Claim: Transformation to wind and solar achievable with low indirect GHG emissions


Different low carbon technologies from wind or solar energy to fossil carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) differ greatly when it comes to indirect greenhouse gas emissions in their life cycle. This is the result of a comprehensive new study conducted by an international team of scientists that is now published in the journal Nature Energy. Unlike what some critics argue, the researchers not only found that wind and solar energy belong to the more favorable when it comes to life-cycle emissions. They also show that a full decarbonization of the global power sector by scaling up these technologies would induce only modest indirect greenhouse gas emissions – and hence not impede the transformation towards a climate-friendly power system.

“Both fossil and non-fossil power technologies still come with a certain amount of greenhouse gas emissions within their life cycle – on the one hand because it needs energy to construct and operate them, on the other hand because of methane emissions, e.g. from coal and gas production,” explains lead author Michaja Pehl. “However, we found there are substantial differences across technologies regarding their greenhouse gas balance. Electricity production from biomass, coal, gas and hydropower for instance induces much higher indirect greenhouse gas emissions than nuclear electricity, or wind and solar-based power supply.”

With their study the researchers provide an innovative and comprehensive global analysis of embodied energy use and indirect greenhouse gas emissions – from all relevant power sector technologies. For the first time, their study combines the strengths of simulations based on integrated energy-economy-climate models that estimate cost-optimal long-term strategies to meet climate targets with life cycle assessment approaches. So far, these research branches have operated separately. Exploring the life cycle emissions of future low-carbon supply systems and the implications for technology choices, they found that fossil power plants equipped with CCS will still account for life-cycle emissions of around 100 grams of CO2-equivalents per kWh of electricity produced, ten times more than the around 10 grams of CO2-equivalents for wind and solar power they project for 2050 in a climate protection scenario in which power production is almost completely decarbonized.

Wind and solar provide a much better greenhouse gas emissions balance than fossil-based technologies

“There is no such thing as truly clean coal. Conventional coal power currently comes with around 1000 grams of CO2-equivalents per kWh. Capturing CO2 from coal plants can reduce emissions per kWh by around 90 percent, but substantial life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions remain,” says Gunnar Luderer, energy system analyst from PIK and project leader. “To keep global warming below 2°C, however, virtually carbon free electricity is necessary. This makes it increasingly implausible that coal power will play a major role in the future, even if equipped with CO2 scrubbers.”

“When it comes to life cycle greenhouse gas emissions, wind and solar energy provide a much better greenhouse gas balance than fossil-based low carbon technologies, because they do not require additional energy for the production and transport of fuels, and the technologies themselves can be produced to a large extend with decarbonized electricity,” states Edgar Hertwich, an industrial ecologist from Yale University who co-authored the study. Due to technological innovation, less and less energy will be needed to produce wind turbines and solar photovoltaic systems.

“Some critics have argued renewable energies could come with high hidden greenhouse gas emissions that would negate their benefits to the climate. Our study now shows that the opposite is true,” concludes Luderer. “During the transition to clean power supply, the additional life-cycle emissions for building up wind and solar capacities are much smaller than the remaining emissions from existing fossil power plants before they can finally be decommissioned. The faster the low-carbon transformation of power supply is accomplished, the lower is the overall remaining carbon burden for the climate.”


Article: Michaja Pehl, Anders Arvesen, Florian Humpenöder, Alexander Popp, Edgar Hertwich, Gunnar Luderer (2017): Understanding Future Emissions from Low-Carbon Power Systems by Integration of Lice Cycle Assessment and Integrated Energy Modelling. Nature Energy. [DOI: 10.1038/s41560-017-0032-9]


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December 8, 2017 9:36 am

Has anything good every come out of PIK?

Reply to  daveburton
December 8, 2017 9:37 am


Bryan A
Reply to  daveburton
December 8, 2017 9:54 am

Bat free Caves??
(No bat in my cave…All PIKed out)

Reply to  daveburton
December 8, 2017 5:35 pm

IPCC / SRREN report published Jan.2012

‘Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (SRREN)’

By chapter and select any chapter including the Annexes.

Annexes IV & V

Contributors and Reviewers

Note: Contributions from PIK and U.S. NREL.

Reply to  Barbara
December 9, 2017 6:25 pm


‘Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate change’

By chapter

Chapter 7: “Energy Systems”

Re: renewable energy

M Seward
Reply to  daveburton
December 9, 2017 5:56 am

If there was a Potsdam Institute for Tobacco Safety (PITS) would anyone take any notice of anything they said, wrote or tweeted?

