Can Wind and Solar Provide Reliable, Consistent Power or is it a Utopian dream?
Is it possible for wind and solar power to be reliable and consistent? Let’s look at the facts.
Wind power needs a narrow range of wind speeds. Too slow and no power is generated. Too fast and turbines could be damaged, so they must be shut down. Output is intermittent and variable.
Each wind turbine needs several hundred pounds of rare earth elements for super magnets needed to generate electricity.
Cables from each turbine are needed to connect all of them to the grid, unlike thermal, hydro and nuclear plants where the energy is generated in one location.
Wind power requires vast areas to be cleared, to provide the level of output needed for any one area. Wind farms disrupt the ecology of the environment, and produce annoying or harmful low and infra sound.
A wind turbine can last 15 to 20 years with regular maintenance by trained technicians.
Wind turbines create a vacuum behind their blades that pull birds and bats in to be killed by the blades. The insect population, normally kept in check by birds and bats, would necessarily increase as would crop damage and diseases carried by insects.
Solar power needs full sun to deliver optimum output. Clouds, rain, fog, dust and night block sunlight. Photovoltaic solar cells need to be aimed directly at the sun, so tracking mechanisms are needed for optimum output. Without tracking, less power is generated. Output is intermittent and variable.
The sun yields up to 1 Kilowatt or power per meter. Solar cells yield 15 to 30% output when directly aimed at the sun, but power output declines with angle away from vertical. At higher latitudes maximum output can never be reached because the sun is never directly overhead. As cells age, they lose about 1% per year of capacity.
Rare earth elements are needed for high output solar cells. Heat reduces output so cooling may be required.
Cables from each solar panel are needed to connect all of them to the grid, unlike thermal, hydro and nuclear plants where the energy is generated in one location.
Solar power requires vast areas to be cleared and covered by solar arrays, to provide the level of output needed for any one area. Solar arrays disrupt the ecology of the environment.
Solar panels last 10 to 20 years with regular cleaning of surfaces and maintenance of tracking and cooling systems by trained technicians.
Both solar and wind power have inconsistent, intermittant output that requires backup power in the form of fossil fuel thermal, geothermal, hydroelectric or nuclear plants. None of these sources can be switched on and off quickly on demand, and balancing output for consistency would be almost impossible. It would be necessary to run backup power plants constantly on standby, which is less efficient than running them consistently at optimum power.
Combined Wind and Solar
The sun is always shining somewhere in the world, so average output can be fairly consistent and constant.
The wind is always blowing at optimum speeds somewhere in the world, so average output can be fairly consistent and constant.
But for any one location or even one region, neither solar nor wind power are consistent and constant. The only way solar and wind could come close to providing constant, reliable power is by linking wind and solar plants all over the world into one huge distributed worldwide grid that would even out power levels.
This system would require many billions of miles of electrical transmission cables but would suffer from significant power losses over distance, even at very high voltages, and require constant maintenance. It is doubtful that such a system could actually share a worldwide grid due to transmission loses.
Such a grid, if possible, would require one worldwide government to regulate and run the system. All national and political barriers would have to be eliminated. We are talking about a communist/socialist top down Utopia, which requires iron fisted control of every aspect of life from the top.
A worldwide, distributed power grid is an unrealistic Communist/socialist Utopian dream that can never be accomplished in the real world.
Since constant and consistent power can never be accomplished with Solar and Wind systems, these systems should be abandoned except for solar panels for very local uses on single homes or as a supplement for single businesses.
The cleanest and greenest sources of reliable electrical power are hydroelectric, geothermal and nuclear. These systems can supply almost all of the power needed for a developing world. On the road to developing these sources in areas lacking infrastructure, it will be necessary to employ fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas until capacity is built up. Natural gas is the cleanest of these three. Without having to back up the intermittency of solar or wind, power plants can be run at optimum efficiency to minimize fuel consumption and maximize power output.
The ONLY justification for wind power – the massive subsidies upon which it entirely depends (see our post here); spiralling power prices (see our post here); and the suffering caused to neighbours by incessant low-frequency noise and infrasound (see our post here) – is the claim that it reduces CO2 emissions in the electricity sector.
