About twenty years ago, a neighbor related a story from his youth on a farm in Missouri during the early thirties. The family’s only source of electricity was a windmill that recharged a battery. When the wind blew steadily through the day, the battery got enough power for three hours of radio and one electric light bulb. “When the wind wasn’t steady, we got along without the lightbulb.”
There is a folksy charm about this tale. It speaks of the ability of an American farm family to overcome the isolation and inconvenience of their lives in an often-hostile environment. At the same time, it also emphasizes another fact—that wind power is highly unreliable.
Despite this inconvenient truth, American and European leaders and ideologues have been banging the drum for so-called renewable energy sources, especially wind and solar power. Bureaucrats and financiers have invested billions in the hope of developing wind and solar into a workable combination.
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Indeed, a functional replacement for so-called fossil fuels—coal, oil, and natural gas—could be a great boon. Once perfected, mass production methods could reduce the costs of the necessary windmills and solar panels. In such a scenario, those who resist embracing wind and solar would resemble those few who still believe that the world is flat.
Yet, the dreams of cheap and abundant energy remain an illusion.
Is Solar Really the Answer?
Many Americans have placed solar panels on the roofs of their homes, but their savings are hardly astronomical. In October 2022, the financial journal, Forbes, estimated that putting a solar system on a home will cost an average homeowner roughly $12,000. That system is expected to last for 25 to 30 years. If conditions remain the same for that period, the savings over the system’s life would be between $25,000 to $33,000.
However, conditions rarely remain the same for a quarter-century. The average home’s power consumption has increased dramatically over that time due to computers, “smart home technologies,” and other new devices and appliances. Add the power it takes to recharge an electric automobile, and energy consumption goes way up. In the meantime, the solar panel’s generating ability remains steady—unless the weather report calls for a cloudy day or a foot of snow covers the panels.
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Those calculations don’t consider the possibility that a home’s entire solar system could be destroyed by fire, hurricane, tornado, earthquake, heavy winds or golf ball-size hail.
Wind Power Woes
The problems related to wind power are vastly greater. So-called wind farms make nasty neighbors. First, they are noisy. The National Center for Biotechnology Information has documented noise-related symptoms, including “sleep disturbance, headaches, ear pressure, dizziness, vertigo, nausea, visual blurring, irritability, problems with concentration and memory, and panic episodes.”
The effects of wind farms on wildlife are more severe. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) reports, “A key challenge facing the wind industry is the potential for turbines to adversely affect wild animals both directly, via collisions, as well as indirectly due to noise pollution, habitat loss, and reduced survival or reproduction. Among the most impacted wildlife are birds and bats, which by eating destructive insects provide billions of dollars of economic benefits to the country’s agricultural sector each year.”
That evaluation is echoed by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in its environmental reporting. “[O]ne of the most rapidly increasing forms of clean energy can also have deadly consequences for wildlife. Wind turbines—a technology that many view as a necessary component in the fight against climate change—can kill airborne animals, leaving lasting implications throughout the food chain.”
Is Wind Power Reliable?
Another massive strike against using wind power is that wind speed is not steady enough to be sufficiently reliable.
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Wade Allison is an Emeritus Professor of Physics at Oxford. His calculations reveal just how unreliable wind power is. In his report, The Inadequacy of Wind Power, he explains. “[I]f the wind drops to half speed, the power available drops by a factor of eight. Almost worse, if the wind speed doubles, the power delivered goes up eight times, and as a result, the turbine has to be turned off for its own protection.”
A third issue related to both solar and wind power is storage. As in the farmer family’s story cited above, the generated power is stored in a battery until needed. However, batteries don’t last forever. The constant process of charging and discharging them eventually causes them to fail. This causes two significant problems—replacement cost and disposal.
According to Consumer Affairs, the battery in an Electric Vehicle (E.V.) will last between eight and fifteen years. When it fails, it costs between $4,489 and $17,658 to replace.
The battery in an E.V. operates under different conditions than one used for storing solar-generated power or that the electric company uses to store wind-generated electricity. However, there are parallels. Eventually, all will fail to work and need replacement.
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Disposing of old batteries is challenging. Batteries use a variety of metals and plastics. Some, but not all, of these can be recycled. However, recycling also uses energy and carries significant pollution risks.
The result is that so-called clean energy is far more problematic than it appears at first glance.
Is “Net Zero” Necessary or Even Desirable?
Despite such obstacles, the world’s politicized scientists and technocrats still fly to luxury resorts to construct their “Net Zero” world. As the United Nations (U.N.) explains, “Put simply, net zero means cutting greenhouse gas emissions to as close to zero as possible, with any remaining emissions re-absorbed from the atmosphere, by oceans and forests, for instance.
“The science shows clearly that in order to avert the worst impacts of climate change and preserve a livable planet, global temperature increase needs to be limited to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Currently, the Earth is already about 1.1°C warmer than it was in the late 1800s, and emissions continue to rise. To keep global warming to no more than 1.5°C—as called for in the Paris Agreement—emissions need to be reduced by 45% by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050.”
What does “the Science” Really Show?
Yet, does “the science” show any such thing? Does a mere degree and a half spell doom for all of humanity?
No, it does not.
Reliable weather records simply do not exist before roughly 1880. Thus, the technocrats have no way of knowing the impact of a warming trend beyond highly unreliable computer models.
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On the other hand, archeological evidence shows the world has been warmer than it is today. For instance, wine vineyards existed in southeastern England during Roman times, yielding crops that would be impossible to grow there today. Likewise, there are thousand-year-old remnants of barley seeds grown in Greenland, where it is too cold to grow barley today.
Using such evidence, scientists can chart that there were at least two times that the temperature was warmer than it is now—once during the Roman Empire and again during a period called the “Medieval Warm Period.” As Brian Fagan points out in his book, The Little Ice Age, temperatures declined starting about 1300 A.D. and stayed depressed until shortly before 1900.
Apparently, the U.N. experts referred to above chose a time of abnormal cold to use as their baseline.
This begs the question, does the current push for “clean energy” and “lowering the carbon footprint” have more to do with science or politics? This question should be answered before implementing world-saving fantasies at everyone’s expense.
Photo Credit: © Peter Adams – stock.adobe.com