Just wondering. Dunno why though. :-).

Reply to  daveburton
December 9, 2017 9:40 am

Maybe yes, once: Othmar Edenhhofer recently uttered that Climate Change were no problem in Europe and that it may even be beneficial.
Schellnhuber, in the position of God, will not chastize him openly for that, but Rahmsdorf probably has already sunk his teeth into Edenhofers calf.

December 8, 2017 9:37 am

Nice article. What is the environmental impact of disposing of or recycling spent solar cells? (their efficiency degrades over time, they have a finite power production life) What is the environmental impact of manufacturing the solar cells? Are they composed of completely recyclable materials?

Reply to  Tim Vant - 3y3wonder
December 8, 2017 12:17 pm

Exactly, there is no mention of the short lifetime of wind and solar compared to a coal-fired power plant,. There is no mention that the supposed 15 year useful life of a wind turbine is not always achieved and that there will be a constant and growing activity of replacing huge quantities of wind turbines every year forever. If you build 100,000 a year, “building up the capability, and need 2,000,000 turbines, fifteen years down the line, there will be a need to replace 100,000 a year on top of building the 100,000 a year to increase the number. The sheer magnitude of the maintenance and replacement, let alone the huge environmental food print and massive infrastructure makes this a seriously ungreen endeavor.

Reply to  higley7
December 8, 2017 2:57 pm

If you just ignore emissions as a decision factor and stick with just the rest of the drawbacks of solar and wind as a primary energy source, could you have a viably functioning industrial grade electrical grid? And by the way, without fossil fuels there will be no money with which to provide subsidies unless you can conjure up a way for solar to subsidize wind while at the same time wind is subsidizing solar. (chuckle)

Reply to  higley7
December 8, 2017 5:43 pm
Ian Macdonald
Reply to  higley7
December 9, 2017 4:12 am

Exactly, and the total numbers could become asymptotic before the goal is reached.

Reply to  higley7
December 9, 2017 7:06 am

Indeed. Every able hand in the US would be employed in manufacturing, transportation, erecting, operating,tearing down, dismantling, disposing of solar and wind power-plants and electricity storage facilities to cover just the present consumption of 3300 GW overall of which 470 GW is electric of which W&S portion amounts to 40 GW and growing linearly for the past years.

Non Nomen
Reply to  Tim Vant - 3y3wonder
December 9, 2017 7:46 am

Couldn’t agree more. Ivory tower climate “scientists” tend to stop thinking when they see the results they want.

December 8, 2017 9:48 am

Maybe I read the article too quick or I missed any mention of the carbon cost of energy storage. Every debate I have had, most of what I have read from the CAGW side, they act as if solar and wind supply electricity 24/7 and are occasionally down for maintenance. They also act like solar and wind have no other impacts but the carbon sources required to build and install them. Why no mention of nuclear or hydroelectric? Or do they know the environmentalist useful idiots that support their funding oppose such energy sources.

Mark from the Midwest
December 8, 2017 9:49 am

About 12 weeks ago Traverse City Light and Power a commissioned a solar array. TCLP is highly politicized public power company. The array is claimed to supply 20% of the electricity for 12,700 homes and approximately 800 small to medium size businesses. Since commissioning that array there have been about 8 sunny days. I just drove by the thing on the way back to my more sane locale, (which is supplied by a customer owned co-op). The array was covered in about 4 inches of snow. Would someone please tell these people that solar is not just inefficient it’s absurd when you start to get something north of the 45th parallel.

Bryan A
Reply to  Mark from the Midwest
December 8, 2017 10:00 am

Perhaps even lower than that latitude.
Provided, as theory dictates, CO2 is the control knob, as CO2 levels drop, so will their predicted temperatures (especially in winter). This will in turn produce colder winters with more snowy days and drop the snow line in respect to both altitude and latitude acting to decrease the efficiency of Solar for more months out of the year.

Reply to  Bryan A
December 8, 2017 10:38 am

Brian A. : A brilliant example of negative feedback.

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  Bryan A
December 8, 2017 10:44 am

Live by the CO2 control knob, die by the CO2 control knob.

Crispin in Waterloo but really in Bishkek
Reply to  Bryan A
December 9, 2017 6:20 am

Lowering the CO2 concentration to the pre-industrial level will cause an 18% drop in food production globally. With fewer people to feed, there will be less energy needed to live and move.

What’s not to like? People living now should devote their lives to building more wind turbines, put them up, generate power to make more of them, then die? Thanks Potsdam.

