Our Green Energy Plan
Transition to Starvation
Part II | The True Cost of Transition
Make sure you check out Part I | Fear-Driven Policy
By: Jim Jensen
The Transition to Renewables is Risky and Expensive
Consider some of these facts cited in research by Schernikau, Smith, and Falcon and elsewhere. Coal power plants still play a necessary role in providing baseload power for our nation. The United States still gets over 60% of our electricity from fossil fuel-powered generators. This is not at all surprising given that investment in coal produces 8 times the return that investment in renewables returns.
The people pushing the transition would like us to believe that market forces are driving the abandonment of coal-based energy as consumers search out cleaner options en masse.
“It’s absolutely not market forces,” said Colin Jack, COO of Dixie Power. “It’s absolutely regulatory, legislation and public service commissions who are failing to mandate that utilities get the least cost, most reliable resource rather than getting the most politically correct, coolest, and the sexiest resource.”
Wind and solar have a very low energy return on investment and are a step backward in terms of system energy efficiency. If wind and solar were truly cheaper they would not require trillions of dollars of government funding or subsidies, or laws to enforce their installation.
It is estimated that wind turbines destroy 25 trillion insects per year. While some may view this as a net positive, bees are critical to the pollination of crops and there are already concerns that bee populations are dwindling.
Energy production efficiency losses due to insect residue on wind turbine rotors could be approaching 50%. The “insect erosion effect” may contribute to the documented 27% production deficit (from rated capacity) on German wind farms that is currently attributed to “unknown origins.”
Wind turbine blades have a 6- to 8-year lifespan. An onshore turbine lasts about 15 years and loses 25% of its production capacity during that time. Offshore turbines lose about 50% of capacity over the same period. These declines necessitate 7% of the fleet be replaced annually, in perpetuity, and proportionally faster for offshore turbines.
In 2018, there were about 60,000 wind turbines in America. To power America in 2040, we would need approximately 100 times more. In just Germany, two weeks with no wind would require 45 TWh of storage as a backup supply. Current global production of lithium-ion batteries is about 0.5 TWh.
Speaking of lithium, have you considered the cost of producing it? A single ton of lithium requires roughly 400,000 liters of water to be evaporated. In Chile, this process shrinks nearby lakes where flamingos eat and breed. As the lakes retreat, they become saltier, which can affect or even kill the aquatic life other birds eat. Without enough food, the birds reproduce less, fly elsewhere, or starve.
Lithium Ponds in Chile | Image: Tom Hagen
Since wind power is so unreliable, utilities are frantically looking for ways to store electricity. Rocky Mountain Power is investing in state-of-the-art hydro-storage systems which are 70-80% efficient. In a hydro-storage system, water is pumped to a higher elevation when electricity costs are low and then released downhill to drive turbines with gravity when extra electricity is needed.
The system’s efficiency rating means the amount of electricity you get out of the system is 70-80% of what it takes to pump the water uphill. Can you imagine if 30% of the food you stored in your fridge was spoiled when you took it out? You would consider your refrigerator to be broken.
The solar option doesn’t look much better. A full build-out of photo-voltaic (PV) panels to cover America’s electricity demand would require 2x the total global annual silicon production. It would require 100 million tons of silver, which would take 100 years to mine at current rates. The cost of space for solar is 33 times higher than coal. A solar park to power America would be 4 times the size of Utah.
In 2021, a new solar project was installed every 60 seconds and the solar industry is expected to quadruple in size between 2020 and 2030. In the next 10 years we will see huge numbers of solar panels reaching end of life and we have no viable process for recycling them. Many are already winding up in landfills. Some panels contain toxic heavy metals such as lead, selenium, and cadmium which could potentially contaminate groundwater.
Disassembling discarded PV panels and recovering the glass, silver, and silicon is extremely difficult and very labor intensive. Only about $2 to $4 worth of materials are recovered from each panel. It costs roughly $20 to $30 to recycle a panel versus $1 to $2 to send it to a landfill. As Sam Vanderhoof, a solar industry expert and chief executive of Recycle PV Solar commented, “the industry is supposed to be green, but in reality, it’s all about the money.”
No one wants to talk about how the production and recycling of wind and solar systems contribute significantly to GHG emissions. Or that the materials cost required for solar production is 15 times greater than coal on a ton/TW scale. The material cost for wind is 18 times greater than natural gas.
Very few policymakers are considering any of these facts about production and recycling costs when passionately urging us to transition to green energy.
Consider the Full Cost of Energy When Comparing Systems
Thanks to the work of Smith, et al., we have the concept of the full cost of energy (FCOE) and energy return on energy invested (eROI). Both principles must be fully understood before we can make informed and intelligent decisions about energy policy.
Based on their research and interviews, almost no one is considering the FCOE in making policy. Almost always they are using the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) which includes only the cost of building the system, the cost of the fuel it burns, and the operating cost. When only these factors are considered, wind and solar make a deceptively good comparison to fossil fuels.
Unfortunately, there are a lot more costs involved in the production of renewable energy systems. When these costs are considered, the eROI for renewables is barely above 2:1 and below what is needed to sustain society. Here is their list of costs that must be considered when comparing renewables to fossil fuels.
- Capacity factors – Costs associated with low capacity due to the intermittency and unpredictability of wind and solar.
- Space requirements – Costs incurred for the physical space required for wind and solar because of their low energy density.
- Environmental damage – In addition to the negative effects on plant and animal life, clean energy production also disrupts regional climate systems.
- Energy efficiency – The low energy efficiencies of wind and solar at grid scale result in economic losses from intermittency, power generation, conversion, conditioning, and transmission. All the transformations that must occur to supply grid scale energy from renewables invoke the Second Law of Thermodynamics which predicts entropy (energy loss) when energy is transformed from one state to another. The lost energy escapes into the environment as heat and leads to the regional warming mentioned in the 3rd cost above.
