Calculated Chaos: Renewable Energy Zealot’s Wind & Solar Plan for California Just Doesn’t Add Up

Mad Bill doesn’t just look like a zealot …


Facts, reason and logic have never troubled the true believers in our ‘inevitable transition’ to an all wind and sun powered future.

Trifling matters, like cost and reliability, are dismissed in an instant. The slaughter of millions of birds and bats, swept under the carpet. And the environmental havoc wreaked across countryside carpeted in thousands of toxic turbines and solar panels from horizon to horizon, is deemed to be all for the greater good.

They’re not called zealots, for nothing. As Robert Bryce details below.

A fully renewable California?
Los Angeles Times
Robert Bryce
21 August 2018

Back in 2012, the environmental organization and its leader, Bill McKibben, took a “Do the Math” tour across America to talk about “the terrifying math of the climate crisis.” Alas, it appears McKibben has since developed an allergy to simple arithmetic.

In a recent op-ed in the New York Times, McKibben declared that California legislators should pass Senate Bill 100 this month, committing the state’s utilities to getting all of their electricity from renewable sources by 2045. But McKibben’s essay didn’t use any numbers to explain how it could be done. That’s because the math behind the 100 percent-renewable-energy scheme exposes the folly of the entire concept, particularly when it comes to land use.

Proving that SB 100’s goal is unrealistic can be done by looking at the data published by Stanford civil and environmental engineering professor Mark Jacobson. Jacobson, whose energy scenarios have been touted by McKibben for years, puts together state-by-state tallies that show the amount of wind and solar energy that would be required to achieve 100 percent renewable energy across the entire economy, including electricity generation, transportation and industry. Achieving that goal in California, Jacobson estimates, would require about 124,608 megawatts of onshore wind-power capacity, 32,869 megawatts of offshore wind capacity, and 236,243 megawatts of solar-energy capacity.

Let’s examine the solar numbers first. Last year, global solar capacity totaled about 219,000 megawatts. That means an all-renewable California would need more solar capacity in the state than currently exists on the entire planet. Sure, California can (and will) add lots of new rooftop solar over the coming decades. But Jacobson’s plan would also require nearly 33,000 megawatts of concentrated solar plants, or roughly 87 facilities as large as the 377-megawatt Ivanpah solar complex now operating in the Mojave Desert. Ivanpah, which covers 5.4 square miles, met fierce opposition from conservationists due to its impact on the desert tortoise, which is listed as a threatened species under the federal and California endangered species acts.

Wind energy faces similar problems. The Department of Energy has concluded in multiple reports over the last decade that no matter where they are located —onshore or offshore —wind-energy projects have a footprint that breaks down to about 3 watts per square meter.

To get to Jacobson’s 124,608 megawatts (124.6 billion watts) of onshore wind capacity, California would need 41.5 billion square meters, or about 16,023 square miles, of turbines. To put that into perspective, the land area of Los Angeles County is slightly more than 4,000 square miles —California would have to cover a land area roughly four times the size of L.A. County with nothing but the massive windmills. Turning over even a fraction of that much territory to wind energy is unlikely. In 2015, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to ban large wind turbines in unincorporated areas. Three other California counties —San Diego, Solano and Inyo —have also passed restrictions on turbines.

Last year, the head of the California Wind Energy Assn. told the San Diego Union-Tribune, “We’re facing restrictions like that all around the state … . It’s pretty bleak in terms of the potential for new development.”

The anti-turbine restrictions have had an effect.

In 2017, California had 5,632 megawatts of installed wind capacity —that’s 153 megawatts less than what the state had back in 2013.

Don’t count on offshore wind either. Given the years-long battle that finally scuttled the proposed 468-megawatt Cape Wind project —which called for dozens of turbines to be located offshore Massachusetts —it’s difficult to imagine that Californians would willingly accept offshore wind capacity that’s 70 times as large as what was proposed in the Northeast.

To expand renewables to the extent that they could approach the amount of energy needed to run our entire economy would require wrecking vast onshore and offshore territories with forests of wind turbines and sprawling solar projects. Organizations like tend to dismiss the problem by claiming, for example, that the land around turbines can be farmed or that the placement of solar facilities can be “managed.” But rural landowners don’t want industrial-scale energy projects in their communities any more than coastal dwellers or suburbanites do.

The grim land-use numbers behind all-renewable proposals aren’t speculation. Arriving at them requires only a bit of investigation, and yes, that we do the math.
Los Angeles Times

8 thoughts on “Calculated Chaos: Renewable Energy Zealot’s Wind & Solar Plan for California Just Doesn’t Add Up

  1. Back in 2013 the UK Department of Energy & Climate Change published the graphic shown in the STT article above.  By so doing they unintentionally let the cat out of the bag when it comes to the massive land area requirements of wind and solar generation.  They quickly disappeared the offending graphic but the axiomatic truth was out there and the general public is becoming aware of just how land hungry unreliable, intermittent wind and solar generation is.

  2. Climate change appears to warrant religious status. The facts don’t seem to matter. The believers have a faith in a brave new world. They’ve preached often enough that wind and solar is competitive with fossil fuels and nuclear. It seems they can’t be attacked on their beliefs, so let THEIR pocket books support their religion and not ours. No fuss, no fanfare…remove the RET, feed in tariffs, all subsidies on replacement solar panels (since it’ll probably upset people to break contracts on current rooftop systems) and wind generation. At the same time, make sure subsidies do not exist for fossil fuel or nuclear. Let the believers pay to support their beliefs.
    Meanwhile, somehow get out of the Paris accord. While Australia stays in it, the European Left is somehow going to tweak it to make it binding and all encompassing.

  3. Yes not one word of what they plan in the 15 hours of little or no sun and when that sun goes down, or comes back the wind stops and slowly changes direction hence no wind generation either, maybe Mexico will bale them out?

  4. I have friends who live in California. They are fighting their guts out against the edicts of Gov. Jerry Brownout in Hackramento. Too many of their fellow Californians have been drinking the green RE Kool Aid.

  5. And just to top it off, when the wind stops blowing all those turbines will produce a big fat zero megawatts of electricity. The one thing that endears Californians to me is that they are almost as stupid as Australians – nice to have friends regardless of how dumb they are!

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