A Skeptic Looks at Alternative Energy
The most ardent supporters of solar, wind, and biomass argue that these sources can replace fossil fuels and create highly reliable, nonpolluting, carbon-free systems priced no higher than today's cheapest coal-fired electricity generation, all in just a few decades. That would be soon enough to prevent the rise of atmospheric carbon dioxide from its current level of 394 parts per million to more than 450 ppm-at which point, climatologists estimate, the average global temperature will rise by 2 °C. I wish all these promises would come true, but I think instead I'll put my faith in clear-eyed technical assessments.
by Vaclav Smil
in IEEE Spectrum
It takes several lifetimes to put a new energy system into place, and wishful thinking can't speed things along
In June 2004 the editor of an energy journal called to ask me to comment on a just-announced plan to build the world's largest photovoltaic electric generating plant. Where would it be, I asked-Arizona? Spain? North Africa? No, it was to be spread among three locations in rural Bavaria, southeast of Nuremberg.
I said there must be some mistake. I grew up not far from that place, just across the border with the Czech Republic, and I will never forget... [continue via Web link]