- Correlated wind/solar resources – Costs extracted by the continent-sized areas of highly correlated wind speeds and solar availability. This means, for example, that when there is no sun in Europe, there is no sun nearby that can help produce electricity for Europe. This cost includes the expense of transmitting backup electricity over huge distances.
- Lifetime – Short lifetimes of wind and solar installations are reduced because of ‘repowering’.
- Backup/storage – Costs of backup and storage systems (and the costs of underutilization of those systems) that equal roughly 100% of installed capacity of wind and solar due to inherent intermittencies and inefficiencies.
- Mineral resources – Costs of natural resources and energy for mining, transportation, processing, manufacturing, and recycling of wind/solar systems and required backup systems.
- Recycling – Increased costs due to complex chemistry and short lifetimes.
- eROI – All of the above costs result in a decreased energy return on energy invested for renewables.
When all these costs are considered, we find that if renewables carry beyond a 10% to 20% share of the grid capacity, the cost to a nation’s electricity system always increases with higher shares of variable renewable energy. This would remain true even if the price of renewable capacity reached zero. It would continue to remain true even if the price of solar panels produced with coal power in China (partially using forced labor) reached zero. It would still be true even if wind or solar technology reached the impossible 100% quantum efficiency, according to Schernikau.
Common sense tells us that we should be focused on eROI. Our society requires a 5:1 to 7:1 energy return on investment. That means that we need to get 5-7 times as much energy out of our energy investments as we put into them. If we dip below this level, so many jobs would be required for energy gathering, there wouldn’t be enough workers to maintain society.
Solar and biomass in Northern Europe are in the 2-4 eROI range. That means for every kWH of energy expended to produce electricity, they get about 2-4 kWHs in return. Nuclear power has an eROI of about 75:1. Coal and gas are approaching 30:1. For context, Ancient Roman civilization achieved a 2:1 eROI.
With a 75:1 eROI, the fact that we aren’t aggressively pursuing nuclear energy suggests that those in charge don’t want us to have plentiful, cheap energy. They would prefer that we remain dependent and “safe.”
A Call Upon Our Leaders
Fortunately, not everyone is fooled by the globalist plan to destroy our energy production systems. In 2022, the State Financial Officers Foundation (SFOF) sent a letter to Joe Biden that elicits many of the same concerns we are highlighting here and encouraged him to stop the destructive energy policies.
This letter was signed by 22 state financial officers and auditors. If you will please permit this indulgence, the following paragraphs are a powerfully worded punctuation to this article. It is gratifying to see their leadership and understanding after wading through the gibberish and pablum that comprises so much of the globalist strategy leading us to energy starvation.
“Policies implemented during the last year,” SFOF warns “thwart the vitality of American energy production. The rising cost of fuel, coupled with precipitous inflation has, and will, continue to result in dire consequences for working-class families. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has only intensified the consequences of already failing energy policies and highlighted the need to re-establish American energy independence.
“Oil, gas, coal, and nuclear,” they astutely observe, “are currently the most reliable and plentiful baseload power sources for America and much of the rest of the world. Striving to change this fact ahead of the free market’s ability to adapt and during a time of international unrest threatens our national security. Forcing markets to restructure at a pace faster than that of technological innovation drives up the cost of commodities like energy and, by extension, other goods and services, hurting the poorest Americans most.”
In an acknowledgement of the globalist agenda, they state, “we also believe the White House should be spearheading a call to invest in American energy instead of pursuing ESG initiatives that divide American energy businesses and discourage investment in these reliable energy industries.”
Further, they call out the hypocrisy of those trying to save us from global warming with their untenable policies: “Instead of asking Americans to purchase electric vehicles—which is simply not an option for a great number of American families—government leaders should eliminate barriers to and expand development of these critical resources, bringing down the price of gas at the pump.
“Most Americans cannot afford to purchase an electric vehicle or equip their home with a full set of solar panels, and many in rural America need traditional fuel to run the trucks that service their farms and help feed their communities. The American people urgently need cheaper oil and gas.”
The SFOF members exhibited their understanding and geopolitical savvy in their concluding paragraph: “It is critical to global stability that America regain energy independence. Many European countries today stand frozen in the face of Russian aggression, unable to implement bans on Russian oil and gas, because Russia is the largest supplier of oil and gas in Europe.
“As America watches these events unfold on the world stage, we should be preparing our nation to become a beacon of hope by tapping into our vast resources, helping supply our allied nations. The Russian invasion of Ukraine exposed just how detrimental international dependence on oil and gas has been for countries like Germany, whose commitment to green energy resulted in significant reliance on Russian oil and gas. This type of energy dependence culminates in weak foreign policy—where nations are dependent on oppressive, expansionist foreign powers just to keep their lights on.”
Our entire argument is made without reference to the validity of the global warming argument which is the pretext for the entire global energy transition. We’ll save that discussion for another time. Everyone wants a greener environment and cleaner air. That is not disputed. What is being debated is the need for a rapid transition to “renewable” energy sources that are just as rapidly proving to be imposters.
Schernikau summarizes their recommendations with, “governments, industries, and educational institutions are urgently encouraged to spend additional time on learning and discussing energy economic realities before forcing the basis of today’s existence away from proven and relatively affordable energy systems. It takes only energy to solve the food and water crisis. It takes only energy to withstand natural disasters. It takes only energy to eradicate poverty.”
As citizens, we must do more to wake up to the disastrous effort to swap out our working energy system with one that is far less viable. Energy independence and freedom are the only assets we need to innovate our way to more plentiful, cleaner, and less expensive supplies of energy.