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The Renewable Energy Hoax

published, Jun 25, 2009 11:36am
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Renewable energy is one of those terms we hear a lot these days, with the green revolution peering out from behind peak oil, unstoppable climate change and a global economic May Day.

This is a story by Glenn Fay who blogs green on http://OakleighVermont.com/ and you can find him on twitter @OakleighVermont

Recently the solargroupies at Oakleigh Vermont read with great astonishment a blog post about renewable energy that nonchalantly included nuclear power. Calling nuclear power renewable is another example of special interests attempting to convince ordinary people of something that is blatantly false. We see this a lot in the climate change movement.

Renewable energy is energy that comes from natural sources and can be naturally replenished (that's where the renewable part comes in). Uranium, plutonium and other radioactive isotopes are in finite supply in the Earth's crust. Therefore, nuclear power is not renewable. What types of energy are renewable?

Tidal energy can be generated by tidal stream generators or by barrage generation. It is generally more environmentally friendly and causes less impact on established ecosystems since blades rotate underwater and is driven by the swiftly moving dense water. Tides are more predictable than wind energy and solar power.

Wave power is the capturing of ocean surface waves for electricity generation, water desalination, or the pumping of water (into reservoirs). The rising and falling of the waves moves the buoy-like structure creating mechanical energy which is converted into electricity and transmitted to shore over a submerged transmission line.

Photovoltaic (PV) Solar power is harnessing the suns energy to produce electricity. One of the fastest growing energy sources, new technologies are developing at a rapid pace. Solar cells are becoming more efficient, transportable and even flexible, allowing for easy installation.

Wind power is the conversion of wind energy by wind turbines into electricity or mechanical energy. Large-scale wind farms are typically connected to the local power transmission network with small turbines used to provide electricity to isolated areas.

Hydroelectricity is electricity generated by hydropower, which uses the gravitational force of falling or flowing water to spin a turbine generator. It is the most widely used form of renewable energy. Once a hydroelectric complex is constructed, the project produces no direct waste. However - not all Hydro is renewable...  in Australia the Hydro operators use coal fired electricity to pump water upstream to release downstream during peak demand periods, using it as a giant battery.

Radiant energy can do the same work as electricity at less than 1% of the cost. Switzerland currently has 5 or 6 working models of fuelless, self-running devices that tap this energy. Tesla’s magnifying transmitter, Moray’s radiant energy device, Gray’s EMA motor, and Baumann’s Testatika machine all run on radiant energy.

Geothermal energy can be performed on a small scale to provide heat for a residential unit (a geothermal heat pump), or on a very large scale for energy production through a geothermal power plant. It has been used for space heating and bathing since ancient roman times, but is now better known for generating electricity by spinning turbine generators.

Biomass refers to living and recently dead biological material that can be used as fuel or to generate electricity. Biomass includes trash such as dead trees and branches, yard clippings and wood chips biofuel, plant or animal matter used for production of fibers, chemicals or heat.

Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) is not renewable since it is a fossil fuel in finite supply that took millions of years to form. Natural gas, like other fossil fuels, produces carbon dioxide and water, two greenhouse gases, when burned.

Nuclear power is not renewable since radioactive isotopes are a finite resource and is not naturally replenished.


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"Radiant energy"!? "fuelless, self-running devices"!?

You've got to be bloody kidding. Let's just come right out and say it; you're promoting absurd charlatan perpetual motion machine claims as something we should be backing to provide our future energy needs. Do you seriously think we should go and invest in Steorn or Lutec?

I'm new to this online community, but is this kind of ridiculous nonsense commonplace here?

You can do exactly the same thing - pumped storage hydroelectricity - using electricity from wind or solar or anything like that, and this method is one of very few technologies that can be used for practical large scale, scalable, storage of energy from these sources of energy. For that reason, pumped storage is a really important technology with lots of important potential to improve the usability of low capacity factor sources of energy, such as wind and solar. If the energy is generated by burning coal, then it is the coal-fired generation which is "not renewable", not the stored water.

Now, onto nuclear energy. Saying that nuclear energy is no good because "it's not renewable!" is just a weak attempt to eliminate nuclear energy from the discussion, and hence promote the religious dogma of opposition to nuclear power, without any real substance or scientific integrity to the argument.

Solar energy comes from the fusion of hydrogen into helium within the Sun, as within the other main sequence stars. There is only a finite amount of hydrogen within the Sun, however, and it like the other stars has a finite lifetime.

As the Sun starts to evolve towards the end of its life, its luminosity will increase, and temperatures on Earth will become so hot that all life on Earth will become permanently extinguished. This is completely independant from any process in Earth's atmosphere, it's purely to do with the age of the sun. This will occur on a timescale of around 1 billion years from now. Life on Earth will not exist beyond about one billion years from now.

The resources of uranium and thorium in the Earth's crust (no substantial amount of plutonium exists in nature on Earth), and the uranium dissolved in the oceans (no significant amount of dissolved thorium exists in the oceans because it lacks solubility in that chemical environment) and hydrosphere, are fully sufficient to supply all the energy needs of our civilisation in meaningful, practical terms, for a billion years. On top of that, you've got the vast energy resources of deuterium and lithium on the Earth from which energy is generated by nuclear fusion.

In meaningful, practical terms, nuclear energy, both fission and fusion, is a completely sustainable resource over the future of life on Earth. There is no lack of abundance of these materials.

"But it's not renewable!" is just a complete non-argument. "Renewable" is just a trendy catch cry, a feel-good marketing buzzword without any real scientific rigor to its meaning or how it is used. Many so-called environmentalists hold an immutable dogma of opposition to nuclear energy, therefore they set up the poorly defined set of "renewables" so that nuclear energy is not in the set.

Geothermal heat comes from the radioactive decay of uranium (and thorium and potassium) within the Earth. How is it that the energy from geological in-situ radioactive decay of uranium is "renewable", but the energy from the fission of uranium in a nuclear reactor is not?

Stars are born, they live, and then they die. The massive, heavy stars die violently, in supernovae, and in the lives and deaths of stars, the atoms of matter - including, but not limited to, uranium, thorium, plutonium, etc - are formed. Those atoms accrete into new stars, planets and planetary systems. That sounds pretty "renewable" to me - or at least just as renewable as the light radiating out from the stars.

PS.: I may have come across as a little bit vitriolic above; that was *not* directed at Sam or anyone else associated with this site, but exclusively at the original author of the piece.

This article omits the dominant renewable energy system that would leave Luke without an answer - concentrating solar thermal power generation, with storage (molten salts), which delivers electricity 24/7, like they have in sunny spain courtesy of german company Solar Millenium. You should visit their website, Luke W. How does Luke suggest humanity deal with an ever increasing pile of deadly waste from reactors? The same way we do now? By leaving it to cool for 10 years in open air ponds emitting radioactivity? Luke has become sidetracked and thinks a lesson on the solar system a billion years from now provides the answers to the earth's energy crisis today. sorry Luke, you wouldnt sound convincing to my three year old let alone anyone else. Go back to your telescope and leave the solutions to those who have them.


Nice one Susie, hot salt thermal is a fantastic, nearly low tech answer that can provide base load solar AND even allow our antiquated coal boilers to be "repatriated" to their museum and still operate their turbines - most of which are sited close to HV transmistion assets.



Radioactive isotopes are also what drives geothermal energy. Also, nuclear power drives solar energy from the sun. Terrestrial nuclear power (including uranium, thorium, and fusion fuels such as deuterium) are extremely long lasting and sustainable on this planet. The author is uninformed on the matter.

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