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All hail the energy transition

03 Apr 2024 | News Roundup

The Fighting Jays Solar Farm in Ford Bend County, Texas, was smashed up by a hailstorm on March 15. Not only is the power now unavailable, with a costly and potentially time-consuming repair process that won’t make it any better able to handle the next such storm, but the bits and pieces are actually environmentally nasty. Which brings to mind the Manhattan Contrarian’s wish that before we go all-in on wind, solar and other supposedly miraculous alternative energy sources we should be shown a demonstration project where a country, a region or even just a city successfully powers itself this way, a wish that has finally been granted and it’s not pretty. Even Canada’s richly-subsidized, poorly-watched state broadcaster the CBC is reporting that “Drake Landing, once the leading solar heating community of its kind in North America, may have to rely on fossil fuels as the aging system is breaking down and may be too expensive or impossible to fix.” What if it were the whole country? Now there’s an ugly thought.

As the CBC notes, Drake Landing used to be a showcase, arguably to an excessive degree because the people involved, and those watching, wanted to believe:

“The 52 homeowners in the small, tight-knit community in Okotoks, south of Calgary, at one point welcomed guests from around the world to show off the groundbreaking technology. The international visitors wanted to see first-hand how energy from the hot summer sun could be collected and stored and then released in a harsh Canadian winter to heat the community’s houses. By all accounts, Drake Landing, established in 2006, exceeded the expectations and objectives set by the project’s financial backers – which included the provincial and federal governments.”

An important point to note here is that 2006 was only 18 years ago. Some nuclear plants are still running after half a century, as are many gas or coal plants, and hydro installations. But a mere 18 years in, this solar stuff is falling apart. Given the pace at which politicians you wouldn’t trust to rewire a ceiling light are insisting that we replace all our conventional power with this stuff, by 2050 at the latest, there’s a very real risk that we’d discover suddenly rather than gradually that it doesn’t last the way we were promised, and that in two decades it wasn’t just our town, it was the whole country or the entire West that suddenly had no power. And forget getting replacement parts in that scenario.

Not only does the stuff wear out, it’s fragile in ways that conventional energy is not. The Fighting Jays fiasco brings up another major problem with supposedly green energy, namely that it’s brown. It’s dirty to make solar panels and wind turbines, and it doesn’t solve the problem that the ugly stuff happens overseas and affects poor people we don’t know. It has a very big footprint while operating. And it’s also increasingly acknowledged that the waste, the used-up panels and clapped-out turbine blades, are bulky, contain toxic chemicals, and are hard to dispose of. What wasn’t obvious is how soon we’d be trying to dispose of a mountain of the stuff even if a storm hadn’t come along.

The authorities are still charging ahead with the yeti known as the green energy transition, doing the easy stuff first, namely shutting down what we have. And there’s a very real risk that they won’t manage to replace it at all, in sufficient quantities. Certainly it seems to be coming online more slowly than the enthusiasts predicted, and at far greater cost. We noted last week a compelling reality check on the pace and scale of the transition. And news just keeps coming in, like the bit where New York’s troubled offshore wind projects have already doubled in price.

But there’s also the risk that the geniuses in charge will replace stuff that works with stuff that collapses early and disastrously.

7 comments on “All hail the energy transition”

  1. So, a hailstorm can destroy your stupid solar "farm", every year the home insurance industry doles out megabucks for hail damaged roofs, meaning these occurrences are frequent and inevitable. Color me shocked that the "follow the science" crowd didn't see that coming!

  2. El Hiero Is. in the Canarys also found out the hard way that Green does not always mean good.Trying to supply all their energy with renewables looked
    promising at first,but after a few years they're largely back to using fossil fuels.The "canary" in the not-so-green mine,pun intended.

  3. The politicians who push for so-called green energy are rarely if ever driven by what is likely to be good for the nation at large. Rather, they are driven by what is most likely to win them votes at the next election. And if the average voter is fed a constant, one-sided cacaphony of fear about the dire consequences of using fossil fuels, they will generally react by voting for politicians who promise to lead them to the promised land of green energy. It will take several decades for Joe Public to realize they have been fed a pack of lies. Hopefully, this realization seems to be taking root.

  4. Hmmm so solar and wind are vulnerable to storms like wind and hail. Interesting. I built my house in 1997 and in the intervening years have had to repair the roof twice and completely replaced it another time. I have neighbors with solar. I often wonder how they feel sitting out a hail storm. Must be terrifying to sit through a storm knowing how much money is at risk just overhead.

  5. "It will take several decades for Joe Public to realize they have been fed a pack of lies." But, Roger, it has already been several decades since Rio, and Joe Public is deeper into green delusions than ever. I have been telling people for 30 years that they are being fed a pack of lies, and I can't even convince my sisters.

  6. I agree Thylacine, listening to my sons partner, I realize that for family harmony I must be silent. And she says science is true. She is a accounts clerk, important job for very large national company.
    People refuse to think for themselves, and lot of people love to live in the shadow of doom.

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