Posted by GreenReport, Monday, February 9, 2009
Renewable energy is not “Green” energy, claims a prominent scientist with Rockefeller University in New York, who played an early role in raising public awareness about the reality of global warming. The study—which was recently published in a scholarly journal—is highly critical of what he believes to be the misleading and false promises associated with “renewable energy”.
“A fundamental credo of being green is that you cause minimal interference with the landscape. We should be farming less land, logging less forest and trawling less ocean - disturbing the landscape less and sparing land for nature. But all of these renewable sources of energy are incredibly invasive and aggressive with regard to nature. Renewables may be renewable, but they are not green,” said researcher Jesse Ausubel, at the Rockefeller University in New York.
The study concludes that if we build enough wind farms, damn enough rivers and grow sufficient biomass to produce ample kilowatts to make any real difference in meeting global energy demands—we would have to allow for a huge invasion of nature, which he says is unacceptable.
By calculating the amount of energy that each renewable source can produce in terms of the area of land disturbed, Ausubel determined that renewable energy is more of a recipe for disaster than a plausible way to save the world.
The results, published in the current issue of International Journal of Nuclear Governance, Economy and Ecology, asserts that in order to have met the electricity demand back in 2005 for the United States, an area the size of Texas would have to be covered with wind structures running round the clock to extract, store and transport the energy.
New York City would require the entire area of Connecticut to become a wind farm to fully power all its electrical equipment and gadgets.
You can convert every kilowatt generated directly into land area disturbed, Ausubel said. “The biomass or wind will produce one or two watts per square meter. So every watt or kilowatt you want for light bulbs in your house can be translated into your hand reaching out into nature taking land.”
Other scientists are unenthusiastic about Ausubel’s analysis and say that his use of energy density as the only metric leaves out other factors.
“In general, I would say his use of energy density just does not capture the entire scope of issues and capabilities for all the different resources,” said John A. Turner, a principal scientist at the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
Turner, who was not a part of the study, points out that some technologies are better than others as far as land use goes. He explains that if the entire United States were to be powered by solar cells with 10 percent efficiency, an area about 10,000 square miles would have to be covered by solar panels in sunny areas.
“Now there’s 3.7 million square miles of area for the continental U.S.” Turner said. “This represents a very, very tiny area. And that’s just one technology.”
While Turner agrees that nuclear power, for example, actually leaves a smaller carbon footprint than renewables, he says the waste issue associated with nuclear technology should also be considered.
“We have a finite amount of time, a finite amount of money and a finite amount of energy, and we need to be very careful about the choices we make as we build this new energy infrastructure,” Turner said. “I’d like to see something that will last for millennia and certainly solar, wind and biomass will last as long as the sun shines.”
* Originally published in the International Journal of Nuclear Governance, Economy and Ecology
Photo courtesy of Our-Energy.com