The best point above is the point made about the energy cost of energy storage.

A point not made is that hydro can be made sort of as unreliable as wind by building run-of-river generators that need and have no storage. That negates the entire ‘methane from dams’ argument. Hydro power is cheap, reliable, has a huge EROEI number and is quiet to boot.

Tidal power (Bay of Fundy etc) has big potential. Then there’s the thermal station floating in oceans with a cold bottom. They work and run 24/7. There is a lot more we can think of before getting to little nukes with novel ideas inside.

Steve Keppel-Jones
Reply to  Mark from the Midwest
December 8, 2017 11:16 am

I wonder if that claim is based on nameplate rating, or on actual power generated. Those two numbers can be very different! And if they are not being totally disingenuous and actually using generated power, is it an average, a peak on a warm sunny summer day, or what?

Steve Keppel-Jones
Reply to  Mark from the Midwest
December 8, 2017 11:28 am

According to the web site, the M-72 project is a 1 Megawatt solar project, with 3,400 panels, which works out to about 300 W/panel, which sounds about right for a standard panel. That’s nameplate, of course. 1 MW nameplate, if divided among 13,000 homes and businesses, works out to about 74 watts per customer, maximum, on a sunny summer day, when first installed, and if kept clean – and of course typically much less. I think a hamster wheel would produce more power. And they are calling that 20% of the needed power? All those homes and businesses are supposed to get by on 370 watts when it is high noon, and 5 or 10 watts the rest of the time? I hope they don’t need to use a dishwasher, an electric oven, a microwave, a fridge, a freezer, a vacuum cleaner, a toaster, or any incandescent light bulbs at all…

Bryan A
Reply to  Steve Keppel-Jones
December 8, 2017 12:19 pm

Well of course it is 20% of the NEEDED power. After all, who should really NEED more than that??

Reply to  Steve Keppel-Jones
December 9, 2017 11:40 am

They will need that hamster wheel to charge their electric chariots.


Walter Sobchak
Reply to  Mark from the Midwest
December 8, 2017 12:06 pm

Potsdam is a suburb of Berlin, Germany it is at 52° 24′ North latitude. Today it will get 7hr48′ of daylight. At noon, the sun was 15° above the horizon. I wonder how much electricity they got from their solar cells today. BTW, the farthest southern point in Germany is at the latitude of Bemidji MN, 47° N.

Germany is burning lignite to make electricity so they don’t freeze in the dark.

Anyone who listens to these people is more foolish than they are.

John Hardy
Reply to  Walter Sobchak
December 8, 2017 11:43 pm

London is 51 North, Edinburgh 55 North, Cape Wrath 58 North

John in Oz
Reply to  Mark from the Midwest
December 8, 2017 12:56 pm

The green blob seem to be able to ignore or forget the REASON for building any form of electrical generation, that is to provide stable, reliable and sufficient electrical power to all levels of society no matter where they live.

Steve Keppel-Jones
Reply to  John in Oz
December 11, 2017 5:22 am

Well John, that’s the reason that normal power engineers build electrical generation. The green blob, though, have a different motive…

Reply to  Mark from the Midwest
December 9, 2017 6:43 am

That area of Michigan usually gets lots of lake-effect snow in the winter. Unless they’ve got somebody to go out there and clear off the snow on a regular basis, that array is going to make about zip in the way of power between Thanksgiving and Easter.

December 8, 2017 9:51 am

As most of the solar cells are produced in China, as well as a great deal of wind components, what is the CO2 production involved in making the “renewables”? As no one anywhere is running industry on renewables only, PiK seems to be pretending the production of the equipment is CO2 free.

Reply to  Tom Halla
December 8, 2017 1:01 pm

China only produces unmeasurable harmless CO2…….

December 8, 2017 9:52 am

Not much carbon in fairy dust and wishful thinking , sadly no power in it either.
Still they could show us how it is all done by refusing to anything but renewable power, what do you think the odds are on that?

F. Leghorn
Reply to  knr
December 9, 2017 4:36 am

Oh, like you know the actual energy potential in fairy dust.

David Dibbell
December 8, 2017 9:52 am

“…around 10 grams of CO2-equivalents for wind and solar power they project for 2050 in a climate protection scenario in which power production is almost completely decarbonized.” So if I get the point correctly, once decarbonized power is available, wind and solar can be manufactured and installed with little CO2-equivalent impact. But wait … you can’t get there from here! Another reason to favor nuclear and natural gas combined-cycle power.

