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Published on October 9th, 2013 | by Zachary Shahan

124

Renewable Myths

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October 9th, 2013 by Zachary Shahan
 
From a CleanTechnica reader/advisor and myself:

OK, gang, time for some community fun. How about we pitch in and list some of the most common anti–renewable energy myths and then work up good, comprehensive rebuttals to them?

Here’s how we’ll start out. Make each myth a new comment and then people can add information under that comment.

After a while we’ll take all the input and turn it into a new article (or more) so that we can fine tune it and then turn it into a resource page. Then, when poorly informed people turn up and want to run through the standard “friends of coal” / “friends of nuclear” talking points, we can send them to that page. :D

Some starter myths are below to get people rolling.

Keep up to date with all the hottest cleantech news by subscribing to our (free) cleantech newsletter, or keep an eye on sector-specific news by getting our (also free) solar energy newsletter, electric vehicle newsletter, or wind energy newsletter.

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About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy since 2009. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the founder and director of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.



  • Ivor O’Connor

    PV panels in the desert lose 50% of their ratings in the summer due to dust.

    https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/An-Opportunity-to-Clean-Up-in-Solar

  • Ivor O’Connor

    There are no cost effective energy storage mechanisms for home owners off the grid.

  • JamesWimberley

    Renewables are for wimps and foreigners, not Real Men like coalminers and oil roustabouts. (I won´t write the replies.)

  • sault

    “Wind turbine syndrome” makes people sick and solar panel manufacturing releases more toxins than coal mining.

  • Gwennedd

    Wind turbines will slow down the wind and the Earth will heat up.

    • sault

      While wind turbines reduce heat transfer between the land and air locally, they do not add or take away any heat from the Earth’s climate system. Buildings, bridges, power lines and other large structures already change local air currents way more than wind turbines do. In addition, the waste heat from coal, oil and natural gas plants heats the environment way more than wind turbines’ disturbance of local wind flow does and their CO2 emissions warm the planet millions of times more on top of that.

    • Altair IV

      I think the best way to answer this one is simply to ask in return: Numbers and sources please? *Exactly* how much do turbines slow the wind, now and with numbers projected into the future, and how much heating does that lead to *exactly*? And how were these numbers arrived at?

  • Ivor O’Connor

    You can not buy a small starter PV system and legally add on more panels as your finances allow.

    • JamesWimberley

      Microinverters.

  • Ivor O’Connor

    To install PV less than half the cost are for the electrical components. The majority of the costs are for paying electricians and government workers.

  • Ivor O’Connor

    There is no way to protect against PV theft. Each panel has no RFID. Nor do the micro-inverters allow you to register on the net the panels that belong to you so that when they are connected back up somewhere else you can track them down.

    • Altair IV

      There’s no way to protect against television theft, Each screen has no RFID, nor do they allow you to register on the net the screens that belong to you so that when they are connected back up somewhere else you can track them down.

      In other words, this is a stupid non-sequitur based on entirely on unrelated security considerations, not technological ones.

      • Ivor O’Connor

        “stupid non-sequitur”? Did I hit a nerve?

        My neighbors ground based array was stolen. Out in the country things get stolen. Insurance is not the solution. The real solution is being mindful. You need a fence. You need to place you greenhouse far enough away kids can’t throw rocks. You need cameras recording your property and especially your solar panels.

        In my mind there is no excuse for the panels not to have an RFID chip placed in them for an extra .10 cents. And why do these microinverters not have security built into them? Are you sure they don’t? Everything is in place already so all it would cost is the programmer to write the software to display the information. Companies like Enphase can market this feature and make even more money.

        Or are you a thief trying to poo poo an idea that would affect your profits? “stupid non sequitor” my @rse.

        • A Real Libertarian

          Ivor, do you need a nap?

        • A Real Libertarian

          Ivor do you need a nap?
          Or are you continuing the cosplay as an antigreen propagandist idea?

          • Ivor O’Connor

            “continuing”? You are apparently misreading me. I’m very pro wind and solar because they work. This entire posting is about airing the anti solar and wind arguments so they can be addressed properly.