Because wind power fails to deliver at all hundreds of times each year, 100% of its capacity has to be backed up 100% of the time by fossil fuel generation sources – which run constantly in the background to balance the grid and prevent blackouts when wind power output collapses – as it does on a routine, but unpredictable, basis (see our posts here and here and here and
The wind industry parades as an “alternative” energy source. Which begs the question: “alternative” to what?
The lunatics from the hard-green left (like “Greens” head-muppet, Christine Milne) continually whine that “coal is DEATH“; and wax lyrical about the fantasy of going “100% renewable” – all the while pocketing $millions in campaign funding from the party’s wind industry backers (see our post here).
Christine Milne, snacks out on the wind industry expense account.
Economic lunatics, like Milne are wedded to the delusion that there really is a choice between powering nations with hundreds of thousands of giant fans (carpeting every last square mile of other peoples’ back yards) and coal or gas fired plant, that comfortably fit on the back of a figurative “envelope”; and, as they’re usually placed in industrial zones, rarely trouble anyone.
The greatest joke ever played on the world is the idea that the wind can – and will soon completely – power modern economies.
When the wind disappears for days and even weeks on end, those that promote it tend to get twitchy and change the subject.
Sometimes it’s mutterings about mega-batteries (that don’t exist) or pumping water uphill using electricity from (don’t tell them this part) coal-fired power plants to later deliver hydropower to plug those ever-yawning wind power gaps.
If either giant batteries or pumped hydro were economic, they wouldn’t need buckets of taxpayer’s money. The same is, of course, true of intermittent and unreliable wind power.
As sailors and kite-flyers well-know, planning your progress and/or amusement around the weather leads to mixed results.
Just how intermittent and unreliable the wind can be has been revealed (again) across the UK over the last month or so.
Endangered species: thousands of well-paid jobs threatened by eco-zealots.
Australia’s enviable prosperity isn’t due to sunshine and breezes, it’s down to iron ore, coal and a bevy of other minerals including copper and uranium.
Australia also has an abundance of bauxite which, when a reliable and affordable power sources is added, turns ‘NT road-gravel’ into aluminium – a high-value metal used in all manner of applications, from mobile phones, window frames and hipster bicycles.
Australia’s remaining aluminium smelters and thousands of jobs are now under mortal threat. Thanks to an obsession with heavily subsidised, intermittent and unreliable wind and solar.
The same goes for a range of energy hungry businesses and the jobs and wealth they currently create.
The fastest way to destroy any businesses’ bottom line is to keep cranking up energy costs. Which is exactly what’s happening in Australia.
Already suffering the highest power prices in the world…
Many international organizations propagate drastic population control measures under the radar while publicly advocating and providing (some) aid to the poor and endorsing environmental concerns. This includes governmental and nongovernmental agencies such as UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), UNFPA (United Nations Fund for Population Activities), The World Bank, USAID (United States Agency for International Development), the Club of Rome and its many spin-offs, Worldwide Fund for Nature, formerly called World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Green Peace, Population Council, International Planned Parenthood Federation, etc.
As a part of the Population Control Agenda and the overpopulation myth, in addition to enforced sterilization, abortion and birth control methods, other means of limiting both population and life span have been applied to impoverished countries and are often tied to reception or denial of aid or loans[i].
Of these, disease control and electrical power are the most important because they can facilitate many of the other items on the list, and kick-start the economy. A healthy workforce and power to run industry, business, medical facilities and develop transportation systems are key to economic development. Although many African countries need foreign aid and international loans now, the goal should be to help them raise their economy to the point where they are net contributors to the world economy or at least are self sufficient.
Throwing crumbs at the problem is not enough to accomplish this goal without actual investment in infrastructure. See detailed list below of essential necessities that international organizations have denied or failed to provide/ promote :
DDT and Disease Control: Banning DDT has caused a rebound of malaria, once almost eradicated in many areas, and many other insect borne diseases, resulting in an estimated million deaths each year from malaria alone. (Estimates vary, but the real number is unknown.) Many of the agencies named above, as well as many Western nations, withheld funds from foreign aid and loans for development unless underdeveloped countries abandoned DDT. Poorer nations had no choice but to “voluntarily” ban the use of DDT to control insect borne diseases, which account for 80% of infectious diseases in these countries. The economic loss in human productivity from malaria, TB and other diseases is incalculable.
