Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Renewable Energy Infrastructure: A Problem

Here I want to build on the previous post with an observation about renewable energy.

The plan is to replace fossil fuels by using other energy sources, with renewables being a major component. Or maybe the biggest component. That’s why everyone is calling for lots of investment in renewables, including construction of facilities and research into other potential kinds of renewables.

I’m all in favor of building all we can and as soon as we can, but there is a pitfall that almost everyone seems to be overlooking. All the infrastructure we are building now, and proposing to build in the future, needs to be maintained. Machines wear out and break down. Solar panels need to be washed. Renewable energy infrastructure also requires ancillary facilities, such as access roads, which also need to be maintained. All this infrastructure will be added on to the infrastructure we already have in place. Now you can see the problem: We have arrived at the point where we cannot maintain existing infrastructure, but the push for renewables will add still more, thereby increasing the already too-heavy burden. Competition for maintenance will just keep increasing as the energy available for maintenance is decreasing.

I can already see the visions of a Glorious Technological Future melting like ice cream on a hot summer day.

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