Solar and wind farms difficult to justify


The large-scale commercial production of solar and wind energy discussed on these pages reflects the concerns of individuals, political entities and environmentalists. It is based on the premise that climate is changing and that man is a significant contributor to that change and must adopt immediate methods of amelioration.

However, the unintended consequences of renewable energy development are seldom part of discussions. Renewable energy comes with significant, perhaps poorly considered costs and trade-offs (increased mineral exploration, environmental degradation; mining, transportation, and manufacturing in countries with poor labor and environmental standards). I suggest this is not the best use of scarce investment dollars. Alternatives (e.g. nuclear, natural gas) are generally dismissed out of hand. The marginal gain from developed countries imposing additional pollution reduction goals on current, effective pollution control methods to increase a unit of global pollution control is overwhelmed by countries such as China and India, today’s greatest contributors of pollution (and will be for at least another 30-years). Yes, developed countries need to continue developing pollution control measures that are achievable, and arguably more effective than wind and solar, and share that technology.

If help for the planet is immediate, spend money where it will provide the greatest benefit for the cost (send it to the greatest polluters). If one wants to feel good about “doing something,” by spending dollars on solar and wind farms (and long-term subsidies), understand these efforts provide marginal contributions to planet wide climate control and are difficult to justify financially under our economic system.

Gary Wyckoff