Further research has disproved the claims of Rachael Carson’s book, Silent Spring, that DDT causes environmental harm to birds or aquatic life, cancers or other human harm. Predictions of an upsurge in cancer and extinction of birds failed to materialize. Not one human has ever been seriously harmed or died from its use or abuse, and robins to eagles flourished during and after its 30 year use in the United States. DDT is practically insoluble in water, so no aquatic toxicity is possible and soil bacteria destroy it in a few weeks or months, ending any persistence.
It is cheaper than other insecticides, and is safer and easier to make, handle and distribute. The claims that insects in poor countries developed immunity to it are false or grossly overblown. (Also, many African countries lacking transportation infrastructure never used DDT in the past so that development of resistance was impossible.) India never participated in the ban, manufactures its own DDT and uses it judiciously with occurrence of very little resistance. The UN standards for allowing use of DDT include unrealistic proof of NO resistance in the area. That’s proving a negative, which is impossible. The aim is not to exterminate every mosquito, but to reduce their numbers until there are no more human carriers.
In addition to DDT treatment on interior walls for mosquito control, insect and parasite control must also include replacing thatched roofs where mosquitos hide with metal or tile, sealing the interior of homes from insects with wire screens that allow cooling air in but exclude insects, as well as education, fly swatters and glue strips, clean water to prevent dysentery and waterborne parasites, shoes/ sandals to keep pinworms and other parasites from entering through the feet, closed toilets, preferably with septic systems, to reduce fly-borne diseases.
Malaria Facts: Malaria drugs can cure malaria if available, but symptoms only appear after 9 to 14 days or longer, by which time there may be liver or kidney damage. Once symptoms appear, malaria can kill in as little as one day or persist for weeks or relapse over a longer period of time. Reinfection is possible since the parasite imparts only partial immunity. Each bout of malaria destroys red blood cells equivalent to a pint of blood, resulting in chronic anemia and kidney damage from repeated bouts for much of the African population. Babies, children, pregnant women, the elderly and the infirm are especially vulnerable.
The malaria parasite requires both humans and mosquitos to complete its life cycle. Mosquitos are “born” clean and must pick up the parasite (Plasmodium sp.) from an infected person. It takes another 10 days for the parasite to change into the stage that is infectious to humans. No infected humans, no malaria even though the mosquito vector may still exist. That is why it did not recur in North American and European countries when DDT was banned after 30 years’ use. Human malaria does not infect animals and vice versa, with the rare exception of Plasmodium knowlesi, a primate species found in the Southeast Asia.
Power Plants: Over 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa have no access to electricity. Based on CO2 reduction, Climate Change advocates and international agreements provide funding preferentially for renewable energy such as solar and wind power, which are unreliable, intermittent, environmentally harmful and require exotic elements, meanwhile discouraging or prohibiting development of power plants based on abundant fossil fuel, (coal, oil or natural gas), hydroelectric, geothermal or nuclear energy. Hydroelectric power is necessarily clean, renewable and sustainable, but is hated by environmentalists for assumed harm to ecosystems. Earlier successes in other countries over time have proven this assumption false except for temporary local effects. Nature adapts.
Solar and wind power are, by their nature, inconsistent, unreliable, intermittent. Solar only works during the day when the sky is clear or nearly clear. Wind only works on windy days, but only in a narrow range of velocities; too slow doesn’t generate power; too fast and both blades and generators are damaged. Wind power kills birds and bats that are important for insect control, and creates infrasound that is harmful to humans and animals. Both solar and wind power require backup generation by other means: fossil fuel, hydroelectric, etc. Solar and wind power are only useful as supplemental sources so they are at best temporary solutions. Single home solar panels are only a feel-good drop in the bucket for the estimated 600 million needy people in sub Saharan Africa. It would be impossible to supply enough of these to make much of a difference, and is at best a temporary solution until rural power systems can be provided. Arguments against other types of power plants usually involved cost of installing transmission lines. However, except for single home solar systems, all types of power have the same requirements, including solar and wind.
