Originally published in The Hawaii Reporter
- By Michael R. Fox Ph.D. -
It is extremely cruel to mislead the American public into believing that wind and solar energy are viable energy alternatives to coal, natural gas, nuclear, hydro, and oil. It is one thing to have a solar powered calculator. It’s a much larger engineering problem to have solar powered cities, steel mills, hospitals, and hotels. It is extremely cruel to ask the American public to give up the energy currently provided by the existing energy sources.
Such energy they provide is what makes our nation so free, so strong, so prosperous, and so productive. It is therefore cruel to our people to suggest that the America we have known can remain free and prosperous without these traditional energy sources.
It is extremely dishonest to suggest to the American people that sun beams and gentle breezes can sustain our huge energy needs. These feeble unreliable sources not only will not lead us out of our energy dilemmas, but if implemented will take us down the road to economic suicide, with energy supplies equivalent to that of the 1800s.
While Obama is not the first president to sing the praises of wind and solar energy, he has not added much substance to public understanding that these energy sources are not viable. Obama is in the company of the huge group who are claiming that these are viable sources of future energy. They are not.
According to a summary article in the National Post of Canada (http://tinyurl.com/yff2vtr), there are nearly 400 federal and state programs in the US which provide financial incentives (subsidies) for renewable energy. It is because of these heavy subsidies that huge numbers of windmills are being built. It is not because they are reliable sources of electrical energy, since they are not. Without being asked, or told, the American people are subsidizing these so-called “alternative” sources of energy, even though they are only supplementary energy sources, all the time transferring billions of their wealth into the pockets of the windmill owners.
Obama and others have frequently used Germany as the shining example of success for both wind and solar energy. One would have expected that someone in leadership positions of those 400 US federal and state programs would have checked with the Germans about the viability of their wind and solar programs. They obviously didn’t.
The German renewable energy programs are worth reviewing to determine their current costs and engineering performance. First, their solar photovoltaic program is the largest in the world (5311 MW). Their wind energy program is nearly the largest in the world (23,900 MW), second only to the wind energy program in the US (24,170 MW).
A large and thorough study of the German renewable energy program by German economists has recently been published. (See Ref.1 below) Also see link here: http://www.groenerekenkamer.nl/grkfiles/images/Germany_Study_FINAL.pdf
The authors state: “We argue that German renewable energy policy, and in particular the adopted feed-in tariff scheme (subsidies), has failed to harness the market incentives needed to ensure a viable and cost-effective introduction of renewable energies into the country’s energy portfolio. To the contrary, the government’s support mechanisms have in many respects subverted these incentives, resulting in massive expenditures that show little long-term promise for stimulating the economy, protecting the environment, or increasing energy security”.
They also contradict the glowing remarks President Obama has made about the German program:
“….a closer look at Germany’s experience, whose history of government support for renewable energies stretches back nearly two decades, suggests that its status as a model (as suggested by president Obama) is without merit. This paper critically reviews the current centerpiece of this effort, pertinent German law, focusing on its costs and the associated implications for job creation and emissions reductions”.
“This report shows that, by and large, government policy has failed to harness the market incentives needed to ensure a viable and cost-effective introduction of renewable energies into Germany’s energy portfolio. To the contrary, the government’s support mechanisms have in many respects subverted these incentives, resulting in massive expenditures that show little long-term promise for stimulating the economy, protecting the environment, or increasing energy security.”
The Germans have paid tens of billions of dollars (Euros) for their solar cells and windmills, and they still produce but a tiny fraction of their total energy needs. They are intermittent, unreliable, and their energy is non-dispatchable. On an annual basis windmills produce energy only 30% of the time. Even worse we can never know which part of that year the energy will be produced, making it extremely low-grade and undependable.
The highly touted “green jobs” are not economical, costing $240,000 to create a single job. In fact many jobs are destroyed in the creation of green jobs. The resulting increase in energy costs obviously will not be business or job-friendly either.
Nearly always forgotten is the need for reliable alternative energy backup sources for those times when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine. In Europe this usually means the use of natural gas and coal sources. The backup energy must be operating (in “spinning reserve”) while the wind is blowing, since the wind can die quickly and the backup needed quickly. In other words, the use of wind and solar energy has done little to reduce the dependence upon fossil fuels and the reduction of emissions of CO2 in these countries.
The price of solar photovoltaic (PV) energy in Germany is more that 8 times the costs of the traditional base-load electricity. Wind energy in Germany is triple these base load costs.
Denmark touts a star-like reputation as does Germany (http://tinyurl.com/p5tzns) with glowing cheers and admiration from the alternative energy supporters. Similar to the situation in Germany, the benefits of wind energy in Denmark are largely imaginary. Professor Trebilcock of the University of Toronto has provided a necessary and crucial analysis of the famous windmill situations in Denmark (http://tinyurl.com/yfjwrpd). Once we get past the international cheerleading, the wind energy situation turns uniformly very grim, as any reputable scientist would expect.
After more than 30 years of heavy subsidies of wind and solar energy, its about time that our president, his energy advisors, and national and regional leadership organizations, start making sound energy decisions based upon real world experiences and abandon the wildly optimistic cheerleading.
Let us also pledge to heed the advice of scientists and engineers, rather than muzzle them as the EPA muzzled its own PhD Alan Carlin (http://tinyurl.com/mn95m5). The energy fiascos have been costly, misleading, and dangerous to our nation, our freedom, and our economy.
Ref. 1. Rheinisch-Westfälisches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Economic impacts from the promotion of renewable energies:---The German experience Final report – October 2009.
Michael R. Fox, Ph.D., is a nuclear scientist and a science and energy resource for Hawaii Reporter and a science analyst for the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, is retired and now lives in Eastern Washington. He has nearly 40 years experience in the energy field.
He has also taught chemistry and energy at the University level. His interest in the communications of science has led to several communications awards, hundreds of speeches, and many appearances on television and talk shows.
He can be reached via email at mailto:email@example.com
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It is interesting that Frances' largest export is electricity generated predominantly from nuclear fission, and the largest customers are Germany, Italy, and the UK. Money invested in the "renewable" industry only diverts investment in realistic power sources.