The Hidden Side of Alternative Energy
I found these videos below over on sunweber’s blog and realized that they would ‘say a lot’ about the unsustainable cost of alternative energy. Youtube has a ton more videos on the same topic if you’re interested in researching this further. I’d like you to pay attention to the factory processing and methods and inherent energy requirements to produce these solar powered components as you contemplate what this really means for our energy future.
Alternative energy sources and technology are often treated like a panacea for the world’s energy problems. The truth is very different. Alternative energy creates as many problems as it alleges to cure, but this inquiry is often deflected. This is dishonest, but very common.
I’m not against alternative energy myself, and rather like the idea, and I’m definitely for less use of petroleum products worldwide, but I don’t agree with the proponents of alternative energy that these technologies are sustainable, non-polluting or emissions free. These claims are simply false and are a part of the false meme that surrounds alternative energy (false narrative). In many cases, they can create even more of these problems then they attempt to solve.
Alternative energy technologies are really nothing more then ‘collection devices’. They are not energy sources themselves. As such, they do not store the energy they collect very well, and what energy they do collect has a very low density. Solar panels have achieved higher and higher levels of efficiency but still rely upon energy storage devices to make them more usable. This poses some particular problems and issues that also aren’t sustainable, non-polluting or emissions free. At every stage of the alternative energy lifecyle, from conception through production, these same issues continue to occur.
Alternative energy technologies are not green (read the entire article). “The production of solar cells has become more energy-intensive, resulting in longer energy payback times and higher greenhouse gas emissions. ” The paper explains why, and what can be done about it, but the simpler explanation to always keep in mind is simply this: The production of electricity by technology is never carbon free or truly sustainable. The further we recede from stored energy sources, the more difficult this all becomes.
Many life cycle analyses (LCAs) of solar PV systems have a positive bias so one has to be very careful about the ‘spin’ that is being promoted. Tesla (the car company) is building a giant battery factory in Nevada that will consume 100% of the world’s supply of lithium for its batteries. Sustainable? Hardly, but this only scratches the surface of the real story, what is mined, processed, machined, distributed and installed around the world and its true cost on resources, environmental pollution and of course, the carbon emissions emitted at every stage. And you may never read about the petroleum that was used to perform all this activity, but it’s certainly there.
If the world ever does widely embrace alternative energy, it needs to do so with eyes (and minds) wide open to their realities, limitations, lifespans, resource demands, impacts and costs, to include costs to the environment and how and where we might be able to best use them. They are not an end-all solution, they’re still very dependent upon petroleum energy for their production and maintenance and there is more then a little doubt we will even have the rare materials to continue to manufacture them beyond another 20 or 30 years from today.
This latter point poses a huge question – Are we setting our civilization up for failure, just like we did with petroleum energy? Have we truly counted the total costs and understood the full implications of these impacts? I don’t think so. Perpetuating growth, business and the status-quo is the hidden goals here by this switch to ‘alternatives’ vs. choosing to address the inherent problems they bring and even worse, deceiving ourselves that we’ve achieved zero-emissions energy. If we leap forward as many suggest and then belatedly discover that alternative energy has only let us down or perpetuated the issues it was supposed to solve for us, then what? That is a question worth asking.
Related: Civilization Is Not Carbon Neutral and Never Will Be
Watch the videos, they’re interesting.
4 thoughts on “The Hidden Side of Alternative Energy”
Somewhat un-related, the article here, reporting a desire on the part of some politicians to move towards a 100% renewable Los Angeles.
In 2010, per the Union of Concerned Scientist report, ‘renewables’ (wind, solar, small hydro, geothermal, biogas) accounted for only 20% of LADWP’s energy source, the vast majority being coal, gas, nuclear. (I didn’t believe off hand the article’s statement that LA in 2015 saw 20% from renewables, but I don’t care to dig too deeply.) The City’s ambitious goal (being generous) is 100% renewable energy, but in the city council motion, and announcements, there are references to 100% CLEAN energy. That phrase is quite different from RENEWABLE energy and means nothing–but I found the use is both misleading and, maybe, unintentional. Much like ‘clean coal’ became an accepted and unquestioned phrase in discussing energy. That aside, the ‘goal’ seems more like prayer: self-gratifying but ultimately ineffective.
IER has a good article, Busting the 100% Renewable Myth, which is a very informative read.
While the info at IER is factual, it’s important to point out that IER is tied to ALEC and Charles Koch.
Don’t want to appear a mouthpiece for either.
Both ‘renewable’ and ‘clean’ energy – aren’t. There is an incredible amount of lying and outright deception going on behind this movement, which is promises to solve our energy problems and needs, but won’t.
This is (probably) the article you were referring to: Busting the Renewable Myth
What bugs me (a lot) is the lies about ‘renewable’ energy. But what bugs me even more, is the chase after renewables is a straw argument for what humanity really needs to do. This is a topic that gets little attention and discussion and is simply never reported in the media. So-called ‘renewables’ are BAU for all intents and purposes. Sustained growth is implied. Definitely not what I think needs to happen.