It is well documented that environmentalists have stopped or prevented over 200 hydroelectric dams in Africa, although it is the most sustainable, reliable, cleanest and safest energy source and uses conventional materials and technology. Hydroelectric power doesn’t require huge dam projects. Systems based on even small waterfalls, dams or run-of-the-river systems can supply local power much sooner and cheaper. African rivers have sufficient hydroelectric power generation capacity to supply all of the continent’s needs for the foreseeable future. Only a tiny fraction of it has been developed. One ray of hope is the large Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) being built on the upper Nile with a capacity of 6000 MW. For comparison, the Aswan High Dam in Egypt has 2100 MW capacity and Cohora Brassa in Mozambique has 2075 MW capacity. There are already a number of medium to small capacity systems in Africa including three plants at Victoria Falls. Many more are possible and needed. India was an early pioneer and has become a leader in hydroelectric power generation, exports power and provides engineering support for new systems to other countries.
Geothermal energy is available in seismically active areas in Africa, mostly in the Rift Valley. By sinking wells into thermal strata, steam or hot water can be used to run electricity generators. The technology is well established but development is just beginning in Africa. Other sources of electrical power generation include biomass and tidal generators. Biomass has major drawbacks, including pollution and loss of vegetation from biomass burning. Nuclear is among the cleanest power sources with no emissions, and only limited waste handling issues.
The way out of Energy Poverty should involve an all-of-the-above approach, including fossil fuels, geothermal, hydroelectric, nuclear, solar, tidal, biomass and wind. The need is too great in lost lives and productivity to wait. The need is urgent. Once Energy Poverty is eliminated and other systems are in place, then fossil and bio-fuel power plants could be phased out or reduced in favor of hydroelectric, geothermal and nuclear power.
Availability of reliable electricity and natural gas are important for economic development, industry and medical infrastructure as well as home cooking and refrigeration, which are needed to provide a safe, clean food supply and to reduce harmful indoor air pollution from bio-fueled cooking and heating fires. Electricity can solve a host of other problems including water purification, sanitation, roads, railroads, airstrips, access to markets and medical facilities.
Clean Water and Sanitation: Lives and health are impacted by holding as a low priority the development of village clean water wells or providing city slums with at least rudimentary piped-in purified water and sanitation systems. The environmentalist myth of dwindling global water supplies and limited resources is included in the justification of these policies, although village wells and reservoirs behind even modest hydroelectric dams could supply all their needs. Many African women spend hours each day carrying water from streams and lakes, which contains dangerous bacteria and parasites. The result of this is high infant and childhood mortality from intestinal parasites and diarrhea, the number one killer of young children in poor countries.
Sanitation is also needed but ignored, now consisting of open pit toilets, at best, or simply defecation and urination in fields and streams. Flies carry disease from these sources, including tuberculosis (TB), leprosy, typhoid, cholera, dysentery, polio, anthrax, salmonella, parasite eggs and numerous other diseases. As a start, clean water wells with manual pumps are needed in local villages as well as replacing open pit toilets with septic systems that enclose waste. With electricity, water pumping and purification as well as flush toilets and local sewage treatment plants are possible.
Transportation: The development of roads and railroads needed for economic development and access to healthcare facilities, employment opportunities and markets is discouraged or prohibited, as disruptive to wildlife habitats. Roads and railroads are erroneously assumed to break up habitats, isolate wildlife populations and disrupt seasonal migration patterns. All of these myths have been thoroughly refuted in areas where new roads and pipelines have not disrupted migration and sometimes resulted in more not less wildlife.
Modern Agriculture: Modern agricultural methods and high yield crops are discouraged or prevented in favor of less productive, more labor intensive subsistence, so-called sustainable, aka organic, farming, “for the good of the environment.” This has the opposite effect and causes soil depletion that naturally results in slash and burn deforestation as depleted fields must be abandoned for freshly cleared land. Modern agriculture is a more sustainable practice, requiring only rotation of crops on fewer acres than subsistence farming and greatly increased yields per acre. Higher yield per acre means fewer acres are needed to feed a population, saves forests and makes surplus produce available to sell or trade. Modern agriculture using fertilizers, pesticides and improved crop varieties are opposed by organic farming organizations and subsidizing governments in developed nations. The Green Revolution of improved varieties and practices, available for 50 years, has been applied successfully in some African nations, but only in areas with adequate roads for access to markets. Building the transportation infrastructure could facilitate introduction of modern agriculture in less developed areas.
