Can We Rely on Wind and Solar Energy?

Can We Rely on Wind and Solar Energy?

Is green energy, particularly wind and solar energy, the solution to our climate and energy problems? Or should we be relying on things like natural gas, nuclear energy, and even coal for our energy needs and environmental obligations?


Are wind and solar power the answer to our energy needs? There’s a lot of sun and a lot of wind. They’re free. They’re clean. No CO2 emissions. So, what’s the problem?

Why do solar and wind combined provide less than 2% of the world’s energy?

To answer these questions, we need to understand what makes energy, or anything else for that matter, cheap and plentiful.

For something to be cheap and plentiful, every part of the process to produce it, including every input that goes into it, must be cheap and plentiful.

Yes, the sun is free. Yes, wind is free. But the process of turning sunlight and wind into useable energy on a mass scale is far from free. In fact, compared to the other sources of energy — fossil fuels, nuclear power, and hydroelectric power, solar and wind power are very expensive.

The basic problem is that sunlight and wind as energy sources are both weak (the more technical term is dilute) and unreliable (the more technical term is intermittent). It takes a lot of resources to collect and concentrate them, and even more resources to make them available on-demand. These are called the diluteness problem and the intermittency problem.

The diluteness problem is that, unlike coal or oil, the sun and the wind don’t deliver concentrated energy — which means you need a lot of additional materials to produce a unit of energy.

For solar power, such materials can include highly purified silicon, phosphorus, boron, and a dozen other complex compounds like titanium dioxide. All these materials have to be mined, refined and/or manufactured in order to make solar panels. Those industrial processes take a lot of energy.

For wind, needed materials include high-performance compounds for turbine blades and the rare-earth metal neodymium for lightweight, specialty magnets, as well as the steel and concrete necessary to build structures — thousands of them — as tall as skyscrapers.

And as big a problem as diluteness is, it’s nothing compared to the intermittency problem. This isn’t exactly a news flash, but the sun doesn’t shine all the time. And the wind doesn’t blow all the time. The only way for solar and wind to be truly useful would be if we could store them so that they would be available when we needed them. You can store oil in a tank. Where do you store solar or wind energy? No such mass-storage system exists. Which is why, in the entire world, there is not one real or proposed independent, freestanding solar or wind power plant. All of them require backup. And guess what the go-to back-up is: fossil fuel.

Here’s what solar and wind electricity look like in Germany, which is the world’s leader in “renewables”. The word erratic leaps to mind. Wind is constantly varying, sometimes disappearing completely. And solar produces little in the winter months when Germany most needs energy.

20 Comments on “Can We Rely on Wind and Solar Energy?”

  1. This is exactly the main reason why i am not going to put a single solar panel on the mobile house i'm building. It's not worth it. Dual alternator system is cheap, big cables are cheap and used and re-certified batteries are damn cheap as well. And i cannot afford to depend on solar and wind to heat or to light myself comfortably and safely.

  2. The only thing I have gathered from this video is that renewable energy is wicked expensive. I don't think he's trying to mention that non-renewable resources are better, but rather we need to find a way to make renewable sources cheaper. After all, fossil fuels and nuclear energy won't last forever, and the sooner solar and wind and hydro energy are viable, the better. I also saw a comment stating that solar energy WAS meant to be on an individual level, so ye

  3. How does this channel have any subscribers, I have never heard such idiotic arguments, must be paid for by fossil fuel lobbyists.  Do the world a favor and shut down.

  4. Rubbish and misleading. Solar and wind has storage battery and renewables are cheaper u liar. 100% renewable great but not u Alex.

  5. Yes you can store electricity using high tech batteries. Distributing centers that make up for the fact of less sun and wind instances.
    There is no free lunch and no free energy and in this video no scientific facts just fossil fuel propaganda. Read (all electric America by S David Freeman) Not a Prager U Not a university graduate.

  6. This video should disappear because its outdated and obsolete.
    The cost solar and wind energy are below 2 cents a kilowatt hour and soon will
    reach the holly grail of electric power hydroelectric dams that is 1.5 cents
    kilowatt hour. At this point coal, natural gas, and nuclear power plants should
    shut down soon because they are too costly to operate. The Hoover dam that is 2
    gigawatts at peak generation. As we all know what’s behind every hydroelectric
    dam a lake. We now have floating solar panels that can be barged in and
    connected to the grid and here is the kicker the floating solar panels can generate
    8 gigawatts of electricity 4 times more electricity than the Hoover dam itself.
    So, while Arizona is in a drought they shutdown Hoover dam during the day rely
    on solar power and when dust arrives turn the turbines on. All we are waiting
    for are Lithium ion batteries to fall below 100 dollars kilowatt hour. This meant
    for Hawaii, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, Guam. Battery storage are not
    needed on the mainland.

  7. OMG 🙂 Stupid Germans! Right?! Why strive for energy independence when instead they can suck Russian d**k in exchange for fossil fuels same way US bends over for Saudi c**k up their ass. "No way to store wind&solar" Sure, reversible hydro-electric, battery storage or smart grids din't exist back in ancient 2015. when this video was made.

    Don't understand how people who consider themselves conservative and value patriotism and freedom above all can rationalize $2,4 trillion that were blewn on Iraqi "freedom" when that money could have made US energy independent if invested in renewables on your own soil… Solar&wind power plants are beating coal in unsubsidized cost while supreme leader Donald is making Hoch bro's great again

  8. Please go to China and see how new Solar PV is now the cheapest way of gerneration. I am Chinese btw. We would need to have more develop on energy storage. Your idea is miseducation!

  9. Hahah. Diluted isn't a problem, it's about cost per watt, a place where solar recently became the cheapest. It's the future, as batteries prices drop dramatically and increase scarcity of fossil fuels means those prices will go up.?

  10. Okay I went to eia and got the statistics on wind and solar. Combined they are about 6% and renewables as a whole 15%. Why should the argument just be about wind and solar if hydro power is at the top? I find much of what you say not as accurate as you claim to be.

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