December 8, 2017 10:02 am

There is absolutely NO NEED to reduce CO2 emissions.

The whole concept come from an idiotic brain-washed CO2-hatred.

Hatred for the fundamental building block of all life on this planet of ours.

Reply to  AndyG55
December 8, 2017 12:08 pm

Andy, I like your style more when you question the need of stinging creatures in bathrooms.

About the need – absolutely I don’t know if we needed, but because there is no way to seriously decrease emissions without doing extraordinary damage, the question is no-brainer. No reason to do just Something when you need a positive result.

BTW, they don’t hate CO2 so much as Christian conservatives, men, Westerners, and humans in general.

I have no clue why they are so anti-life when they purport to protect it. Maybe it is the paradigm that blinds people. I’m not a Christian, just offended by greens.

Andy Pattullo
Reply to  AndyG55
December 8, 2017 12:10 pm

Exactly. And when one taxes CO2 emissions they literally tax the air we breath (about 40,000 PPM CO2 in expired air and 400 ppm for inspired Air). The only reliable changes in the biosphere we can presently measure from increased atmospheric CO2 are positive and the likely social cost of carbon should be expressed as a social benefit, not cost.

Reply to  AndyG55
December 8, 2017 12:23 pm

Yes, any mention of any project or policy that involves “GHG emissions” is by definition a bad policy as the foundation for the policy or project is junk science. Many people have developed their thinking to include, as a knee-jerk reaction, that we need to decrease emissions. It is taken for granted that emissions are bad and therefore the discussion is only about what to do about it. Really sad state of affairs, to have these people assuming something false to be true.

December 8, 2017 10:09 am

It all comes down to economics. I can engineer a ‘green’ energy system with the same reliability as the present system. It’s not that hard. The only tiny problem is that we won’t be able to afford it.

They may be able to build super efficient wind turbines but the supporting structures will still consume huge quantities of steel and concrete. link

Folks who want to sell us pixie dust almost always ignore important details.

Reply to  commieBob
December 8, 2017 1:02 pm

This ain’t pixie dust. It’s CdTe vapor dust in automated production lines that will undercut the Chinese and everyone else. Rational investors picked up on that this week. Can you?

see analyst day set of presentations

Deplorable B Woodman
December 8, 2017 10:13 am

My objection to most EnviroNazis, is their wanting to reduce CO2. Why? CO2 is useful to the plant life cycle. Do these EnviroWeenies want a dead, desiccated, desert planet? Earth has had, at one time, an atmospheric CO2 level at least 10x higher than today. Look at what life was like then.
Now, if you’re talking about some other pollutant, let’s talk. I may listen. But CO2?

Reply to  Deplorable B Woodman
December 8, 2017 2:06 pm

Deplorable, most of them don’t want a dead, desiccated, desert planet. My mother-in-law is a CAGW believer. Last time I saw her, I asked her which gas is frequently pumped into greenhouses. She honestly had no clue. I was flabbergasted. I was gentle – she’s not bad as mother-in-laws go. but I did point out it was CO2, to concentrations as high as 1000 ppm. They might like to go higher, but CO2 is expensive, and the return on investment seems to slow rapidly after 1000 ppm.
This was absolute news to her. She’s no idiot, and in fact much more clever than her husband is with his BSEE. But she had never heard that CO2 is pumped into greenhouses, or that plants did better with higher concentrations of CO2 – or that they started dying at levels less than 160 ppm.
Conversely, letting CO2 levels in the blood get too low results in dizziness. That is why when people hyperventilate, they are instructed to breath into a paper bag. This re-circulates the (climbing) CO2 until it reaches a sufficiently high concentration that blood can resume transporting oxygen out of the lungs.
However, I DO believe she would prefer a planet without humans. Well, not her and her family, but pretty much everyone else. From a Southern Maryland culture that does not like Blacks (or anyone of ‘color’), it was pointed out to me that I was not a true conservative because I did not have a dislike for Blacks. They still voted for Obama.
Liberals are strange people. And despite me challenging her to check it out on the internet, I’ll bet she didn’t do it, and still believes CO2 is bad for the planet. She’s been taught not to argue with ‘deniers’ – we’re beyond learning, or acting outside the dictates of our leaders.
I am perplexed, though, by many internet sites promoting CO2 for greenhouses. They state that 4,000+ ppm is toxic to humans. Per an earlier WUWT post, submarines run 4,100 – 10,600 ppm. The low O2 (for fire safety reasons) is a problem for humans, but still leaves them functional.