GMO[ii] aka Biotech and Improved Crops: Banning or discouraging the use of more productive, more drought, insect and disease resistant and more nutritious conventional high yield and GMO crops for improved yields and better nutrition is a crime against humanity. For example, GMO Golden Rice, provides vitamin A that could end the cycle of blindness and death among the poor whose diets are dominated by rice. The European Union has a ban on all agricultural products, not just GMO, from countries that grow any GMO crops. This ban is largely based on protecting subsidized European farmers from competition by African, Asian and American produce.
Governments of many poor countries choose to ban GMO crops so they can sell their produce to the European Union, not because of any fears of GMO scare stories propagated by anti-GMO advocacy groups. These advocacy groups are backed by Western organic farming organizations to suppress their domestic and imported competition from high yield conventional and GMO crops, thus increasing their market share. GMO is a term used by these groups for biotech improved varieties to imply harmful when it really means improved food crops by inserting specific genes to enhance characteristics such as higher nutrition and crop yields, drought, disease and insect resistance and reduced need for pesticides.
Contrary to scare stories, most companies have given away rights to many of these crops to help poor people, who can choose to grow them or not. Contrary to propaganda of anti-GMO advocates, no one is forced to grow GMO or buy any agricultural chemical. Propaganda would have you believe the big bad Monsanto is holding the world hostage, but the truth is that there are at least 60 developers in a dozen countries involving at least one beneficial modification in each of 30 varieties of fruits, vegetables and fibers. Why would so many develop and promote products that harm their customers? That’s illogical and ridiculous!
Industry: Environmentalists and communists discourage development of industry, including manufacturing and natural resource extraction (oil, gas, coal, minerals), as exploiting the workers and harmful to the environment, rather than, in reality, providing employment while raising the standard of living and improving environmental stewardship. The result is high unemployment, unabated poverty and an inability to care for the environment. Control of diseases that now cause high absenteeism and low productivity is as important as reliable electricity for industry. (see DDT above) Foreign and domestic investment and development should be encouraged. Support from industry could further economic and infrastructure development.
Medicine: The UN and environmental organizations have failed to make local medical facilities and medicines available to rural areas. This is tied to failure to provide adequate roads and railroads as well as natural gas and electrical power needed for these facilities and their availability to the rural poor. This is also linked to the population control agenda. In many areas, healing medicines and facilities are lacking essential medicines and devices, while birth control and sterilization facilities are well stocked.
Education: Failure to build schools or to provide instruction in hygiene, nutrition and childcare, and to train the people for skilled and semi-skilled labor, modern agriculture and small business administration. There is also a great need for higher learning facilities to provide medical, technical and leadership personnel.
HIV/AIDS: Diagnosis in rural areas based on symptoms without confirmation of the virus is an excuse for not treating longstanding endemic illnesses and malnutrition. Most of those “diagnosed” with AIDS in poor countries have not been tested for the actual HIV virus. They have been assumed to have HIV/AIDS through disparate symptoms such as fever, headache, rash, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, weight loss, chronic diarrhea and/or cough, all of which can be caused by malnutrition and many common parasites or infectious diseases as well as severe illnesses such as malaria or tuberculosis (TB). The United Nations has named TB as a leading indicator of AIDS. By the UN diagnosing AIDS from symptoms without lab tests, many TB and malaria victims were left untreated, resulting in higher death rates, (falsely attributed to HIV/AIDS).
While TB and other chronic illnesses often weaken the immune systems and cause acquired immune deficiency, i.e. AIDS, it has nothing to do with HIV or sexual behavior. This deception has a triple whammy for the UN. It excuses high death rates and failure to treat endemic diseases, it incentivizes HIV/AIDS research funding in developed countries by falsely declaring it a pandemic, and it has the potential for vindicating population control programs in the minds of potential donors by creating a false picture of rampant immorality and promiscuity. Even with HIV/AIDS diagnosis, treatment should concentrate on treating the presenting malnutrition and endemic diseases first, e.g. malaria, TB, etc., instead of starting with AIDS chemotherapy, which further depresses the immune system, or no treatment at all.
