Thursday, October 01, 2009


Reality Check: Behind Those Solar Panels

As readers know, I am all in favor or building as much renewable energy capacity as we can right now, not because I think it will save industrial civilization, but because it will facilitate a soft landing. Better that the lights go out little by little than all at once.

To help illustrate one of the problems of renewables, look at their production processes. Here is an example (I want to emphasize this is just an example of the point I want to make; I encourage this company to go full speed ahead and make all the panels they can while it’s still possible). Take a look at the plant and equipment, and imagine how much fossil-fuel energy is embodied in just this one operation — and by extension, in the product itself.

Without fossil fuels, none of this would be happening. No one seems to be giving this any serious thought, but the problem should be obvious to anyone when looking at a factory and its equipment. Unless a source of dense energy to replace fossil fuels is found, this can only continue for as long as fossil fuels are affordable.

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