          • A Real Libertarian

            So continuing the cosplay?

          • Ivor O’Connor

            I think you are enamored with the word cosplay and misusing it.

          • A Real Libertarian

            Ahem (from Wikipedia), “cosplay short for “costume play”, is an activity in which participants wear costumes and accessories to represent a specific character or idea from a work of fiction”

            I would define the deniers worldview as fiction, wouldn’t you?

          • Ivor O’Connor

            Depends what they are denying. I looked up the word cosplay the moment you first wrote it to make sure I understood what you were saying.

            Want to watch an interesting video, off topic, https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=O2tK0Wl2F8w

          • A Real Libertarian

            They’re denying renewable energy works.

          • Ivor O’Connor

            Yes, it is hard to believe anybody could deny renewable energy works. Or see the path. Yet there are people like Stewart Brand and Steve Jurvetson who are quite intelligent yet don’t get it. They think nuclear energy is needed. How is it that they don’t sit down and look at the details? It boggles my mind.

        • Altair IV

          Please calm down. I wasn’t criticizing you.

          First of all, you seem to have misunderstood the concept of this thread. People are supposed to post commonly-heard anti-renewable canards, and others are then supposed to answer them in turn. I assumed you had done the former, so I was doing the latter. It appears then that I was the one that hit a nerve with you, unintentionally.

          Second, “non sequitur” was probably a bad word choice, but I couldn’t think of anything better at the time. Perhaps “red herring” is more accurate. But whatever the word, there’s nothing in the argument you posted that has anything to do directly with solar as an energy solution. Rather it’s a theft/security issue that is no different from that of any other valuable you may own. You can replace “solar panel” with “television”, “carbon fiber racing bike”, or even “kiddie wading pool” and everything about it remains the same.

          I do agree though that there is a problem, and as such it is almost certainly being worked on. A bit of extra security is definitely needed, and things like RFID chips will almost certainly appear when enough people demand it. But whatever the case, it does not constitute a valid argument against the use of solar panels specifically.

          • Ivor O’Connor

            hmmm.

  • Ivor O’Connor

    PV manufacturing companies go out of business long before their warranties expire leaving owners with worthless product.

  • Ivor O’Connor

    Toxins from manufacturing PV is worse than those from nuclear and coal.

  • John Coller

    The myths I’ve heard are that solar PV doesn’t work when it’s cold or when it’s cloudy; concrete dust stops PV from working; panels won’t last more than a few years; solar PV panels can’t be recycled; domestic price increases are because of renewable energy.

    • Altair IV

      Most of these are either highly misleading or even completely false. PV is actually more efficient when it’s cold, and even on cloudy days it can still deliver 10-20% of it’s maximum output. And nobody has ever claimed that a solar array alone would make you self-sufficient in the first place.a

      The first solar panels ever produced are still operating at close to their original capacity over 30 years later. New panels routinely come with 20-25 year warranties.

      Price increases aren’t due to renewable energy per se, but because they are a disruptive technology and their uptake is eating the lunch of the utilities, and so they are increasingly shifting the remaining cost burden onto those who can’t or won’t get their own renewable systems. Speaking of which, how can home solar at least increase your total costs when there’s only a single up-front payment and the marginal cost is zero?

      I’m not sure about the recycling question, but I’d be willing to bet that it’s mostly false. As for the dust problem, I’ve read that it’s not as bad as some people make it out to be, and besides, have they never heard of a hose?

  • Omega Centauri

    Using an efficient lightbulb during the winter will cost you money, because you don’t get the waste heat.

    • Dean Roussel

      Save you money in the summer on AC costs. It’s a wash.

    • Altair IV

      Anyone who depends on light bulbs as heating sources is an idiot. Take the money you save on electricity with LED bulbs and use it to improve your home’s insulation, or at the very least buy a decent, efficient space heater.

  • Omega Centauri

    Electric cars simply shift the pollution from tailpipe to smokestack.

    • NRG4All

      Overall average power generation is cleaner than ICEs. And many of us charger our electric cars with solar panels.

