Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Blown by the Wind

Today’s millennial generation is all agog over renewable energy resources. They have been indoctrinated in the dogmas of climate change and believe that dirty fossil fuels are destroying the planet. Al Gore said so, and we know how expert he is in matters scientific. Anyway, today’s young people are awaiting the apocalypse because their teachers told them that it would inevitably happen. Because it's settled science.

As for the science of climate change, they know little to nothing about it. As for the uses of renewable energy, they know even less. As it happens, the climate change lobby has been militating for renewable energy, as in wind and solar, for quite some time now. How’s that working out?

Matt Ridley, a savvy student of these matters, reports for The Spectator (via Maggie’s Farm).

He opens his inquiry with a simple question: what percentage of the world’s energy did we gain from wind power last year?

The answer: more-or-less zero:

Here’s a quiz; no conferring. To the nearest whole number, what percentage of the world’s energy consumption was supplied by wind power in 2014, the last year for which there are reliable figures? Was it 20 per cent, 10 per cent or 5 per cent? None of the above: it was 0 per cent. That is to say, to the nearest whole number, there is still no wind power on Earth.

Even put together, wind and photovoltaic solar are supplying less than 1 per cent of global energy demand. From the International Energy Agency’s 2016 Key Renewables Trends, we can see that wind provided 0.46 per cent of global energy consumption in 2014, and solar and tide combined provided 0.35 per cent. Remember this is total energy, not just electricity, which is less than a fifth of all final energy, the rest being the solid, gaseous, and liquid fuels that do the heavy lifting for heat, transport and industry.

If we had limited ourselves to electricity, that would be one thing. But Ridley wisely includes all energy produced… for heating, for transportation and for factories.

But, then there is biomass. Those who tout the virtue of renewable energy hone in on biomass. But, what is biomass? Glad you asked. Ridley explains:

Their trick is to hide behind the statement that close to 14 per cent of the world’s energy is renewable, with the implication that this is wind and solar. In fact the vast majority — three quarters — is biomass (mainly wood), and a very large part of that is ‘traditional biomass’; sticks and logs and dung burned by the poor in their homes to cook with. Those people need that energy, but they pay a big price in health problems caused by smoke inhalation.

Ridley notes that long ago the human species stopped using wind to propel boats. It replaced wind with engines, run by coal and other dirty fuels. The problem with wind is that it is not always there when you need it:

As machines, wind turbines are pretty good already; the problem is the wind resource itself, and we cannot change that. It’s a fluctuating stream of low–density energy. Mankind stopped using it for mission-critical transport and mechanical power long ago, for sound reasons. It’s just not very good.

And then there is the environmental impact of wind turbines, from killing off birds to the cost of producing them:

As for resource consumption and environmental impacts, the direct effects of wind turbines — killing birds and bats, sinking concrete foundations deep into wild lands — is bad enough. But out of sight and out of mind is the dirty pollution generated in Inner Mongolia by the mining of rare-earth metals for the magnets in the turbines. This generates toxic and radioactive waste on an epic scale, which is why the phrase ‘clean energy’ is such a sick joke and ministers should be ashamed every time it passes their lips….

Wind turbines, apart from the fibreglass blades, are made mostly of steel, with concrete bases. They need about 200 times as much material per unit of capacity as a modern combined cycle gas turbine. Steel is made with coal, not just to provide the heat for smelting ore, but to supply the carbon in the alloy. Cement is also often made using coal. The machinery of ‘clean’ renewables is the output of the fossil fuel economy, and largely the coal economy.

Manufacturing wind turbines requires a considerable amount of steel, which is produced by burning coal. The same is true of the cement that forms the base of the turbine:

A two-megawatt wind turbine weighs about 250 tonnes, including the tower, nacelle, rotor and blades. Globally, it takes about half a tonne of coal to make a tonne of steel. Add another 25 tonnes of coal for making the cement and you’re talking 150 tonnes of coal per turbine. Now if we are to build 350,000 wind turbines a year (or a smaller number of bigger ones), just to keep up with increasing energy demand, that will require 50 million tonnes of coal a year. That’s about half the EU’s hard coal–mining output.

The solution to the greenhouse gas emission problem is simple: natural gas and nuclear energy.

Ridley concludes:

The truth is, if you want to power civilisation with fewer greenhouse gas emissions, then you should focus on shifting power generation, heat and transport to natural gas, the economically recoverable reserves of which — thanks to horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing — are much more abundant than we dreamed they ever could be. It is also the lowest-emitting of the fossil fuels, so the emissions intensity of our wealth creation can actually fall while our wealth continues to increase. Good.

And let’s put some of that burgeoning wealth in nuclear, fission and fusion, so that it can take over from gas in the second half of this century. That is an engineerable, clean future. Everything else is a political displacement activity, one that is actually counterproductive as a climate policy and, worst of all, shamefully robs the poor to make the rich even richer.


trigger warning said...

One site where cage-free, organic windmills are born:


And, of course, burning wood pellets to generate electricity is, technically speaking, using a "renewable" resource...

"The forests of North Carolina, Louisiana, and Mississippi — as well as those in Europe — are being destroyed to sustain a European fantasy about renewable energy."
--- Yale Environment360, 2017

Certified renewable, non-GMO wood pellet farm in NC:


What a bunch of gullitard numpties these greenloons are...

whitney said...

Also, I've read that living near wind turbines is a nightmare. The constant whoosh whoosh of the blades goes 24/7. Just thinking about living near that makes me tense

Sam L. said...

Please to notice that dams were never mentioned. Water is renewable, by rain.

David Foster said...

Hydropower is really solar power, with the huge benefit of integral storage. Oddly, it is often *not* considered as "renewable."

It's interesting: the Leftists of the 1920s--1950s thought large hydropower dams were wonderful Today's Leftists mostly want to tear them down. See my post Dancing on the Ruins: