Friday, April 25, 2014

Paul Krugman’s Solar Delusions

By Robert Bryce

Solar energy can solve global warming. That’s what Paul Krugman claims in his April 18 column in theNew York Times, “Salvation Gets Cheap.”

Krugman extolled “the incredible recent decline in the cost of renewable energy, solar power in particular.” He used to dismiss the claim that renewable energy would be a major source of global energy “as hippie-dippy wishful thinking.” But now, he says, thanks to the falling price of renewable energy, the process of decarbonization can be accelerated and “drastic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions are now within fairly easy reach.”

Solar is getting cheaper. And solar capacity is growing rapidly. But Krugman is still wrong. Solar won’t result in “drastic cuts” in greenhouse-gas emissions for two simple reasons: scale and cost.

Before going further, let me be clear...

1 comment:

  1. It's fascinating to see a lot of people being so enthusiastic about solar energy as prices for solar panels and other systems continue to go down, while at the same time ignoring the physical limitations inherent in solar power systems. Solar energy - in the form of light - is very dispersed as it is when it reaches the Earth, and then it is dispersed even further as it makes its way through the thickness of the atmosphere. And then the solar panels can only convert - so far - no more than 17% of the total light shining on the panel and only in a good day, which is why panels have to be so huge in order to get something close to meaningful power, and then you can only have them charge batteries because there's no way you can draw power directly from them without either inconsistent power delivery (every time a cloud passes by and such) or destroying your panels. Oh, and you have to use these deep cycle batteries which are expensive to buy and dangerous if overcharged, besides adding a charge controller so your panels don't *draw* power from your batteries during the night, plus an inverter to turn the direct current power to alternate current power, etc.

    So you face the issue that it is physically impossible to obtain more than a few hundred watts of power from solar energy with a typical array of panels because of dispersion, and because of the very low efficiency of the conversion process. There's NO way solar power can even start to complement other forms of energy production let alone *replace* them. Physics is in the way- maybe because physics is racist. Let's ask Jerry Wolfgang, he can tell us.