    • jburt56

      Power plants are significantly more efficient than car engines, especially combined cycle plants. A shift to electric cars therefore reduces CO2 output.

    • Altair IV

      Even when everything else is equal, EV’s are more efficient and use less power than the equivalent ICE vehicles, resulting in a reduction in total emissions. But it also moves the energy production to centralized plants, so even more efficient still, and easier to control emissions. Not to mention the reduction of smog in the areas where the cars drive. Finally, nothing requires EVs to use fossil fuel power at all, and the sources can be easily replaced with renewables as soon as they become viable, without affecting vehicular use.

      This is yet another example of an ad hoc argument that ignores the larger picture.

  • Omega Centauri

    Wind doesn’t save any CO2, since coal plants are consuming fuel in standby mode.

    • Senlac

      Well I don’t know about wind but I would imagine solar and wind would affect coal plants in the same way, read this article: http://cleantechnica.com/2013/10/10/solar-claim-biggest-victim/

    • Gary

      Wind displaces gas – not coal.

      • Omega Centauri

        Its more likely to displace coal, gas is desirable with solar/wind since it can ramp up/down fairly quickly.

    • Altair IV

      That’s not an argument against wind, it’s an argument against coal. So just replace the coal plant with an equivalent amount of solar, and/or storage, and/or demand reduction/efficiency improvements and the problem goes away.

  • Omega Centauri

    Solar destabilizes the grid.

    • Senlac

      Actually solar delivers power when we most need it at peak day light
      hours, when wholesale rates are the highest, and since most net meters
      are reimbursed at average retail rates, so the utilities are getting a
      pretty good deal. The utilities will need to adjust to the weather
      variation of solar, but since wind is complementary to solar, grid
      instability can be minimized by prudent management policies and grid storage.

    • jburt56

      It does destabilize utility profits. Summertime gouging for AC is on its way out.

  • George Harvey

    One myth is that solar and wind are less reliable than nuclear, coal, or gas. That may be true in some respects, but consider this: since solar and wind do not require fuel, they are not subject to market changes in fuel costs. Financial interests can predict the price of solar and wind years in advance. You cannot do that with fossil fuels or nuclear.

    • JohnHechtman

      GH> One myth is that solar and wind are less reliable than nuclear, coal, or gas.

      There’s a very basic fact that seems to escape many people. Nuclear, coal, gas, and oil, are all NON-renewable energy sources. That means you run out of them, typically, just when need them most. Renewables are just the opposite – use them, and have energy as long as the Sun shines, the wind blows, and the Earth’s water stays liquid. That’s good for a few billion years…

  • Jouni Valkonen

    nuclear is cheaper than wind. (not true in West, nukes cost 60–80 euros per MWh where as wind costs 50 euros per MWh)

    • John Coller

      Myth — New nuclear is set to cost £93 per MWh.

      “The Times newspaper reported today [10/10/2013] that a deal with French energy company EDF that would set a guaranteed price of electricity generated by the plant at £93 per megawatt hour is days away from being finalised after well over a year of talks.”

  • Kristian

    The noise from the Wind Turbines might hurt you. The deep sound can be very damaging…….

    • Gary

      The wind itself creates more infrasound than the turbines do.

  • Kristian

    Wind turbines creates noise……

  • Kristian

    Wind turbines are killing all birds……

    • JohnHechtman

      Bird friendly wind turbines.

      http://aristapower.com/

    • Altair IV

      The ecological damage done by fossil fuel use kills many times the numbers of birds, and other kinds of wildlife, than all the turbines in the world combined. Not to mention that the total number of birds killed by turbines is completely overshadowed by the numbers killed by windows, power lines, cats, and other human causes.

      Finally, the bird kill numbers most people hear were skewed and exaggerated by the results of a single site — Altamont Pass in California — one of the first large scale wind farms. The old truss-style architecture of the early towers were attractive to birds for perching and nesting, and their low height and smaller, faster turning blades made them more deadly. Larger, slower-turning, better-designed turbines and better siting has already done a lot to reduce the damage to avian wildlife.