It should also be noted that those actually tested for HIV/AIDS in urban settings may be misdiagnosed due to low specificity of the test, failure to properly retest and several factors such as pregnancy or other diseases that cause false positives. Manufacturers of the tests require retesting by more than one type of detection protocol for confirmation. The unusually high incidence in South Africa, (60% female at a rate of 15-25% compared to less than 2% in other countries,) may be due to administration at gynecological clinics and failure to retest by a more than one method. Any retests are only done by the same protocol as the original diagnosis. Here again, treatment of the endemic diseases first is crucial. HIV/AIDS doesn’t kill people; it cripples the immune system and reduces resistance to other diseases. Note: retesting after HIV/AIDS treatment is started may result in false negatives.
Cultural Preservation (Stagnation): Environmentalists promote preservation of primitive cultures in toto as of higher importance than developing higher standards of living while preserving cultural heritages. There is no harm to the cultural heritage by replacing thatched roofs with metal roofs and adding doors and screens to keep out insects and small animals, as well as other “modern” improvements such as electric lights, refrigerators and stoves; a clean water well and proper toilets; a road passable by vehicles to get to markets and clinics, etc.
Political Unrest: Failure to address political corruption, violence and terrorism creates a climate that tends to keep out aid workers from charitable organizations. It also puts roadblocks in the way of developing the economy, industry, education, healthcare, electrical power and transportation infrastructure. Violence in any form must be controlled for development to advance. Pressure by international organizations should be applied to address corrupt governments, lawlessness and violence.
Anticolonial propaganda was and is spread by socialists and communists as a way to control the people and make them suspicious of development efforts by Western charities. Muslim groups have also propagated these scare stories. In the 1960s the Soviet Union stirred up anti-colonialism among African nations leading to demands for independence from colonial powers without adequate preparation for proper self-governance. This was #43 of the 45 Communist Goals revealed by Dr. Cleon Skousen in his 1958 book The Naked Communist and read into the Congressional Record in 1963, “#43. Overthrow all colonial governments before native populations are ready for self-government.” 35 African nations became independent in the 1960s, half a dozen in the late 1950s and a similar number in the 1970s. Of course, part of the blame falls on the colonial powers that failed to prepare the people for self government or to develop sufficient infrastructure needed for economic development. Rather than a fast overthrow without preparation, a more gradual training and handing over of the government would have prepared them better for self-government.
In Summary: As can be readily seen, these priorities are upside down, many having the opposite effect of their stated goals. Keeping people on bare subsistence almost guarantees high birth rates to help farm and in anticipation of high infant and childhood mortality, while causing maximum harm to the environment.
To develop a robust economy, a healthy workforce and infrastructure to facilitate economic development are needed. By far, disease control and electrical power are most needed and can drive development. DDT and electricity could jump-start this development followed by transportation, clean water, sanitation, and medical facilities. Control of insect borne diseases would eliminate high rates of employee absenteeism, encourage both domestic and foreign investment in manufacturing and other industries, and provide much needed jobs and money to raise families out of poverty.
Private corporations in Western countries need to take a fresh look at Africa for investment in foreign production in lieu of communist China. Investment in infrastructure could produce significant benefits while raising the standard of living of millions and developing new markets and protecting the environment. Such successes could have a domino effect. Small starts can become large movements.
Get involved. You can do your part as individuals by donating to worthy charities, not UN and Red Cross/Crescent, which squander donations and work through corrupt governments. World Vision http://www.wvi.org/about-world-vision and Samaritan’s Purse https://www.samaritanspurse.org/ ) lead my list of worthy charities for helping needy people directly. Both feature designated donations and have Christmas catalogues that allow donors to buy shares of projects such as clean water wells, medicines, schools, cattle and small animals, agriculture and small business training and support, etc.
[ii] GMO or “Genetically Modified Organisms” is a term invented by the Organic Farming Industry to scare people into avoiding such improved foods. “Non-GMO” is an ignorant term that is used for advertising purposes and to placate Big Organic’s smear campaigns. There is absolutely no benefit to it. The better terms are Precision Agriculture or Biotech Crops. So-called GMO involves a process where a specific plant gene is inserted into a plant to give it beneficial characteristics. Earlier plant breeding processes used a shotgun approach where whole genomes are involved in cross breeding or radiation treatment, and hoping that more beneficial than harmful genes will show up in some off-spring.