Regarding the green energy myth

On this particular topic, I really want to be wrong. And if you think I am wrong, please tell me. As far as I am concerned, so-called green energy is far from green.

I am an environmental pessimist. I believe that we have gone past the tipping point and that the damage we have done to this planet is irreversible. We have neither the ability nor the collective will-power to do what needs to be done. All that we can do, at this point, is work on survival strategies.

Green energy as it currently exists, is not going to save us. Let’s look at the two most popular solutions. Please excuse my lack of technical expertise. There may be occasions when the terminology I use could be slightly inaccurate.

Solar energy is expensive and highly inefficient. The solar panels that are in use now are highly inefficient, converting only about 17% of the absorbed energy into electricity. And what do we do with the electricity that is created. Currently, there are two options. Send it to storage batteries or feed it directly to the grid. There are problems with both processes. Battery storage is expensive and inefficient. And feeding it directly into the grid is problematic. The flow of electricity from solar panels fluctuates greatly during the day as a result of the passage of clouds overhead, and the flow diminishes as the sun sets. Electricity, in order to be useful and safe, must maintain a steady flow. Power surges and brownouts are highly damaging to electrical equipment. Solar energy is characterized by surges and brownouts. It must be cleaned up and stabilized before it can be used.

Wind energy has all of the same drawbacks that I have described for solar energy. As well, there are serious environmental concerns. Wind turbines generate considerable low-frequency noise which can be harmful to human health. People who live close enough to the turbines to be aware of this noise suffer in many ways.

According to Environmental Protection UK, “symptoms of LFN (low-frequency noise) annoyance are those associated with stress. These include feelings of irritation and unease, fatigue, headache, nausea and disturbed sleep. It is not clear at what level Low Frequency Noise may be physically damaging; however, the unpleasant symptoms it can induce are sufficient to cause disruption and significant social and economic penalties to sufferers.”

Even when wind turbine farms are far from human habitation, the damage to wildlife is enormous. According to Voice of America, ” there is mounting evidence that expanding “wind farms” are taking a toll on airborne wildlife. Thousands of birds and bats are killed every year by collisions with the wind towers and their giant blades. Environmental activists are taking the wind energy industry to court to find a solution.”

There are other energy sources under development but all that I am aware of are in some way damaging to their immediate environment.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I really want to be wrong. Will somebody out there please do something to ease my pessimism.

 

4 responses to “Regarding the green energy myth

  1. In my opinion we are not past a global tipping point, although we are definitely at the end of the Oil era, and are now consuming vast quantities of coal in China, and Natural Gas by fracking. Neither of these energy sources are sustainable, and cause environmental damage.

    Green energy sources are varied, and not simply limited to solar and wind. PV’s are consistently improving in efficiencies and coming down in price. We are seeing investments in wind farms, mostly located in remote, sparsely populated areas.

    Improvements in building construction standards, energy management systems, smart meters, electric vehicles and the wide-spread development of the smart grid will hopefully pave the way for a new era in energy.

  2. Sharing my son-in law’s perspective (an electrical engineer living in New Hampshire). Have had several discussions on this topic!

    This has been an very long-standing debate that has been divided amongst political lines:

    Republicans:
    Alternative energy is inefficient, expensive, impractical, and most of the times cost us more in environmental impact than standard energy. We need to drill for more oil to supply short-term demand and allow free-economy to drive efficiency improvements in existing equipment as the price of energy increases.

    Democrats:
    Existing energy sources are going to be exhausted, pollute the environment and are a source of geo-political strife. We need to invest in alternative energy so that one day it will become economical and help the environment. Without this investment (and forced usage), they will never become viable.

    Both sides have a point. In all the years that we invested into alternative energy sources, they still haven’t improved sufficiently to become viable. On the other hand, once (and if) an alternative energy does become viable, the many decades of investment will seem like money well spent since alternative energy sources replenish themselves.

    I myself lie more on the free-economy side: if oil becomes expensive than the market forces to improve efficiency both on supply and demand side will be so great that progress will be made in leaps and bounds. Consider the hybrid car, it didn’t come about because of decades of government funding, all it did was languish and always seem like it’s a decade away. We hit the high oil prices at the start of the century and all of a sudden, 2.5 years later, we got hybrids commercially viable hybrids.

    • Hi Christy,

      Thanks very much for your comment. If I were an American, I would be a Democrat. So I guess my opinion here has echoes of both parties. I agree with the Republican opinion on the current state of alternative energy but I heartily oppose any increase in drilling, especially fracking. I really hope that real progress is made soon in alternative energy sources.

      Since I approved your first comment on my About page, your latest comment was published immediately without me having to explicitly approve it.

      Regards, Mike

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