F. Leghorn
Reply to  kaliforniakook
December 9, 2017 4:44 am

Dislike of black people isn’t a “Southern” thing. It is a “Southern Democrat” thing. And I’m pretty sure you can drop the “Southern” part.

December 8, 2017 10:18 am

“For the first time, their study combines the strengths of simulations based on integrated energy-economy-climate models that estimate cost-optimal long-term strategies to meet climate targets with life cycle assessment approaches”

Building a model and using simulations means constructing a narrative that fits what one wants to prove. It is the ultimate in circular reasoning. Until there’s something besides “proving” science with a narrow band of information that leads directly to the desired outcome, there is no science.

As commieBob notes, we may be able to create what is modeled, but the cost is astronomical. That is rarely considered in models, which indicates the models are not selling reality, but rather fantasy. Until all important factors—cost, materials, transportation, etc are included in the model and reflect the real world, not the desired outcome, models and “research” of this kind are useless. Maybe “research” using models should have a special name, indicating that no one really tested the theory.

F. Leghorn
Reply to  Sheri
December 9, 2017 4:49 am

I’m convinced that being a leftist and a scientist is incredibly rewarding. No matter what kind of experiment you run you always get the exact results you expect to get. How cool it must be to never be wrong.

Reply to  F. Leghorn
December 9, 2017 11:47 am

And get an emolument for it, too,
I will make sure my grand-daughters learn this, and about who has to pay for it!


December 8, 2017 10:20 am

There was a post earlier today analysing how many people died from nasty fossil fuelled power stations.

Yet the great and the good are perfectly happy using CCS, which not only still emits the same pollution, but is much less fuel efficient.

In other words, there is more pollution with CCS per TWh.

Forgive me if I sound confused!

Reply to  Paul Homewood
December 9, 2017 2:11 am

Plus the coal will run out sooner as they need to burn 30% more to provide the energy needed for the CCS. Makes sense to me ;).

Paul Penrose
December 8, 2017 10:21 am

I don’t think they included in their calculations the fact that the upkeep and eventual replacement of 10’s of millions of windmills and solar panels will increase future energy needs by a significant amount. So they will need even more of them. Since their EROEI is not very high, this is a particularly vicious cycle.

Reply to  Paul Penrose
December 8, 2017 11:57 am

Do they factor the backup base load capacity that will continue to be needed because of intermittency, or do they assume that renewables can reliably produce power 24/7 with no intermittency?

December 8, 2017 10:23 am

If you want low cost reliable low carbon energy, you want nuclear, especially molten salt small modular reactors. Moltex Energy, a British developer who’s first in line for Canadian regulatory approval, has cost estimates of under $2 per watt build costs and less than 4 cents per kWhr levelized production costs, and a lifespan of more than 60 years,probably more than 90 years,
many times the lifespan of solar panels or wind turbines. And minimal decomissioning costs.

Reply to  arthur4563
December 8, 2017 6:23 pm

Moltex Energy? Do they have functioning generators, or is this still on the drawing board?

December 8, 2017 10:30 am

Ok. Who removed the names of Han’s Christian Anderson and the Grim Brothers off the list of contributors to this paper? Always love a good fairy story.

Reply to  Mack
December 8, 2017 10:50 am

That should be Hans not Han’s of course. The tyranny of dueling with auto correcting spellcheckers when you’ve misplaced your glasses!

December 8, 2017 10:33 am

We’re seeing plans for dismantling of turbines visible from Britain’s Lake District in the news today:
Britain Starts Dismantling Wind Farms After Successful Lake District Campaign | The Global Warming Policy Forum (GWPF)
Who pays for the dismantling?

December 8, 2017 10:34 am

The study must ignore the ‘little’ problem of intermittency to come to such a conclusion.

Dr. Bob
December 8, 2017 10:35 am

Life Cycle Assessments often exclude issues that they cannot handle well so that they can get an answer. For wind and solar, issues that cannot be easily handled are land use change especially with regards to change in ground albedo (reflectivity). Wind LCA studies cannot take into account indirect impacts such as low frequency noise pollution or impacts on birds/bats, etc. These impacts can be greater than the benefits provided (if any) by the initial instillation, especially for solar. Then there is the Solar Thermal Array which has collimated solar beams that fry insects and birds/bats. This is often swept under the rug.
I also have issues with aesthetics of the region where wind turbines (especially when stopped) cause extreme degradation of the beauty of an area. Take the Palm Springs area as one example. I am surprised that the huge number of rich people that live in PS haven’t taken up arms against the unsightly wind farms littering their landscape.

