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ENERGY / BRIAN MARK WEBER / APR. 30, 2021
Gone With the Wind PowerNeither wind nor solar energy have panned out quite as well as some folks keep insisting.
These days, so-called green energy is ostensibly becoming more popular. An increasing number of homes across the country sport solar panels on their rooftops and the landscape is dotted with giant windmills. The panels power a home with the sunshine of a glorious spring day, and the turbines turn gusts of wind into cheap, environmentally friendly energy. But is it effective?
The question has always been whether or not green energy could meet the demands of our country while keeping costs low.
The claim is that solar and wind will become viable if we can just get enough people on board. Consequently, tax credits have made alternative energy sources more tempting for those who want to cut ties with power companies while “saving the environment” from fossil fuel production.
As it turns out, however, the only thing green about “green energy” is the amount of money wasted on its development.
Now, many people are pushing back against wind and solar. The opposition is due to many factors including aesthetics, impacts on wildlife, the high cost of installing transmission wires, the unreliability of weather-dependent power systems, and the negative effects of wind turbines on human health.
Other concerns include the range of materials needed to expand wind and solar such as steel, copper, and rare earth elements, not to mention the significant amount of rural land needed for wind turbines.
No problem. We already have clean energy that is reliable, efficient, safe, and carbon-free.
“Nuclear plants are much more productive than wind turbines or solar panels, producing much more electricity per unit of installed capacity,” writes Isaac Orr of the Center for the American Experiment. “The additional bonus of nuclear power is that humans control when the power is generated and we are not subject to the whims of the weather. This makes each nuclear, coal, and natural gas power plant much more valuable to system reliability than wind or solar facilities.”
Orr adds, “Claims that energy policies designed to promote wind and solar are creating a panacea of so-called "clean energy” jobs are also highly misleading. The vast majority of these jobs are not in the wind and solar industry, they are jobs in the HVAC industry and jobs installing and manufacturing energy-efficient windows and doors.“
These are all inconvenient truths, and here’s another: America’s solar panels are often manufactured by Uyghur slave laborers in China. Moreover, to meet the rising demand, Chinese solar panel factories rely on carbon-pumping energy sources. Those same factories were accused of dumping toxic wastewater into nearby waters.
But we don’t have to look to China to see the environmental (or humanitarian) impact of solar panel production. Here at home, solar panels are producing toxic waste in our landfills. Wind energy doesn’t fare any better.
So much for "clean” energy.
But it doesn’t stop there. The move to embrace “green energy” is actually making electricity costs higher. In 2019, Michael Shellenberger, founder and president of Environmental Progress, wrote, “Solar and wind require that natural gas plants, hydro-electric dams, batteries or some other form of reliable power be ready at a moment’s notice to start churning out electricity when the wind stops blowing and the sun stops shining.”
A study at the University of Chicago found that renewable energy plants are typically located away from centers of population, further increasing the cost of energy transmission.
In spite of all this inconvenient reality, proponents of green energy make it seem as though they’ve stumbled onto some amazing new discovery, even if the idea for tapping into wind and solar goes back more than a century.
Indeed, it’s a very old idea that’s never fully panned out. Now that we’ve given it a real try, it’s becoming clear that we should leave the wind and sun for a day at the beach, not for meeting the energy needs of a nation of 331 million people.