Can We Rely on Wind and Solar Energy?

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Is green energy, particularly wind and solar energy, the solution to our climate and energy problems? Or should we be relying on things like natural gas, nuclear energy, and even coal for our energy needs and environmental obligations? Alex Epstein of the Center for Industrial Progress explains.
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Are wind and solar power the answer to our energy needs? There’s a lot of sun and a lot of wind. They’re free. They’re clean. No CO2 emissions. So, what’s the problem?

Why do solar and wind combined provide less than 2% of the world’s energy?

To answer these questions, we need to understand what makes energy, or anything else for that matter, cheap and plentiful.

For something to be cheap and plentiful, every part of the process to produce it, including every input that goes into it, must be cheap and plentiful.

Yes, the sun is free. Yes, wind is free. But the process of turning sunlight and wind into useable energy on a mass scale is far from free. In fact, compared to the other sources of energy — fossil fuels, nuclear power, and hydroelectric power, solar and wind power are very expensive.

The basic problem is that sunlight and wind as energy sources are both weak (the more technical term is dilute) and unreliable (the more technical term is intermittent). It takes a lot of resources to collect and concentrate them, and even more resources to make them available on-demand. These are called the diluteness problem and the intermittency problem.

The diluteness problem is that, unlike coal or oil, the sun and the wind don’t deliver concentrated energy — which means you need a lot of additional materials to produce a unit of energy.

For solar power, such materials can include highly purified silicon, phosphorus, boron, and a dozen other complex compounds like titanium dioxide. All these materials have to be mined, refined and/or manufactured in order to make solar panels. Those industrial processes take a lot of energy.

For wind, needed materials include high-performance compounds for turbine blades and the rare-earth metal neodymium for lightweight, specialty magnets, as well as the steel and concrete necessary to build structures — thousands of them — as tall as skyscrapers.

And as big a problem as diluteness is, it’s nothing compared to the intermittency problem. This isn’t exactly a news flash, but the sun doesn’t shine all the time. And the wind doesn’t blow all the time. The only way for solar and wind to be truly useful would be if we could store them so that they would be available when we needed them. You can store oil in a tank. Where do you store solar or wind energy? No such mass-storage system exists. Which is why, in the entire world, there is not one real or proposed independent, freestanding solar or wind power plant. All of them require backup. And guess what the go-to back-up is: fossil fuel.

Here’s what solar and wind electricity look like in Germany, which is the world’s leader in “renewables”. The word erratic leaps to mind. Wind is constantly varying, sometimes disappearing completely. And solar produces little in the winter months when Germany most needs energy.

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21 thoughts on “Can We Rely on Wind and Solar Energy?

  1. Unfortunately the vast majority of people do not know what it takes to produce electricity. People are used to click the switch on the wall and light appears. The processes and technical arrays are mind blowing. Even with Nicola Tesla the means were huge and therefore energy can never be free as there is always the costs involved with planning, developing, installing and then producing and transporting. There is an array of equipments and procedures that only those linked to this industry, that had the proper learning, understand. I love when people talk about free energy. Even if someone would invent that do you think he or she would give out the patent for free and waste all those many years of studying, planning and developing? Wake up people. Nuclear is a poisonous future because of the radioactive waste that has to be buried until it is no longer radioactive and that will take thousands of years. Nuclear??? There goes 3 examples: CHERNOBIL, THREE MILE ISLAND and FUKUSHIMA. Is this enough to the nuclear advocates? Eyes open.

  2. I'm a conservative and love solar and wind energy but it's inefficient and damage the environment more than fossil fuels as long as there is no propar energy storage that can distribute it by demand. Leftists don't seem to get it for some reason..

  3. Big surprise! PragerU bashes solar and wind energy! The trick to make them more reliable is to further develop solar and wind technologies but of course, big oil doesn't want that as saving the Earth will cut into their profit margins for the next quarter so they do various things to keep reliable solar and wind technology from being developed!

  4. Right now we cant, we need to invest more money and research into them to make them much more efficient and cost effective. there was a time where the original coal and oil rigs proudced just as mutch power and modern day windmills and solar panels until they were upgraded through money and study.

  5. It's mid-2018, and the results speak for themselves. Get the newest (2018) BP Statistical review of world energy, and look at the Excel data sheets: total electricity, wind, solar, CO2 emissions, and a few other things. Look at the world, the US, China in particular. Then draw your own conclusions. Consider what happens to an exponential growth in 20 years. Ask yourself if there is really anything that will stop it. This is not hard to figure out. The world energy economy is going to be radically different in a decade or two. This video is just disinformation.

  6. Food for thought but this could be considered whining or fear provocation as no alternative is presented nor is the fact we don't have a choice but to change energy sources addressed.

  7. How come they cannot store this energy? I'm lay on this subject.. but.. you can't store wind but you can store the energy of it, doesn't it ??? batteries ?
    I thought it'll be expensive, but impossible? And if not so, will certainly be expensive but will spare the fossil energy to more emergencial situations, for backup situations.. (and cars, of course.. cuz god forbid this electric dull cars hahahahah)

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