  • Kristian

    Wind turbines does not work. Just look around. Most of them are not turning….

  • Dimitar Mirchev

    Roof PV can not cover all your energy needs so its pointless.

    • Dimitar Mirchev

      It does not have to. If it saves money people will install it no matter what.

    • NRG4All

      Au Contraire, we use heat pumps for heat & A/C, drive an all electric LEAF, have solar hot water and the usual appliances and lights. We use propane only for cooking which is about 22 gallons / year. We generate 15 mWh/yr. and sell 10 of it to the utility. Once/yr. they send us a check. The last check was for $313. If my wife didn’t like gas cooking we’d have an electric stove too. But your comment was probably satire and I’m slow on the pick up.

      • A Real Libertarian

        You might want to check out induction stoves.

        • dynamo.joe

          or that GoSun kick starter thingy that was on here a few days/weeks ago.

          Or so you’re not in dutch with the wife, produce your own methane with an anerobic digester.

      • Dimitar Mirchev

        I often find myself against this argument – “roof PV electricity can not be stored and it can not provide you with electricity when there is no sun. So it is pointless” or “You will still need to be connected to the grid. So its pointless.

        In fact it does not matter. If the electricity produced from the roof is cheaper than the one form the grid it still makes economical sense.

        Besides it can be stored – next big thing in households grid storage – second hand EV batteries!

        • NRG4All

          This raises two points of view. First, electrons generated generated by PV is generated when the utility needs them the most and in turn the utility can furnish electrons when the need is much less. It is a symbiotic relationship and not pointless.
          Second there is an economic concept called “opportunity cost”. That basically is the financial ramifications of two different courses of action. By having PV we have been able to convert our house and transportation to electricity. An example may help. One course of action is that I could drive an ICE car and spend $200 per month on gas, oil, filters, etc. or I could generate the electricity from a sunk cost of PV. If I purchased the electricity it would only cost less than $20.
          When I considered the alternatives, it made more sense to me to invest my money in PV. When adding up these opportunity costs, my money was going to return far more than a risk-free CD from a bank.

    • jburt56

      We are already seeing electric vehicle households that are also net zero or even net negative in energy use.

  • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

    Al Gore is fat. (And, thus, renewable energy is a scam.)

    • Gary

      Not as fat as the Fossil Fuel lobbyists.

      • George Harvey

        Good one.

      • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

        Haha :D

  • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

    Wind/solar would not be installed except for subsidies/Renewable Portfolio Standards

    • http://MrEnergyCzar.com/ MrEnergyCzar

      And gas would be $15 a gallon if oil companies had to pay for their free military protections overseas and keeping the sea lanes open for tankers…

      • mk1313

        And their production subsidies and their tax breaks and the health care costs their product creates and the cost of the environmental destruction and the costs of extreme weather events they contribute to making worse!

    • NRG4All

      mWh/Yr. from 34 panels = 15 (our PV system)
      On Peak kWh cost = $.26 (yes AZ is high, AZ Public Svc.)
      Cost if purchased from utility = $3,900
      Cost of installed PV / Watt = $4.00 (Royal Solar, Mesa, AZ)
      Size of System = 34 x 235W =7,990W
      Total Cost of System = $31,960
      Simple Payback = 8.2 years or 12% return WITH NO SUBSIDIES
      Life of system = 25 years

    • dynamo.joe

      Here is where you could actually make the argument that for remote locations Solar, sans subsidies, sans ‘externalities’, is cheaper than generators + imported fuel.

    • Altair IV

      Subsidies are often necessary at the beginning of a technological life-cycle just to help it reach the point where it becomes self-sustainable. This is a deliberate choice made by the people and the government in order to promote technologies that they think will help their country and economy in the long-run. It’s not just a hand-out, it’s an investment in the future.

      Once the bootstrapping of the technology is complete and the industry can survive on its own, the subsidies can be eliminated*. Indeed, I have seen several stories recently about large scale solar and wind farm installations being done without the aid of subsidies, demonstrating that this point is just about within reach.