Tari Péter
December 8, 2017 10:54 am

In some countries carbon dioxide is captured and sequestrated (CCS). The very sad truth is that in other countries carbon dioxide is even mined from wells which are similar to natural gas wells. As a matter of fact, carbon dioxide is also a natural gas. Mined carbon dioxide is commercialized in form of big bricks or pellets or in pressurized bottles. Is this an objectionable practice?

Regards to all

Tari Péter

F. Leghorn
Reply to  Tari Péter
December 9, 2017 5:26 am

Is this an objectionable practice?

Regards to all

Tari Péter

Not if the people doing it believe in global warming. And hate those who don’t.

December 8, 2017 11:21 am

“For the first time, their study combines the strengths of simulations based on integrated energy-economy-climate models that estimate cost-optimal long-term strategies to meet climate targets with life cycle assessment approaches”. WTF? Has this sentence come from a Corporate Bullshit Generator?

Paul Penrose
Reply to  Phillip Bratby
December 8, 2017 3:50 pm

Yeah, my BS-o-meter pegged on that one too!

Reply to  Phillip Bratby
December 9, 2017 4:34 pm

“For the first time, their study combines the strengths of simulations based on integrated energy-economy-climate models that estimate cost-optimal long-term strategies to meet climate targets with life cycle assessment approaches”

It’s English Captain, but not as we know it!

December 8, 2017 11:23 am

Kind of interesting that all these papers and models start with the assumption that green energy must be mandated and enforced by regulators and central authorities. Hats are tipped for Germany in particular. Yet ERCOT which is on its way to 18% wind energy without being forced via mandates is ignored. ERCOT maintains a lower than average utility rate even when considering the cost of the upgraded transmission lines. If interconnects to other states are not expanded it is likely that ERCOT will eventually generate 25% of its electricity via wind, and it is highly probable that solar will eventually contribute minimally 10%. That is due to the fact that up to 10% the grid will maintain peak pricing during high solar times, it will only be after 10% penetration that the peak is shifted and the economics of solar begin to fail.
So ERCOT is likely to hit 35% wind and solar, and maintain 20% Nuc without mandates (okay, so there is a mandate, but that has long since been blown past and is not relevant to the current discussion). The economic question will really be whether wind per kWh subsidized will be cost competitive with gas. It is already pretty stinking close. Any minor increase in gas prices (from oh I don’t know, maybe increased exports?) will push the balance to “use wind when there’s wind, solar when there’s solar, and gas when there isn’t.”

Retired Kit P
Reply to  chadb
December 8, 2017 6:43 pm

Texas will be happy to sell the gas saved to California.
I have not looked in a while but a significant part of California renewable energy projects are in states like Texas.

Moderately Cross of East Anglia
December 8, 2017 12:23 pm

There is good news from the UK – local campaign groups have won a victory against extending the licence for a windfarm. This is in the very attractive Lake District in the North West of England, which has been blighted by these ugly subsidy farming windmills. They must now be removed and hopefully all trace of their hideous footprint removed. There is hope.

Reply to  Moderately Cross of East Anglia
December 8, 2017 1:05 pm

It has already been predicted that the company which owns this windfarm will conveniently go bust before clearing the site, thus leaving the tax payer to pick up the tab. It will be interesting to see how things play out.

December 8, 2017 12:57 pm

• Simulating a model @ 50% wind/solar utilization when current production rates are ~1% of global energy demand is irrational, i.e. a black swan event.
• No emphasis on nuclear as baseload, therefore the study results are biased.
• CCS is not a viable technology solution and never will be.

Bruce Cobb
December 8, 2017 1:24 pm

These “climate researchers” live in a land of make-believe, and blithely just assume that CO2 is a problem, and that climate is a problem we need to fix. They then proceed to build stupidity upon stupidity in a careful, meticulous way, as if anything they say makes any sense whatsoever. Amazing.

December 8, 2017 3:27 pm

Claim. Kool Aid with poison in it will take you to heaven today.

December 8, 2017 3:36 pm

What they “forget” is that you need 100% (fossil) backup for each MW capacity they have in wind and solar.

“Classic” power is mostly in huge units 500-1500 MW, no matter if that is coal, gas, hydro or nuclear.
If one of these units unexpectly shuts down, you need, as a rule of tumb, some 10% backup and in case that there is second in maintenance at the same time, some 10% help from the neighbors by interconnections.

