The more I try to explain to people that it is physically impossible to have a 100% renewable energy world, the more I’m ignored. I now realize that I’m cursed with a thankless, endless task. So, I might as well get on with it.
Gail Tverberg recently wrote an article about the inadequateness of our grid system for adjusting to intermittent energy. Here is the link.
We do not have enough minerals to provide the world with solar and wind energy.
Renewable Energy Needs A Huge Mineral Supply
At this point, many people will ask, what about the latest research? To which I answer, you go to market with the solar panels you have, and not the solar panels you wish you had. Most research never makes it to the manufacturing stage due to cost and resource restraints.
Fact Sheet: The Minerals Used To Make A Solar Panel.
Solar and wind power manufacturing is a dirty business.
The Dirty Truth About Renewable Energy
The manufacture of solar panels lets off some of the most dangerous greenhouse gases known to humankind. These include:
hexafluoroethane – 12,000 times stronger than CO2
nitrogen trifluoride – 17,000 times stronger than C02
sulfur hexafluoride – 23,000 times stronger than C02
Solar manufacturing plants produce 500 tons of hazardous sludge each per year. This sludge is not always included in the solar industry carbon footprint data.
Five kilograms of hydrogen chloride per square meter of solar panel is used to liquefy the metallic silicon. Silicon carbide is used to cut the silicon into wafers. Cadmium telluride panels ( thin-film technology ) utilize nanomaterials that pose a threat to the environment and workers during the manufacturing and recycling stage. They also wear out faster than ordinary panels.
Our hi-tech, green energy world depends on many metals that are either uncommon, environmentally damaging, or located almost solely in places like China, Bolivia, or the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo.
A Periodic Table Of Elements We Are Running Out Of
The growth in world population, along with emergence of new technologies will result in some key metals being used up quite rapidly.
Antimony, 15-20 years
Gallium, 5 years
Hafnium, 10 years
Indium, 5-10 years
Platinum, 15 years
Silver, 15-20 years
Tantalum, 20-30 years
Zinc, 20-30 years
A Shortage Of Rare Earth Elements Threatens Renewable Energy
Electric cars are all the rage, especially as they can now go really, really fast. Never mind that the roads they run on are made of oil sludge. Everybody says, what are you talking about?, there’s enough lithium for a quadrillion years. That would be true if lithium batteries only used lithium.
Nickel is one the most important metals on planet earth. It appears that world nickel extraction will peak around 2025.
Copper will peak between 2030-2040. There is no substitute for copper. Aluminum is fire prone as a conductor and far too expensive.
Solar Panels use one gram of aluminum per kilowatt hour.
We will run out of water, food, soil, minerals and energy before we have 100% renewable energy. By 2050, all of today’s solar panels and wind turbines will have to be replaced at exactly the same time we run out of everything. Then, it’s back to wood and coal, if we have any.
So, how much renewable energy do we need?