Lee M Miller and David W Keith. Observation-based solar and wind power capacity factors and power densities. Environmental Research Letters 13 (2018) 104008.
Power density is the rate of energy generation per unit of land surface area occupied by an energy system. The power density of low-carbon energy sources will play an important role in mediating the environmental consequences of energy system decarbonization as the world transitions away from high power-density fossil fuels. All else equal, lower power densities mean larger land and environmental footprints. The power density of solar and wind power remain surprisingly uncertain: estimates of realizable generation rates per unit area for wind and solar power span 0.3–47 We m−2and 10–120 We m−2 respectively. We refine this range using US data from 1990–2016. We estimate wind power density from primary data, and solar power density from primary plant-level data and prior datasets on capacity density. The mean power density of 411 onshore wind power plants in 2016 was 0.50 We m−2. Wind plants with the largest areas have the lowest power densities. Wind power capacity factors are increasing, but that increase is associated with a decrease in capacity densities, so power densities are stable or declining. If wind power expands away from the best locations and the areas of wind power plants keep increasing, it seems likely that wind’s power density will decrease as total wind generation increases. The mean 2016 power density of 1150 solar power plants was 5.4 We m−2. Solar capacity factors and (likely) power densities are increasing with time driven, in part, by improved panel efficiencies. Wind power has a 10-fold lower power density than solar, but wind power installations directly occupy much less of the land within their boundaries. The environmental and social consequences of these divergent land occupancy patterns need further study.
The writers of this report (here) have been blinded by unrealistic or invalid assumptions. Indeed, a free-market capitalism with affordable energy and reasonable regulation is prerequisite to achieving sustainable communities. Sustainable communities and sustainability in general are simply not possible if the direction being proposed in this report is pursued.
American Electric Power Co. said Friday that it is scrapping plans to develop one of the largest wind farms in the U.S., a day after the project was rejected by Texas regulators. click here
“The revamped subsidy program that took effect Monday grants automakers 24,000 yuan ($3,780) for each electric car with the typical range of 200km to 250km per charge, down from 36,000 yuan.” click here
Although an interesting conceptual approach, serious limitations of this study render it not very useful for addressing real-world problems. No one, including these researchers, has any idea of the true extent of global “planetary boundaries” nor the planetary boundaries of nations. As with virtually all sustainability studies the metrics applied are arbitrary and unvalidated. It makes for an interesting conceptual thought exercise but is not appropriate (and misleading) as a decision-making tool.
Humanity faces the challenge of how to achieve a high quality of life for over 7 billion people without destabilizing critical planetary processes. Using indicators designed to measure a ‘safe and just’ development space, we quantify the resource use associated with meeting basic human needs, and compare this to downscaled planetary boundaries for over 150 nations. We find that no country meets basic needs for its citizens at a globally sustainable level of resource use. Physical needs such as nutrition, sanitation, access to electricity and the elimination of extreme poverty could likely be met for all people without transgressing planetary boundaries. However, the universal achievement of more qualitative goals (for example, high life satisfaction) would require a level of resource use that is 2–6 times the sustainable level, based on current relationships. Strategies to improve physical and social provisioning systems, with a focus on sufficiency and equity, have the potential to move nations towards sustainability, but the challenge remains substantial.
“Politicized Sustainability is the untenable, even dangerous variety. It relies on ideological assertions and theoretical models as an alternative to actual outside-our-windows reality and evidence. Like “dangerous man-made climate change,” its real purpose is gaining greater agitator and government control over people’s energy use, lives, livelihoods, liberties, and living standards. It reflects an abysmal understanding of basic energy, economic, resource extraction, manufacturing, and human rights realities.” click here
“Glencore and other major players in Australia’s mining and heavy industry sectors are threatening to shut mines and factories, and divert all investment elsewhere, unless Aussie energy prices fall back to internationally competitive levels.” click here