Renewable Energy’s Incurable Scale Problem

Robert Bryce does an excellent job explaining why wind power and other renewables take away from what should be the real focus of planning for a carbon-free energy future. It is too bad that more of the enthusiasts for wind power on Vinalhaven did not do their research.

The scale problem is (equally) obvious when it comes to wind. In fact, wind-energy’s scale problems are even more thorny because wind energy requires so much land.

At the end of 2011, the U.S. had 47,000 megawatts of installed wind-energy capacity. (Only China, with 62,000 megawatts, had more capacity.) In 2011, all of the wind turbines in the U.S. produced about 120 terawatt-hours of electricity. Thus, just to keep pace with the growth in global electricity demand by using wind energy, we would have to install about 3.75 times the current installed wind capacity in the U.S. every year. That means that global wind-energy capacity would have to increase by about 176,000 megawatts each and every year.

That would be an enormous challenge given that between 2010 and 2011, global wind-energy capacity increased by just 41,000 megawatts. That’s a record increase, and one that advocates of renewable energy are quick to laud. But those same advocates refuse to acknowledge the energy sprawl inherent in wind energy nor will they admit the growing backlash against the wind industry.


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