The situation in Germany, source of the above study, is that they had already 130% capacity in classic power, of which 20% nuclear. 10% is already closed and in a few years the other 10% will be closed too.
They also have 110% nameplate capacity in wind and solar. Problem for the latter is that this is really 110% at some moments and less than 10% at other moments and everything in between. In the first case they dump their surplus at the neighbors. For regulation they mainly use the coal (and gas) units and a little pumped hydro.

Except for hydro, you have to attribute 90% of the backup, whatever that be (batteries, power to gas, gasturbines,..) to the installed wind and solar power. Not only for the installation, but for the real CO2 emissions during use when there is no wind and sun…

For an overview of the momentary power generation mix in Germany, see:
and choose “Alle Quellen” (all sources)
This week there was/is a lot of wind power, hardly any sun. Then compare the situation now with that of week (“woche”) 3 at the beginning of this year…

Reply to  Ferdinand Engelbeen
December 9, 2017 2:49 am

You are absolutely right, Ferdinand. The real situation in Germany is even worse. Look here for the actual status of the Energiewende:

Co2 emissions flat since years despite a whopping 70 GW installation of RE since 2008 and only a minor reduction of nuclear in 2011, which they use as an excuse. Prices have soared some 30%. Neighbours as Poland & Czech Rep. are complaining and now building energy walls against against german excess windpoer. Costs for regulating the grid have risen from 30 million Euro to 1 billion Euro in 8 years.

Calculating the need of windmills in a 100% decarbonised Germany with the current power consumption leaves you with approx. 1 million winmills. That means a windmill every 600 m, no matter where you are, forest, land, streets, cities. This relates to a yearly capex (no operation costs) of about 0.5 trllion Euro.

The PIK is right, it is feasible. The questions remaining: Who wants it and who is aware of the consequences?

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Ferdinand Engelbeen
December 9, 2017 7:46 pm

“Ferdinand Engelbeen December 8, 2017 at 3:36 pm”

Wrong! There is *ALWAYS* backup wind and sunshine, isn’t that right Griff? Griff? Griff….?!

John F. Hultquist
December 8, 2017 6:16 pm

Take the area needed per tower or panel.
Scale those up to “full decarbonization of the global power** sector.
Equals big belly laugh.
[ **Note the word ‘power’, not electricity. ]

Being harvesters of diffuse energy at Earth’s surface, wind and solar are land hogs.
Nuclear, oil, gas, and coal are more energy dense. Any one or combination of these does less environmental damage.

The folks from Potsdam have mush for brains.

Reply to  John F. Hultquist
December 8, 2017 7:29 pm

“The folks from Potsdam have mush for brains.” Not true! Creating and maintaining an elaborate fiction takes a great deal of intelligence. Less intelligent people can’t deal with that much cognitive dissonance, and go back to thinking about how they are going to make ends meet and the next time they are going to have sex. Intelligent people have the ability to concern themselves with how the rest of the world should be, in addition to thinking about making a living and having sex.

The true brilliance of the human mind lies in pattern recognition, but that is also the source of its greatest danger. With very little information, we can discern patterns that allow us to make remarkably productive decisions, but sometimes we see patterns that aren’t really there. When this happens, we will often choose those patterns over the available evidence. The more intelligent we are, the more capable we are at defending our incorrect patterns, and convincing ourselves that we are right.

Consequently, very smart people can completely disagree about the very same thing, and make extremely persuasive arguments for their side. Wisdom, on the other hand, recognizes that both sides are defending patterns derived from incomplete information and are certainly both incorrect.

And here is where the skeptic is born.

Retired Kit P
December 8, 2017 6:57 pm

“compared with 3.5–12 gCO2eq kWh−1 for nuclear, wind and solar power for 2050.”
The three most important factors is LCA are location, location, location. Few places have the idea wind or solar resources to match nuclear which can be built anyplace.

December 9, 2017 3:50 am

‘They also show that a full decarbonization of the global power sector by scaling up these technologies would induce only modest indirect greenhouse gas emissions – and hence not impede the transformation towards a climate-friendly power system.’

How much GHG will be emitted clearing Africa and South America to provide enough land for all this wind/solar?

Crispin in Waterloo but really in Bishkek
Reply to  Gamecock
December 9, 2017 6:51 am

Africa has the Congo River. It can generate more power than Europe needs. Cost reputed to be 1 cent per kWh.

The claimed emissions from the life cycle of hydro power are laughable. Higher then wind power?? When one reads that claim, the rest of the paper is suspect.

December 9, 2017 5:06 am

Fall storm takes out power companies $200mm smart meter system.