      *Unfortunately, as the continued subsidization of the the fossil fuel and nuclear industries demonstrates, “can” does not always equal “will”. It’s at this point that subsidies do turn into hand-outs.

  • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

    Nuclear/coal is our cheapest source of electricity.

    • J. C.

      Well nuclear for sure, take a 2 billion investment and watch it turn into a 20 billion dollar liability in a matter of hours. Ask Japan!

      • Altair IV

        And that’s not even considering the cost to the environment and people’s health!

    • jburt56

      The Fukushima cleanup alone will cost so much that Japan could have replaced all nukes with solar panels for the same amount.

    • Gary

      Only when the government pays for the construction.

    • George Harvey

      Lazard LLC rated nuclear and new coal as the most expensive power sources we have, compared to nearly all other economically important power sources.

  • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

    Wind/solar is too expensive.

    • Gary

      Wind is cheaper than nuclear and new coal. PV will be soon.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LCOE

    • JohnHechtman

      zs> Wind/solar is too expensive.

      Does your Daddy work for a fossil fuel company, or do you just enjoy telling everyone why any renewable energy alternatives can’t work?

      Why not put your abundant energy toward researching ways that alternative energy >can< work. You'd do a lot more social good that way…

      • mk1313

        These are the “myths” he want’s our help/links to debunk!

      • Bob_Wallace

        John – you missed a few clues.

        Try starting at the top and reading the article.

    • Senlac

      It may be true in some markets that wind and solar are more expense even when you account for all the extra subsidies fossil fuels receive. But that is not what is important. What is important, is that technologies like wind and solar as well as other renewables, are getting more efficient and less expense each year. Fossil fuels will only become more expense, as unconventional fuels like shale oil from Canada become a greater part of the fossil fuel mix.

      It’s about the future!

    • jburt56

      Research is already pointing the way to $0.10 per watt solar. Building integrated PV or BIPV could dramatically reduce installation costs.

    • dynamo.joe

      Not that this argument holds a lot of weight with me (44 and no kids), but I’m surprised no one has made the argument that the cost of global warming associated with non-renewables dwarfs any short term cost increase associated with wind/solar.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Depending on where you live and how long you live global warming could very well bite you hard in the butt.

        “Starting in about a decade, Kingston, Jamaica, will probably be off-the-charts hot — permanently. Other places will soon follow. Singapore in 2028. Mexico City in 2031. Cairo in 2036. Phoenix and Honolulu in 2043.
        And eventually the whole world in 2047.”

        In 2043 you will be in your 70s.

        “Mora forecasts that the unprecedented heat starts in 2020 with Manokwa, Indonesia. Then Kingston, Jamaica. Within the next two decades, 59 cities will be living in what is essentially a new climate, including Singapore, Havana, Kuala Lumpur and Mexico City.

        By 2043, 147 cities — more than half of those studied — will have shifted to a hotter temperature regime that is beyond historical records.

        The first U.S. cities to feel that would be Honolulu and Phoenix, followed by San Diego and Orlando, Fla., in 2046. New York and Washington will get new climates around 2047, with Los Angeles, Detroit, Houston, Chicago, Seattle, Austin and Dallas a bit later.”

        In 2046 you will be in your 70s.

        “Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann said the research “may actually be presenting an overly rosy scenario when it comes to how close we are to passing the threshold for dangerous climate impacts.”
        “By some measures, we are already there,” he said.”
        http://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/climate-study-global-temperatures-to-go-off-the-charts-permanently-in-2047
        I’d suggest that if you now live in a hot place it is now time to start your move to someplace cooler. And to arrange your budget in a manner that allows you to spend a lot more on food. We’re likely in for some agricultural disruption.

    • Altair IV

      Like all asset considerations, which technology to use depends (ideally, at least) on examining ALL of the pros and cons of each possible choice, and choosing the one(s) that best fit the goal at hand. If simple monetary cost were the only consideration then why are there nuclear power plants, for example?

      When we take the full balance of positives and negatives into account, especially the hidden soft costs of fossil fuel use, then solar and wind really come out as the best options.

