Renewable Energy's big secret.

Image: Heartland Institute.
Steve Goreham is a speaker, author, and researcher on environmental issues as well as an engineer and business executive. He is the Executive Director of the Climate Science Coalition of America (CSCA), a non-political association of scientists, engineers, and citizens dedicated to informing Americans about the realities of climate science and energy economics.

Steve is the author of two books on climate change:   Climatism! Science, Common Sense, and the 21st Century’s Hottest Topic and  The Mad, Mad, Mad, World of Climatism.

Steve in a piece written for The Heartland Institute's Somewhat Reasonable exposes (link)

Renewable Energy’s Big Secret

Steve starts off by describing how climate change (nee Anthopogenic Global Warming) has moved to centre stage after POTUS Obama's State of the Union Address.

He then continues:
Renewable energy remains a tiny part of our (USA) energy picture. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, by the end of 2011, 39,000 wind turbine towers were operating in the United States, but provided only 2.9% of our electricity, compared to 42% from coal, 25% from natural gas, 20% from nuclear, and 6% from hydroelectric sources. After twenty years of subsidies and mandates, solar energy remained absolutely trivial, contributing a miniscule 0.04% of our electricity. Ethanol and biodiesel provided about 11% of U.S. vehicle fuel at the heavy cost of using 40% of the corn crop. 
Renewable energy’s big secret is that the two biggest renewable sources, wind and biofuels, don’t reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Wind energy is highly variable. Wind output can ramp from negligible output to 100% of rated output to zero again over just a few hours. On average, wind systems provide rated output only about 30% of the time, so they can’t replace hydrocarbon or nuclear electricity sources. Coal or natural gas plants must be used as backup to the wind system, ramping up and down inefficiently to mirror changes in wind velocity.
Steve describes how analysis of utilities in Netherlands and Colorado
show that combined wind-hydrocarbon systems use more fuel, produce more nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide pollutants, and emit more carbon dioxide than coal or natural gas systems alone. Despite claims to the contrary, addition of wind farms to our electrical grid does not reduce emissions.
On biofuels, Steve points out that advocates have long maintained that use of biofuels is carbon neutral.

But a 2011 opinion by the European Environment Agency pointed to a “serious error” in greenhouse gas accounting. The carbon neutral concept does not take into account the CO2 that would be absorbed by the natural vegetation that grows on land not used for biofuel production. A 2011 study by the National Academy of Sciences found that, after considering land use effects, production of ethanol as replacement fuel for gasoline was likely to “increase such air pollutants as particulate matter, ozone, and sulfur oxides.”  The study also found that greenhouse gas emissions from ethanol fuel were likely to be higher than gasoline. 
So, even if you ascribe to the theory of man-made climate change, it’s unlikely that deployment of renewable energy will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. (my emphasis)
We should start thinking about alternate energy sources as "Unreliables" instead of "Renewables."


  1. Steve Goreham says, "On average, wind systems provide rated output only about 30% of the time." In fact, it's much worse than that.

    Germany has the most aggressive renewable energy program in the world. But compare the rated ("nameplate") capacity to actual output and you'll see that it's nowhere near 30%.

    This Fraunhofer Institute report on electricity production for Germany in 2012 gives both the total nameplate capacity (29.9 GW) and total output for the year (45.867 TW-hr). 45867 GWh/yr / (29.9 GW * 24 * 366) = 0.1746, which means that the "capacity factor" for German wind energy was just 17.46% of rated nameplate capacity.

    But at least that's better than Germany's photovoltaic ("PV") power systems, which managed a capacity factor of just 10.5% in 2012.


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