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.
Solar is seasonal
- Wind and Solar diurnal and seasonal variations require energy storage
- CSP with thermal energy storage is seasonal, so it can not balance variable power or contribute much power for half the year
- Is there enough renewable energy to replace fossil fuel electricity generation?
- California could hit the solar wall
- California hits the solar wall
Energy return negative
- Tilting at Windmills, Spain’s disastrous attempt to replace fossil fuels with Solar PV, Part 1
- Tilting at Windmills, Spain’s disastrous attempt to replace fossil fuels with Solar PV, Part 2
- Pedro Prieto: many solar panels won’t last 25-30 years, EROI may be negative
- Renewable EROI must include storage, low capacity factor, wide boundaries
Integration into the electric grid
- Building a national super grid in America
- Challenges to the Integration of Renewable Resources at High System Penetration
- Wind, solar, and natural gas are driving nuclear power and coal out of business
- Short-circuiting a solar boom in Japan
- Distributed Generation is destabilizing the Electric Grid
- Renewable incentives destabilize, harm electric grid
- Solar PV requires too much land to replace fossils
- Capacity value of solar is low as penetration increases which could suppress investment
Wind and solar can’t substitute for all fossil fuels
- Wind and solar need natural gas to balance intermittent, variable, and seasonal power
- Science : No single or combination of alternative energy resources can replace fossil fuels
- Photovoltaic solar has many problems
- Relax! Solar energy can save us. Krugman says so. by Ted Trainer
If solar is so great and cheap, why is it mainly built in states with subsidies?
- Why is nearly all solar power built where subsidies are the highest?
- Would Tesla, SolarCity or SpaceX exist without $4.9 billion in government subsidies?
Not enough materials for solar
- Solar PV cells using rare elements unlikely to scale up enough to replace fossil fuels
- Solar Photovoltaics (PV) limited by raw materials
- Wind & Solar need thousands of tons of steel, aluminum, cement, concrete, copper but produce little energy
Breakthroughs in the news usually don’t pan out
- Will perovskite solar cells ever work out?
- The “Solar Revolution” is financial, not from new breakthroughs
- First solar road fails to live up to expectations
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
- Why Concentrated Solar Power is not a good choice for a 100% Renewable Energy System
- Taxpayers are paying for a concentrated solar project — Ivanpah– that doesn’t work
- The potential role of concentrating solar power in enabling high renewables
- Concentrated Solar Power: Water Constraints
- Concentrated Solar Power: location, location, location
- Solar Thermal ESOI (Energy Stored on Invested)
- Ivanpah Biggest solar power plant ever – $2.2 billion for only 100 MW
- Solar Thermal too expensive, too vulnerable, negative EROEI, take up too much space
- A Huge Solar Plant Opens, Facing Doubts About Its Future
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
Why trucks can’t be electrified
- Making the most energy dense battery from the palette of the periodic table
- Hydrogen, the Homeopathic energy crisis remedy
- Diesel is finite. Trucks are the bedrock of civilization. So where are the battery electric trucks?
- Just 16,000 catenary trucks would use 1% of California’s electricity generation, all vehicles 2.5 times more power than available
- All Electric Trucks. Probably not going to happen. Ever. Why not?
- Hybrid electric trucks are very different from HEV cars
- Electric truck range is less in cold weather
- Utility scale energy storage batteries limited by materials and few locations for pumped hydro, compressed air
- Roger Andrews: California public utilities vote no on energy storage
- Electric Grid Energy Storage
- Would Tesla, li-ion batteries, SolarCity or SpaceX exist without $4.9 billion in government subsidies?
- Electric vehicle overview
- What is the life span of a vehicle Lithium-ion Battery?
- EPA LCA study lithium-ion battery environmental impact, energy used, recycling issues
- Bloomberg News: Tesla’s new battery doesn’t work that well with solar
- Renewable Energy can’t supply more than 30% of electricity without revolutionary battery breakthrough
- Revolutionary understanding of physics needed to improve batteries – don’t hold your breath
- American Physical Society: has the Battery Bubble Burst?
- Batteries are made of rare, declining, and imported minerals
- Battery energy density too low to power cars
- Notes from “The Powerhouse: Inside the Invention of a Battery to Save the World” by Steve LeVine
- Why aren’t there Battery Powered Airplanes?
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).