    • George Harvey

      Lazard LLC, a very well established and respected investment firm, recently released its evaluation of the LCOE for various sources of power. Solar came in below the cost of nuclear; the cost of solar is still declining, and the cost of nuclear seems to be going up. New coal costs as much as nuclear. Wind provides what is probably the least expensive power we can get; the cost is below that of natural gas in the US, where natural gas and wind are making nuclear and coal plants close.

  • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

    The Sun doesn’t shine all the time. The wind doesn’t blow all the time.

    • http://MrEnergyCzar.com/ MrEnergyCzar

      Molten Salt storage in Spain, plant runs full power for up to 15 hours without sun

      • Jouni Valkonen

        unfortunately this is too expensive. Storage for solar or wind is not yet competitive enough. But the cost of batteries will inevitably go down in the future.

        • Chris Kreider

          Or we will use different technologies, pumped hydro, compressed air storage, supercapacitors.

          • Jouni Valkonen

            pumped hydro is only competive storage technology, but unfortunately most of the pumped hydro reserves are already utilized at least in Europe or they are too far away from the demand or they threaten protected nature.

            In general, if you are an environmentalist, you really do not want the expansion of hydroelectric power, because it is devastating for the river ecosystems.

    • gary

      Gas backup is very cheap – it adds less than 10% to the cost.

      • Gary

        Distributed wind can provide 70-80% of a baseload supply without storage:

        http://sdrv.ms/14L24BV

        (probably get better results using a region with more wind: ERCOT?)

    • Jouni Valkonen

      In day time when sun does not shine, typically wind is blowing. And when Wind does not blow, typically sun is shining.

    • J. C.

      When you have a massive solar spill it is just called a good day.

      • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

        :D

    • mk1313
    • NRG4All

      Best is the enemy of better, so the logic goes, if we can’t have the best, let’s not bother with better.

    • jburt56

      The wind does blow all the time if you integrate over large areas like continents.

    • dynamo.joe

      Umm…The sun DOES shine all the time. That whole day and night thing is due to the rotation of the earth not the cyclic nature of solar output.

    • Matt

      I real life I wonder how high PV/Wind has to get (if balanced) before this even matters. 50%, 60% 70%. We are a long way before this question matters much.

    • Altair IV

      The thing that irritates me most about this one is how it insultingly implies that nobody ever noticed these problems before they mentioned it. Solar supporters don’t know that it gets dark sometimes? Wind supporters have never realized that it stops blowing sometimes?

      Do they think that nobody ever takes the limitations of a technology into account or tries to work out ways around them? Hint, it usually just requires using the strengths of one technology to balance out the weaknesses of another.

      In the end though this is just an especially egregious example of what is perhaps the most common denier tactic: making ad hoc attacks on single points while ignoring the larger context in which they operate.

      • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

        Haha, definitely. This really drives me crazy. :D

    • George Harvey

      In a given place, the sun shines an average of 12 hours per day, the majority of which is useful for solar power. But the maximum distance for economically viable transmission of power was over 6400 km. in 1996, and this figure has more than doubled with newer transmission technology. This means that if the sun is producing power at a high level 6400 km to the east or west of a given spot, given 15-year-old technology, that spot should be capable of getting power from the sun.
      The same argument can be applied to wind power, with the added information that the wind will be blowing somewhere within a 6400 km radius of a given place all the time.
      In addition, solar produces power at the very time it is most needed.

  • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

    There’s not enough land in the US for all the wind turbines/solar panels that would be needed to replace coal, natural gas and nuclear plants.

    • http://MrEnergyCzar.com/ MrEnergyCzar

      You probably need the area the size of Rhode Island.

      • kairi76

        please add sources that contain numbers and calculations

        • NRG4All

          3,886,400,000 U.S. Megawatt hours / yr. consumption http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_electricity_consumption
          15 mWh/Yr. from 574 Sq. Ft. of 14.4% eff. collectors (our PV system)
          mWh/sq. ft. = .026 (15/574)
          mWh/sq. mi. = .026x43000x640 = 718,885
          Sq. Miles of collector = 3,886,400/718,885 = 5,406
          Sq. Miles of AZ = 5,406
          % of AZ needed = <5%

    • JohnHechtman

      ZS> There’s not enough land in the US for all the wind turbines/solar panels that would be needed to replace coal, natural gas and nuclear plants.

