How many km2 of solar panels in Spain and how much battery backup would it take to power Germany

Written by Dr. Lars Schernikau and Prof. William H. Smith

Published November 2020, last updated February 2021 (the authors appreciated all received feedback leading to this substantially revised version).
Publicly available at Researchgate & SSRN

About the authors:

Dr. Lars Schernikau is an energy economist and entrepreneur in the energy raw material industry.

Prof. William Hayden Smith is Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at McDonnell Center for Space Sciences at Washington University.

DOI: 10.2139/ssrn.3730155


This is a back-of-the-envelope calculation based on experience from existing PV plants in California and publicly available battery data and insolation data for Spain. The calculations can be adjusted using different assumptions.


·         Power (in Watts, in German “Leistung”) is the horsepower of a car’s engine. Energy to drive a Tesla, for example, is derived from a battery. A Tesla S half-ton kWh battery powers a 192 kW electric motor to accelerate the 2,2-ton Tesla S.

·         Energy (in Watt/hour or Wh, in German “Arbeit oder Energie”) is how much work it takes to move the 2,2-ton car, for instance, for 1h at 100 km/h over a specified terrain. Energy is equivalent to “work”. In this case, energy varies with travel time, velocity, mass, aerodynamics, friction, and the power applied to overcome those “obstacles”. The half-ton Tesla S battery stores energy of 85 to 100 kWh.

·         Capacity Factor “CF” (in German “Nutzungsgrad”) is the percentage of power output achieved from the installed capacity for a given site, usually stated on an annual basis.

–        Capacity factor is not the efficiency factor. Efficiency measures the percentage of input energy transformed to usable energy.

–        Capacity factor assumes a stable photovoltaic response and measures the site quality, which varies with latitude, air mass, season, diurnal (24h sun cycle at that location), and weather.

–        In Germany, photovoltaics (“PV”) achieve an average annual capacity factor of ~10%, while California reaches an annual average CF of 25%3. Thus, California yields 2,5x the output of an identical PV plant in Germany.

–        It is important to distinguish between the average annual capacity factor and the monthly or better weekly and daily capacity factor, which is very relevant when we try to use solar for our daily power needs (See Figure 5).

1.      Abstract

Germany is responsible for about 2 % of global annual CO2 emissions from energy. To match Germany’s electricity demand (or over 15% of EU’s electricity demand) solely from solar photovoltaic panels located in Spain, about 7 % of Spain would have to be covered with solar panels (~35.000 km2). Spain is the best-situated country in Europe for solar power, better in fact than India or (South) East Asia. The required Spanish solar park (PV-Spain) will have a total installed capacity of 2.000 GWp or almost 3x the 2020 installed solar capacity worldwide of 715 GW. In addition, backup storage capacity totaling about 45 TWh would be required. To produce sufficient storage capacity from batteries using today’s leading technology would require the full output of 900 Tesla Gigafactories working at full capacity for one year, not counting the replacement of batteries every 20 years. For the entire European Union’s electricity demand, 6 times as much – about 40 % of Spain (~200.000 km2) – would be required, coupled with a battery capacity 6x higher.

To keep the Solar Park functioning just for Germany, PV panels would need to be replaced every 15 years, translating to an annual silicon requirement for the panels reaching close to 10% of current global production capacity (~135% for one-time setup). The silver requirement for modern PV panels powering Germany would translate to 30% of the annual global silver production (~450% for one-time setup). For the EU, essentially the entire annual global silicon production and 3x the annual global silver production would be required for replacement only.

There are currently not enough raw materials available for a battery backup. A 14-day battery storage solution for Germany would exceed the 2020 global battery production by a factor of 4 to 5x. To produce the required batteries for Germany alone (or over 15% of EU’s electricity demand) would require mining, transportation and processing of 0,4-0,8 billion tons of raw materials every year (7 to 13 billion tons for one-time setup), and 6x more for Europe. The raw materials required include lithium, copper, cobalt, nickel, graphite, rare earths & bauxite, coal, and iron ore for aluminum and steel. The 2020 global production of lithium, graphite anodes, cobalt or nickel would not nearly suffice by a multiple factor to produce the batteries for Germany alone.

It appears that solar’s low energy density, high raw material input and low energy-Return-On-energy-Invested (eROeI) as well as large storage requirements make today’s solar technology an environmentally and economically unviable choice to replace conventional power at large scale.

2.      Introduction and Assumptions

On 3rd July 2020, the German Minister for the Environment Ms. Svenja Schulze announced publicly (translated from German) that “Germany will be the first country to abandon coal and nuclear energy. We will rely completely on energy derived from solar and wind”. This statement as well as the IEA’s October 2020 proclamation that solar will become the “new king of the world’s electricity markets” led the authors to make the calculations herein.

The goal of this paper is to calculate how much solar installed capacity in Spain is needed to supply Germany’s electricity requirement 100% with solar energy produced in Spain, which equals replacing over 15% of EU’s electricity demand. We refer to this Spanish photovoltaic solar park as “PV-Spain”. Spain is Europe’s best location for solar power given its high direct normal irradiation (DNI, see Figure 1) and in fact, Spain has significantly more suitable sunshine than India or (South) East Asia.

In addition, this paper will calculate the backup capacity required in the form of batteries and address the subject of material input required for both the PV-Spain and the backup. The subjects of a Solar Park in the Sahara Desert as well as Hydrogen are also addressed. The multidimensional calculations herein demonstrate the complexity of energy economics, which is largely underestimated in the current debate on renewable energy.

