half.

        A really well insulated house equipped with really good appliances could run almost all the time on renewable energy. There is no real reason in this country at least why we can’t install two or three hundred liter hot water heaters for instance -which hold enough hot water for most people to get by for three or four days.There is no reason why we can’t run washers and dryers on wind and solar at least half the time if there is a little green light on in the house indicating wind and solar output is good. A refrigerator can have an ice reservoir in it and run as an icebox for three or four days – such refrigerator equipped with a sensor on a smart grid would hardly ever need to run on fossil fuels.

        Personally I believe the lack of acceptance of battery powered cars will evaporate within five to ten years as the battery industry scales up and patents expire. Most people in the industry seem to believe that battery costs will fall by fifty percent within five years.Right now hardly any of my neighbors would actually buy such a car even if it were priced the same as a conventional comparable car for fear of battery failure but a good many would lease one.

        Once such cars are no longer a novelty – they are now selling as fast as many well known sports cars – and gas prices go up another couple of bucks- people are going to start buying them in large numbers as the second car or even the primary car.We are always hearing about range limitations but the truth of the matter is that tens of millions of people hardly ever go more than a few miles from home and not even that on a lot of days.I have at times lived in a city and could have gone for a week at a time without charging a Leaf with no problems at all.

        Such cars and light trucks will not ” cure ” the oil addiction disease but they will alleviate the symptoms to a substantial extent and thus allow us to use oil for more important purposes such as delivering food in large trucks for a few more years at least. Long distance trucking itself is an industry with it’s tombstone already finished except for the date of expiration and that date will fall within the next two decades. The rail roads are going to come back and with modern communications and switching trains will run efficiently- a carload of freight won’t have to sit for days or weeks waiting to get hitched to the right local train.

        I could go on all day but I think I have illustrated my point well enough.

        We tend to forget that growth is probably about over in terms of energy consumption in highly developed countries due to falling birth rates, increasing energy efficiency and economic malaise.We just aren’t going to have the income to spend on lots of expensive energy going forward.The existing fossil fuel infrastructure will not need to be expanded much at all to accommodate such growth as will occur going forward in a rich country but it will have to be maintained.And such as it is in terms of capacity, it will have to be operated at lower and lower percentages of that capacity going forward.We cannot let our houses freeze up in a cold snap but we can lower our thermostats a couple of degrees and that means a lot less fuel consumption for heat for example. We will lower them too, unless we are rich because we won’t have any choice due to lack of income.

        Life isn’t ” FAIR” . It never has been and it never will be. Some people are going to lose badly on investments in fossil fuel generating infrastructure. Times change. The farmers who used to specialize in raising and training mules and horses went broke with the arrival of tractors. Typewriter factories closed with the arrival of the personal computer.Coal and gas generating plants will close in some cases and be operated on a different business model in others.My guess is that the losers will be compensated in one fashion or another in most cases.

        Renewables are going to enable us collectively to run the existing fossil fuel infrastructure at a considerably lower percentage of capacity most of the time. Insulation, battery electric cars, wind farms, solar farms, a smart grid, and smart appliances are politically doable .Conservation and efficiency are just plain and simply doable although they may have to slip in thru the servants entrance in a sense- a politician is not going to get elected running on an austerity campaign.

        Now as to nukes- let’s be politically realistic.It will probably take ten years at least for the public to accept the need for a new generation of nukes and after that another five or ten to whip the rear guard of the anti nuke coalition into submission.Five or ten after that to get some new nukes online in Western Europe and the Americas. If there is another major accident similar in scope to Chernobyl or Fukushima in the meantime…….

        Cut this estimate in half- it will still take ten to fifteen years to get any substantial amount of new nuclear juice into the grid.

        And the arguments about the human element in managing spent fuel and weapons proliferation just can’t be simply ignored. I agree that technical solutions are easily doable if costly…… but how do we handle the management of a nuke in a country going broke …. who will guarantee the proper management of such a nuke… will it be run long past the point of safe retirement? Will the spent fuel be left sitting in pools subject to meltdown in the case of civil war? WWIII? A political revolution of the kind that sweeps thru impoverished countries periodically??

        I am a layman, obviously enough.But when it comes to such issues as energy I try to think like a general who happens to be an engineer as well as a soldier.We need a layered defense or security perimeter. Putting all our eggs in a nuclear basket is not a viable option. We may not be building them within a safely workable time frame.WE can’t control the world or what will happen in other countries in terms of accidents due to mismanagement.

        Nukes scare the hell out of me. The only thing that scares me worse is the thought of the grid going down due to a lack of fuel delivery during a severe cold snap or heat wave and a few million people having no water sewer or heat or food delivery in some major city.

        My layman’s gut tells me that such a failure of the grid is at least as big a risk as the catastrophic failure of any given nuke given the nature of our fossil fuel supplies. Even a short war at the wrong time could result in utter the utter ruin of a country such as the UK which is heavily dependent on energy imports.
        The UK would not even have to be a party to the war.

        Shutting down a nuke inside the country would require a direct hit with a substantial number of conventional booms or a nuclear bomb in the face of the country’s defenses.

        Nukes can and do run for a very long time without being refueled.GIven the nature of weaponry these days a major war of the sort that would shut down international shipping will probably be over in a matter of weeks or months at the most.

        But repairing the infrastructure needed to deliver gas to a port and load it on a ship might take years if it is hit hard by bombs or saboteurs and burns up.