      Please >cite your sourcesabove< all public roads. Land can have multiple uses, you know…

      http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/grid-the-roads

      If you like the concept, PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION!

      Grid The Roads!

      By John Hechtman
      (Contact)

      To be delivered to:

      The New York State House, The New York State Senate, Governor Andrew
      Cuomo, The United States House of Representatives, The United States
      Senate, and President Barack Obama

      Petition Statement

      Install solar (photovoltaic) panels over all public roads. We throw away terawatts of electrical power by not doing so!

      Petition Background

      I started this petition with Change.org. Sign there or here.

      http://www.change.org/petitions/federal-state-and-local-governments-grid-the-roads-install-solar-cells-above-all-public-roads

      This project would have massive benefits for the US economy, its
      citizens, and the Earth as a whole. The idea is simple – install solar
      (photovoltaic) arrays above all public roads. This provides a huge range
      of benefits! To list some:

      *For brevity, let's call these installations PVAs – for photovoltaic
      arrays. The PVAs could (first) reduce or perhaps eliminate the
      electricity needed to light the roads at night, or in cloudy weather.
      Electricity generated during the daytime could be stored in large
      capacitor holding stations for use after dark or when needed.

      *So called 'excess' electricity could be fed back into the existing electrical grid. This would have many powerful benefits.

      *Doing so would reduce the cost of electricity nationwide, both for
      individuals and corporations. That alone would give the US economy an
      enormous boost.

      *Generating local PVA electrical power would reduce our burning of fossil fuels, thus reducing global warming.

      *Since PVAs are a sustainable/renewable energy source, we greatly
      reduce the risk of social collapse from Peak Oil, Peak Coal, etc.

      *The manufacture, installation, and maintenance of the PVAs would
      create a fantastic number of local jobs. Jobs that could never be
      outsourced, or eliminated, as they have to (always) be done on a local
      basis. Jobs that will always be needed to maintain and expand the PVA
      infrastructure. After the first round of PVA installation on Federal
      highways, the project can be continued on state and local roads. The
      more PVAs we install, the lower the cost of the electricity generated.

      *Since the land below the PVAs is already dedicated to roads, very
      little additional land is needed to implement the project. Nor would
      land have to be seized under 'eminent domain' – the small tracts needed
      for capacitor holding stations could be bought or leased.

      *Such a national campaign would provide funding for research and
      development of ever more efficient PVAs. The more we do it, the better
      we'll get at it, and the lower the price of electricity drops. Plus, the
      more we do it, the less (and less) fossil fuel we need to burn for
      electrical power. It's a win-win that keeps on winning for everyone.

      *Properly designed PVAs could partially shield roads from rain and
      snow. This not only makes driving safer, but reduces plowing and salting
      costs in winter time.

      *PVAs could be used to provide charging stations for electric
      vehicles, thus helping still more to move the US toward renewable
      resources.

      *By reducing our need for oil and coal to create power, we not only
      reduce the pollution from burning them, we also reduce the pollution
      created by mining/extracting them. Further, we increase US national
      security by becoming less dependent on foreign oil. It could also help
      disaster-proof the US power grid, making it more resilient in case of
      natural or man-made outages.

      *We could eliminate the need for dangerous, non-sustainable, polluting nuclear power.

      *We can move beyond the conflict of government projects vs. private
      industry projects. The US government could work in tandem with existing
      power companies to create the needed infrastructure. The government
      could help finance construction, and then receive revenue from the power
      generated in the form of new taxes. Even with some tax load, the new
      electrical power will be cheaper than current power sources. Industry
      would get subsidies, just as the US government subsidized the
      construction of the highways themselves, along with many other
      historical examples.