On that note, my 2 granddaughters (5 and 3 yo) got to see and play in snow for the first time in their lives…in San Antonio! They loved it!

Reply to  john
December 9, 2017 5:45 am

“Fall storm takes out power companies $200mm smart meter system.”

That’s too bad. My local rural electric co-op has such a system; it is quite worthwhile.

Retired Kit P
Reply to  Gamecock
December 9, 2017 8:22 am

How is it worth while?

Roger Graves
December 9, 2017 6:44 am

“To keep global warming below 2°C, however, virtually carbon free electricity is necessary.”

There is absolutely no problem with implementing a completely carbon-free electricity system. All you need to do is convince people that a standard of living equal to that of their nineteenth century ancestors is what they really want, plus a few other minor restrictions, such as being allocated a 2 a.m. slot in which to cook dinner and wash clothes. Oh, and baths/showers once a week, but this time you might be allocated a 4 a.m. slot.

There is no limit to what social engineering can achieve if we really put our minds to it.

Crispin in Waterloo but really in Bishkek
Reply to  Roger Graves
December 9, 2017 7:01 am


You can also use the living examples of North Korea, camel-powered eastern Mauritania and the San people of the western Kalahari Desert. I would include the Old Order Amish but the Elders are permitting them to use cell phones on the basis that they do not involve wires, which are verboten. We can have a nuke-free zero carbon world with an ever-advancing civilisation provided we redefine ‘advancing’ as ‘retreating forwards’.

Reply to  Crispin in Waterloo but really in Bishkek
December 9, 2017 11:10 am

Crispin Somewhere on this small world,

permitting them to use cell phones on the basis that they do not involve wires

How do they reload the batteries of their cell phones without wires?

December 9, 2017 10:42 am

Why does anybody care about co2 since the warming model does not correlate to co2 concentration?

December 9, 2017 2:07 pm

“..the additional life-cycle emissions for building up wind and solar capacities are much smaller than the remaining emissions from existing fossil power plants before they can finally be decommissioned.”

I’ll accept their best estimates at arriving at that outcome from their calculations. However they’ve seem to have missed an important part of the equation here and that’s comparing like with like. Thermal is despatchable and they haven’t calculated the life cycle emissions of say the Tesla Big Battery to make a ceratin amount of the Hornsdale wind farm electricity output despatchable 24/7 all year round. Give us those comparisons with the batteries, pumped hydro or even molten salt storage and then let’s see how well the renewables stack up. Without that some would say there’s a pea and thimble trick going on here.

December 9, 2017 2:17 pm

You know my communal firefighting services tender is the cheapest by far folks and never mind the fireys won’t be on duty when the wind doesn’t blow or blows too hard or the sun doesn’t shine. Look at the savings.

December 9, 2017 2:34 pm
December 11, 2017 4:36 am

Due to technological innovation, less and less energy will be needed to produce wind turbines and solar photovoltaic systems.

Sorry, but with that simple statement they lose ALL credibility. R&D is always speculative and positive results can never be counted on.

Fusion power is the perfect example. The big breakthrough that will make it work economically is always just a few more years away. The problem is the story has been repeated for 40 years.

Mike Rossander
December 11, 2017 12:32 pm

“decarbonized electricity” has nothing to do with the main source of indirect greenhouse gas production across the lifecycle of a wind power installation. That main source by a LOT is concrete. Roughly 400 pounds of CO2 per cubic yard of concrete if my math is right.
Unless they are proposing to start making both roads and towers out of wood again?

Mike Rossander
Reply to  Mike Rossander
December 11, 2017 1:27 pm

Expanding on that, a mile of maintenance road paved 9 feet wide (rounded down to make the math easier) and 6″ thick requires 880 cubic yards of concrete and has a useful life of about 25 years. That works out to an annualized CO2 budget of 7.04 tons per year per mile of road alone.

A 300′ tall onshore wind tower requires about 1500 cubic yards of concrete – about 650 for the tower itself and another 850 for the footer. Again, using a useful life of about 25 years, that works out to a shade under 12 tons of CO2 per tower per year just due to the concrete. Obviously, an offshore tower would require even more concrete.

A 300′ tower would typically have a nameplate capacity in the 1.5 MW range. Even ignoring the difference between nameplate and realized capacity (and ignoring the maintenance roads completely), that works out to about 8 tons of CO2 per MW. If I remember correctly, natural gas comes in at a bit over half a ton of CO2 per MW and even coal is only a bit over a ton per MW.

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