        Even in the event of a protracted major powers war it would be easy or at least possible to deliver nuclear fuel- one well escorted ship can haul enough to keep a dozen nuclear plants running for years.

        • Willem Post says:

          Practicing population reduction, and energy and resource reduction per capita, are necessary conditions for the planet and its flora and fauna (including us) to survive, but we will not see significant movement in that direction, unless energy and resources become scarce and expensive.

          Your fears of nuclear are overly excessive and reflect PR releases by RE promoters; engineering is reality/fact based; the less political interference, the better.

          France already has demonstrated 80% nuclear energy can run a modern society with high speed railroads. Some of its nuclear plants are designed to vary their outputs to suit demand. France’s hydro plants, etc., perform the rest of adjustments to suit demand. France even balances German PV solar energy that is overloading South German grids!!

          The nuclear plants currently in use are based on technology that is at least 50 years old. Modern plants, just as to-day’s cars, are more efficient, more reliable and require less O&M.

          • Glen Mcmillian says:

            I am quite well informed about the dangers of nuclear power given that I have spent a substantial amount of time and effort to become so informed. I have worked in the industry and I am in addition professionally trained in the basics of risk management.

            If you are not willing to face up to the fact that major nuclear accidents are INEVITABLE given a sufficient number of nukes being built you are either ignorant of basic mathematics or worse.

            Only a person who is woefully ill informed could possibly believe that nukes once built are always going to be run by people able and willing and determined to run them safely.I am just barely able to restrain myself from using much stronger language in this particular spot.

            You my friend are partaking of the nuclear industry koolaid. I am a realist. Chernobyl and Fukushima and a few documented accidents on nuclear subs prove my case. Yours is built on wishful thinking when it comes to nuclear safety. I am not afraid of nukes- I used to live well within the reach of the emergency warning sirens of two nukes and never gave an accident there a serious thought any more than I worry about a plane crash when I fly occasionally.

            I worked in a dozen more.I was once put in charge of a safety procedure by the engineer in charge of a shutdown because he knew I would not budge an inch from his instructions – which involved getting everybody out of containment on a list in my hand before some very powerful hot isotopes were extracted from a big lead box by remote control to expose film placed on pipes and valves.

            The boss of the X-ray crew at first sweet talked me and then he threatened getting me fired for holding his work up.Then he cussed me. But I didn’t call the boss until every body on my list was out thru the one operational airlock where I was stationed.People are just people. A good many of the engineers who signed off on the plans for Fukushima knew damned well that there were historical records of bigger tsunamis than the one that took out the plant.They knew damned well that putting spent fuel storage where they did was asking for a disaster in the event of a really big earthquake- and they signed off.They got their disaster.

            But a crash is an inevitability once in a while.There will be other Fukushima’s for one reason or another.

            And while a new generation of nukes will be substantially safer than the ones I worked in and lived near there is no such thing as complete failsafeing any major industry.

            Nukes are safer than coal and global warming and safer than being without power in the event of a war or natural disaster that prevents the delivery of fuel to conventional power plants.

            I am in favor of building a new fleet of new ones upgraded of course in terms of safety and reliability.

            But there will be accidents if we keep building nukes. The odds of another major accident at an existing nuke – or more than one accident – are pretty high given the fact that most countries are likely to keep them running until the last possible minute and then skimp on cleanup and shutdown expenses.

            Ask any mathematician.

  5. Roger Andrews says:

    The EORI of solar PV is largely academic if it never provides more than a small fraction of the world’s energy, and the problem of matching seasonal swings in solar output to demand is so intractable that I question whether it ever will.

    Low solar panel prices won’t solve this problem, regardless of what Paul Krugman thinks.

    • Markus G says:

      The EROI of wind and solar is not academic. The EROI drops to 2-3 when these sources are forced to deal with their own intermittency with storage and transmission and cannot piggyback on fossil fuel generators (regardless if the EROI of the panels and turbines themselves is near infinite). All wind and solar does is entrench existing fossil fuels and slightly reduce their emissions per kWh; the “natural gas bridge” is a bridge to nowhere. If we go down that road we’ll do UGC and fracking, slaming that heroin like a junky until the CO2 level is back to levels last seen during the cretaceous. The revolution in transmission and storage necessary to enable renewables to be anything but green washing and a waste of time is damned near magical; don’t hold your breath for it.

      Even old beater nuclear plants, really just super-sized submarine engines, can actually affordably replace fossil fuels for electricity generation. If we got our thumb out of our collective butts we can do much better than that.

  6. Bernard Durand says:

    Glen, another accident like Fukushima may happen, but we are sure that before that, coal will kill much much more that Fukushima will do.
    The number of people killed in a year in underground mines is around 10 000 on average in the world, and the recent accident in Turkey killed 301. 500, 000 miners die each year in the world from black lung. According to Green Peace, atmospheric pollution by coal in Europe has resulted in 237, 000 years of life lost. According to UNSCEAR, radiations at Fukushima will kill very few.
    People die also during the construction or the maintenance of wind turbines, much more than in the nuclear industry for each TWh produced, but this is not known because this is never said.

    There has been so much focusing on the risks of nuclear with the complicity of media that ordinary people are completely unaware of the much greater risks of other sources of energy.

    In France, we have a guy named Gribouille, which is known to jump in ponds to avoid rain !

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