American Elephants

Misconceptions About Wind: Basic Arithmetic by The Elephant's Child

Here’s the headline from an article in the Spectator, dated May 13: “Wind turbines are neither clean nor green and they provide zero global energy” with the subhead “We urgently need to stop the ecological posturing and invest in gas and nuclear.” The post is from Matt Ridley.

The Global Wind Energy Council recently released its latest report, excitedly boasting that ‘the proliferation of wind energy into the global power market continues at a furious pace, after it was revealed that more than 54 gigawatts of clean renewable wind power was installed across the global market last year’.

You may have got the impression from announcements like that, and from the obligatory pictures of wind turbines in any BBC story or airport advert about energy, that wind power is making a big contribution to world energy today. You would be wrong. Its contribution is still, after decades — nay centuries — of development, trivial to the point of irrelevance.

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.

Basic math. World energy demand has been growing about two percent a year for nearly 40 years. Between 2012 and 2014 it grew, according to International Energy agency data, just under 2,000 terawatt-hours. If all that had to be supplied by wind turbines—just that and no more—how many new turbines would have to be built? Nearly 350,000. A two-megawatt turbine can produce about 0.005 terawatt-hours per annum. That’s 1½ times as many as have been built in the world since governments first started subsidizing them with taxpayer money.

Wind farms typically have a density of about 50 acres per megawatt, at that density, that many turbines would need a land area larger than the entire British Isles. In 50 years, if we kept this up, we would have covered a land area the size of Russia. But there’s more, hidden pollution, rare earths, the materials required, how turbines are made. Do read the whole article.  Matt Ridley is always worth our attention.

It just turns out to be that wind and solar are essentially very costly and extremely useless pursuits. Aside from the intermittency problem, the arithmetic just doesn’t work. Lot of people  have made some big money on the subsidies though.

Germany’s Solar Industry has Collapsed by The Elephant's Child

Germany’s last surviving manufacturer of solar equipment, Bonn-based Solarworld has officially declared it will file for insolvency after six years of red ink.

Thousands of workers who banked their futures on solar jobs now face uncertain futures. Solarworld’s demise is the last in a spectacular series of solar manufacturer bankruptcies that swept across Germany over the past years, with names like Solon, Solar Millenium and Q-Cells going under.

According to here, Solarworld had over 3000 employees on the payroll at the end of 2016.

In the early 2000s leaders and green energy proponents promised to turn parts of former communist East Germany into a “Solar Valley” that would boast secure, high paying hightech jobs. Today it’s a solar rustbelt with a ruined landscape of shattered visions and dreams. Spiegel calls it a “valley of tears”.

The problem is Chinese manufacturing, they manufacture solar equipment so cheaply that others cannot compete. And solar energy just does not produce enough energy to make such investment make sense. Political hype, corruption, myths and moonbeams. Germany still believes, and is anxious to reduce carbon as the Paris Agreement demands. Won’t do any good. Theclimate is controlled by the action of the sun, not CO2.

Some villages, such as the one shown at the top, have gone off grid. I don’t know how that is working out, nor how they cope with winter.

Good News! We Have Lots More Forest Than We Thought by The Elephant's Child

A new survey using high-definition satellite images has found 378 million additional hectares of forest around the globe—it’s as if all of Earth’s forests just grew by 9%.

(The hectare is an SI accepted metric system unit of area equal to 100 ares (10,000 m²) and primarily used in the measurement of land. An acre is about 0.4047 hectare and one hectare contains about 2.47 acres. I don’t do metric, and assume that some of you don’t either. You can also think of it as an area of forest equal to sixty percent of the size of Australia, if that helps)
“The forests have been identified in drylands in the Sahara desert, around the Mediterranean, southern Africa, central India, coastal Australia, western South America, north-east Brazil, northern Columbia and Venezuela and northern parts of Canada and Russia.”
*The image is of coastal Australia.

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