Why solar power can’t save us from peak oil

Preface. Embedded within the posts below are many reasons why solar electricity can’t replace fossil fuels.  All solar and wind do is add to the giant fire of burning fossil fuels with just a tiny bit more power, about 4% of all the power we use. But that will end at some point when the maximum grid integration level for a given area is reached, which is already happening in California (California hits the solar wall).

Alice Friedemann www.energyskeptic.com  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer, Barriers to Making Algal Biofuels, and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Collapse Chronicles, Derrick Jensen, Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report

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Solar power contraptions require oil for every single step of their life cycle

Look at all the fossil energy used to make solar panels in this youtube video: How It’s Made Solar Panels

If solar power and concentrated solar power plants can’t produce enough power to replicate themselves entirely over their life cycle, plus produce the energy needed by society, then they are not sustainable. Most of their life cycle depends on fossil fuels, with no electric alternatives. Oil is used by mining trucks, ships to take the ore to facilities that use fossil fuels to crush the rock, blast furnaces burning fossils to force the metal out that can run for 20 years around the clock and aren’t electric because even a short outage would destroy the brick lining. Every single part is made with fossil energy and these thousands of parts are shipped on diesel vehicles to the assembly factory.  In all of these steps, workers drove to work in fossil fueled vehicles over roads built by fossils and paved with petroleum asphalt.

Wind and Solar Power Require MORE Fossil Fuels

Solar is seasonal

Energy return negative

Integration into the electric grid

Energy density

Wind and solar can’t substitute for all fossil fuels

If solar is so great and cheap, why is it mainly built in states with subsidies?

Not enough materials for solar

Breakthroughs in the news usually don’t pan out

Solar PV, wind turbines, and hydropower destroy biodiversity

Climate change and extreme weather destroy solar panels

Solar panels could cause global warming

Solar panels are dark to absorb more heat, usually much darker than the ground around them and about 15% efficient in converting sunlight into usable energy. The rest is returned as heat to the surrounding environment, affecting the climate. In order to replace fossil fuels, solar farms would need to cover tens of thousands of square miles which potentially presents environmental consequences, not just locally but globally. Study warns solar farms could unleash unintended consequences on the environment, including global warming NEWS Large-scale solar and wind turbine farms could trigger negative affects on the climate around the world.

Concentrated Solar Power

Orbiting Solar

Orbiting Solar: launch costs way too high, too many technical issues

Too many toxic chemicals, byproducts, and greenhouse gases

Chemicals: hydrochloric acid, hydroflouric acid, sodium hydroxide, sulfuric acid, nitric acid, hydrogen fluoride, phosphine and arsine gas, phosphorus oxychloride and trichloride, boron bromite and trichloride, lead.

Byproducts: trichlorosilane gas, silicon tetrachloride, toxic particluates from wafer sawing

Greenhouse gases: Sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) – 25,000 times more potent than CO2, Nitrogen trifluoride (NF3) – 17,000 times more potent than CO2, Hexafluoroethane (C2F6) – 12,000 times more potent than CO2

Not enough fossils left to build renewable solar and other contraptions

Richard Heinberg: “Oil has become far more expensive in the past decade; production costs are rising at over 10 percent per year. The major petroleum companies are investing much more in exploration today, but their production rates are declining. For oil, the low-hanging fruit is gone. Does Krugman believe there is still excess production capacity for oil to use in building out renewable infrastructure, while still meeting the needs of the rest of the economy? If not, how will society maintain economic growth during the energy transition? If so, what part of the economy would need to contract in order to shift oil consumption to the renewables build-out, so as not to lead to increased overall use of climate-altering fossil fuels during the transition?”

Solar panels are a waste management problem

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (2020) in Nature Energy warns that by the end of this decade, some 8 million tons of solar panel waste could find their way into landfills across the world. By 2025, this could rise to as much as 80 million tons, 10% of all electronic waste. The U.S. has no dedicated solar panel recyclers.

Manufacturing solar panels is a dirty process from start to finish. Mining quartz for silicon causes the lung disease silicosis, and the production of solar cells uses a lot of energy, water, and toxic chemicals.

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IREA) projects that by 2050, we’ll be looking at 78 million metric tons of bulky e-waste. The IREA also believe that we’ll be generating six million metric tons of new solar e-waste every year by then, too. Unfortunately, there are hardly any measures in place to recycle solar panels, at least in the US.

To learn more about why Solar PV is so hard to recycle and dirty, see: Panos K (2020) The Dark Side of Solar Power

Trucks are the basis of civilization. They can only run on diesel fuel, not on (solar) electricity

When Trucks Stop Running, So Does Civilization. Energy and the Future of Transportation

Why trucks can’t be electrified

Soft costs are increasing

Soft costs are increasing. With a significant increase in the volume of solar projects in recent years, utilities must devote more time to processing applications that may be incomplete or coming in at a clip that staff can’t keep up with. Over time, that leads to longer application cycles, which builds to higher costs, which means fewer projects overall. Additional soft costs include engineering and the interconnection of solar installations, especially if storage is added (Merchant EF (2020) DOE-Backed Interconnection Project Takes Aim at Solar’s Pernicious “Soft Costs” U.S. solar companies face a tangle of state-by-state, utility-by-utility rules to interconnect projects — and batteries further complicate things. Greentechmedia.com).

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