Some people call it “renewable energy,” but I prefer to call it “alternative energy,” because that’s what it really is: an alternative to energy that works (eg nuclear and anything made from wonderful, energy-rich fossil fuel.)
Now, two of the best scientists from uber-green The research team at Google has come to the same conclusion.
Ross Konigstein and David Fork, who both have PhDs from Stanford in aerospace engineering and applied physics, worked on a Google research project that tried to improve renewable energy technology so that it could make energy cheaper than coal. The project ended after four years, though. They explain why in this post at IEEE Spectrum.
We came to the conclusion that even if Google and other companies had led the way toward using renewable energy by everyone, this change would not have led to a big drop in carbon dioxide emissions. Using only the renewable energy technologies we have now to fight climate change won’t work; we need a fundamentally different approach.
Why does renewable energy fail so miserably? Because, as Lewis Page explains here, it’s so ridiculously inefficient and so ridiculously expensive that if we were stupid enough to try to use it on a larger scale than it is now, we’d have to bankrupt the whole world economy.
In a nutshell, renewable energy is useless because it takes so much steel, concrete, copper, glass, carbon fibre, neodymium, shipping, and hauling to make it work. This means that it probably uses more energy than it makes.