      *This concept is not theoretical, it is very similar to two new
      projects in India. The first one is the Canal Solar Power Project that
      is currently working. The only real differences are the use of roads,
      rather than canals for the underlying right-of-way, and the scale of the
      project. More info is at:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canal_Solar_Power_Project The second
      project is from the Gujarat Energy Research and Management Institute
      (GERMI) where scientists have proposed a pilot solar power project at a
      Gujarat state highway. Through computer simulation the scientists
      believe that a solar roof cover on the 205 kilometre (km)
      Ahmedabad-Rajkot highway can generate 104 megawatts (MW). The GERMI scientists note that the elevated structures that would support the
      solar PV modules would also help in rainwater harvesting. If applied to
      the railway network such projects could supply power to the trains and
      may help reduce the dependence of Indian Railways on diesel.

      Read more on the second one (PVAs over roads) at
      http://cleantechnica.com/2013/04/02/indian-scientists-propose-solar-roofs-for-roads/?utm_source=Cleantechnica+News&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=af255b9dd6-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN#gsc.tab=0

      The second report came out a few days after I first posted this petition, so I'm close to the Zeigeist…

      *Historically, we have developed our infrastructure to only meet one
      need at a time. But more enlightened design, along with better
      technology, can help us create roadways that serve multiple needs, all
      at the same time. Just as some ecologically designed buildings sequester
      rain water, and harvest solar power, so too, our roads can become
      multi-function, multi-benefit infrastructure. Truly, this is an idea
      whose time has come.

      On an ever more crowded planet, infrastructures must be designed to provide not one, but multiple benefits. GRID THE ROADS!

    • http://electrobatics.wordpress.com/ arne-nl

      Very often this comes from equating thermal energy to electric energy.

      Paraphrasing from a well-known book: all kWh’s are equal but some are more equal than others.

      Another assumption is that the land in between the windmills is not usable for other purposes.

    • dynamo.joe

      A) I think a lot of the people who believe that have never driven across the western united states. There are hundreds and thousands of miles of jack shit out here.

      B) Assuming the Rhode Island thing is correct (I think its Nebraska for the entire planet); RI = 1214 sq mi, The interstate highway system covers a minimum of 714 sq mi and has right of way for probably double that. The 714 sq mi assumes 4 lane highway with shoulder on each side. So just covering the interstate highways with some suspended system of solar panels probably covers between 60-100% of the nations needs. Obviously there are state and county highways if additional land area is needed.

      C) There is 3x of the planets surface covered by water and I’m pretty sure sunlight hits there too. Think solar panels on a roof are an eyesore? Fine put them a mile or two out to sea where no one will ever see them.

    • George Harvey

      Measuring the land needed to provide wind or solar power can produce deceptive results because the land can simultaneously be used for other purposes. For instance, if a wind farm is put on land used for grazing cattle, the space useful for cattle is only reduced very marginally.

  • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

    Solar panels and wind turbines never pay back the energy it takes to manufacture them.

    • http://MrEnergyCzar.com/ MrEnergyCzar

      Yes, if you have a terminal illness….

      • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

        Haha :P

    • NRG4All

      Our PV system is guaranteed for 25 years, when you burn a fossil fuel it is gone.

    • http://electrobatics.wordpress.com/ arne-nl

      Some google scholar trawling brought up: http://www.societalmetabolism.org/aes2010/Proceeds/DIGITAL%20PROCEEDINGS_files/PAPERS/O_122_Marco_Raugei.pdf

      This one is interesting too: http://www.stanford.edu/group/gcep/pdfs/symposium2012/MikDale_Symp2012_web.pdf (it describes how the pv industry until now has been an energy sink, because the panels produced are mostly still at the beginning of their life and have not produced enough energy to offset the input)

    • jburt56

      I think the figure for crystalline panels is embodied energy is 3% of the total lifetime output of the panel. The thin film stuff is better.

    • Gary

      Wind produces 20 times as much, PV 7 times as much:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EROEI

      • Ivor O’Connor

        It would be better to know how much energy and CO2 is typically needed to produce the panel or turbine. Then state how long it takes at a certain capacity to displace that much CO2 and energy along with the expected lifetime. Nice complete answers, with references, so as to win them over completely.

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