Why Renewables Can’t Save The Planet
By TEDx Talks
Environmentalists have long promoted renewable energy sources like solar panels and wind farms to save the climate. But what about when those technologies destroy the environment? In this provocative talk, Time Magazine “Hero of the Environment” and energy expert, Michael Shellenberger explains why solar and wind farms require so much land for mining and energy production, and an alternative path to saving both the climate and the natural environment. Michael Shellenberger is a Time Magazine Hero of the Environment and President of Environmental Progress, a research and policy organization. A lifelong environmentalist, Michael changed his mind about nuclear energy and has helped save enough nuclear reactors to prevent an increase in carbon emissions equivalent to adding more than 10 million cars to the road. He lives in Berkeley, California. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community.
Here’s what others had to say:
Served six years working within 60 feet from a nuclear reactor core. Just turned 81. Still going strong. Glow a little at night but everything still works. LOL.
The issue isn’t just the public’s aversion to building nuclear plants. The problems extend to avoiding research, too. The nuclear industry is on the verge of tremendous innovation in areas such as safety and cost, including technologies such as Thorium reactors, but is being inhibited by oppressive regulation, driven by irrational fears.
I transitioned from the oil and gas industry to wind after 12 years. I have been in the renewable wind industry now for 6 years and can honestly say it’s not as green as main stream media makes out especially offshore wind turbines.
“Many of us have started to question our prior beliefs and change our minds.” Spoken like a true scientist!
This was a brilliant presentation. Succinct, fact-based and unemotional. The only thing he left out regarding solar is the environmental damage caused by PV panels.
It’s not just the huge materials throughput that he mentioned, but how the main material, silicon, is made. I’ve spent 30 years in the semiconductor industry and know the true costs of producing this material. It’s made by mining quartz (silicon dioxide), pulverizing it, and heating it in electric furnaces in a reducing atmosphere. Then pure carbon is introduced (usually in the form of coal) which strips the oxygen off of the silicon atoms, creating pure silicon…and CO2! That’s right, this “planet-saving, zero-emissions” power generator starts it’s life by sending 16 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere for every 10 tons of silicon produced. If you do the calculation, and consider the amount of power a PV panel will generate over its life, you would get less CO2 per kWh if you just burned the coal in a modern power plant.
It gets worse. The energy debt created in mining and refining the silicon is added to by having to melt it down again to pull the “boule” (single crystal ingot) that gets sliced up into PV cells. At this point, even before adding the energy costs of turning the cells into panels and panels into an installation, the cell has generated an energy debt that will not be paid off during its entire useful life. Put another way, if you had a solar-panel factory powered by solar panels, it would eventually stop working due to lack of power.
4 years after this talk, we’re still trying to “save” the planet with renewables. There are huge solar farms gobbling up farm land in upstate New York right near my home. Too many people here think that’s a good thing…. And Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has shown that geopolitics make moving fossil fuels across the world a risky thing…..
Here in 2022, it is as clear as it was when Michael Shellenberger gave this talk, that he was and still is absolutely spot on, in fact some things have already collapsed. Ivanpah Solar Farm is a derelict waste of money, not even producing any energy, yet sitting smashed and broken in the desert, except for those who had already made their fortune from it, they couldn’t are less about the environment, and India are working hard to bring Thorium into Nuclear Reactors of the future. You should ask why Thorium wasn’t considered during the nuclear proliferation decades, and the answer is simple…. You can’t make a bomb from Thorium. For a land mass the size of the United Kingdom, we would have to cover 75% of our total land, to produce enough electricity from wind to power our countries needs. 3 years after this talk was posted, and it’s just getting worse, whilst the ‘green new deal’ and renewables lobby are cashing in on even higher fuel prices, that are now being levied for those utterly ridiculous schemes. The line I will never forget after today…….. We cannot destroy our environment, to fix our climate.
I have been a nuclear physicist (and nuclear engineer) since 1968, and most of my professional career has been spent dealing with the issues covered in this video. During the 1970’s and 1980’s I thought that natural energy evolution would take us beyond nuclear. The more thoroughly I examined the issues, the more I came to the conclusions Shellenberger has articulated in this video. Now, I am retired, but I spend much of my time meeting with students to make sure they understand these facts.
I’m glad he could come from one place or position of thought to another, better one after he saw the true facts. The sad part it that there are way too many people that only want one thing and will never listen to reason even when it is plainly in front of their face.