Figure 1: Global Direct Normal Irradiation, based on long-term average kWh/m2.
Source: World Bank Group, accessed 4 Sep 2020 at this

Simplifying assumptions

The authors’ calculations are based on the following simplifying assumptions which are on average quite generous. These assumptions can be replaced with the readers’ own:

A1. Average Electricity Demand: Germany has a measured average annual electrical energy demand of up to ~550 TWh, to simplify we assume ~45 TWh per month or ~1,5 TWh per day. For comparison, EU demand is 3.300 TWh p.a., 6 times larger[1].

A2. Peak Power Factor = 1,6x: Germany has average power demand of ~63 GW (550 TWh ÷ 8.760h). The actual peak power demand in the winter reaches 82 GW. Accounting for standard 20% safety margin increases required capacity for peak power to ~100 GW (100 ÷ 63=1,59).[2] Peak demand will likely rise because of electric vehicles and heat pumps. The Peak Power Factor adjustment converts average annual power demand to daily peak power demand including safety margin which is significantly higher than the average. For comparison, EU average power demand is ~375 GW, 6 times higher.

A3. Backup Peak Power Factor = 1,5x: Figure 4 illustrates the typical electricity demand curve and photovoltaic production during a day. The photovoltaic peak must be approximately twice the demand peak in order to allow the batteries to charge during the few sunny hours around noon. Figure 2 also illustrates that nearly all power is produced in only one-quarter of a 24h-period and nothing at night. The authors generously only assume a Backup Peak Power Factor of only 1,5x.

A4. DC/AC and Transmission loss = 30% or 1,3x: DC to AC conversion before consumption incurs a loss of 21-24%3 of direct current power produced. Transport of electricity to the German end user over approximately 1.500 km (air distance from Toledo to Frankfurt) will account for approx. 10% loss. Thus, total ~30% loss or a factor of about 1,3x.

A5. Average annual DNI in Spain located at 41 ºN latitude is normalized to data from the largest US solar park called “Solar Star[3] located in California, which is well documented.

a.     Solar Star is amongst the largest, most efficient and modern operating solar parks in the world employing large form-factor, high-wattage, high-efficiency, higher cost crystalline silicon solar panels/modules, mounted on single axis trackers. Solar Star produced 1,66 TWh/p.a. of DC electricity between 2017 and 2019. The park operates 747 MWDC total installed solar PV capacity covering 13 km2 using 1,7 million solar panels3, translating to 57,5 MW installed capacity per km2.

b.     The Direct Normal Irradiation (DNI) map in Figure1 accounts for sunny days in Spain. It adjusts for latitude, clouds, rain, as well as hours of day and night.

c.     ESP/CA DNI Factor = 1,5: The DNI for Southern Spain is ~1.900 W/m2/p.a., while the DNI in Southern CA is ~2.900 W/m2/p.a.[4], a factor of 1,53.

d.     Solar panels can be operated for 15 years before they have to be replaced[5].

A6. Winter Capacity Factor = 1,8: The 2017-2019 average annual capacity factor of Solar Star in California was measured at 24,8%3. This translates to 16,5% average annual capacity factor for Spain.

a.     The monthly capacity factors in California for 2018/2019 varied from 13,3% in December to 33,9% in June (see Figure 5), leading to a Winter Capacity Factor adjustment of 1,8x (24,8% ÷ 13,3% = 1,86).

b.     Figure 2 illustrates a typical PV sunny day output during winter and summer in Austria. The output varies also here by more than 3:1 between winter and summer.

A7. Gigafactory = 50 GWh Li-ion batteries: The annual production of a Tesla Gigafactory is anticipated to reach up to 50 GWh of Li-ion batteries.[6]

a.     Materials required to build today’s best battery technology include lithium, copper, cobalt, nickel, graphite, rare earths & bauxite, coal and iron ore (for aluminum and steel).

b.     It is estimated that optimistically 1-2 % of actual ore body mined ends up in the weight of the battery[7].

A8. Battery Storage Utilization Factor = 1,7: Li-ion rechargeable batteries can store energy over several months, and self-discharge ~5 % of stored energy in first 24h, and at ~2% per month thereafter.

a.     The efficiency of storing charge is 90%.

b.     Charging to 80% of capacity and discharge to 20% of capacity preserves battery life. Internal electronics maintain optimum internal operating temperature of 12-16 ºC, optimum discharge rate near 1C (refers to 1 Coulomb per hour discharge rate)[8], and protect batteries from too high or too low charge or discharge voltages which damage the batteries[9].

c.     Maintenance electronics consume 3% per month of the charge per cell. The diurnal discharge cycle must be controlled carefully to preserve battery life out to 7.000 cycles, equivalent to a 20-year lifetime[10].

d.     As a result, on average 50-60% of installed battery capacity can be used effectively, therefore a factor of 1,7x is assumed.

A9. Not considered by the authors are:

a.     Total energy consumption in Germany, which is ~5x higher than electricity demand (including non-electrical heating, transportation, etc.).

b.     Energy that Germany imports from other parts of the world because Germany consumes products that require energy to build (but they are built outside of Germany, for instance in China, India or the US).

c.     Alternate means of producing power, 100% solar from Spain is assumed for Germany which equals to over 15% of the EU.

d.     Alternate means of providing backup (other than battery backup), such as any conventional capacity from fossil, nuclear, hydro, or hydrogen. This assumption illustrates the backup requirement and focuses on batteries. Hydrogen is covered in Section 3.4.

e.     Total costs, energy required, materials needed or environmental impact of building transmission lines and transmission systems, building solar panels (silicon and silver requirements are mentioned, other materials not). Solar’s energy-Return-On-energy-Invested (eROeI) is estimated to be too low to support advanced societies[11].

f.      Costs and environmental impact of recycling or disposing of solar panels after their useful life. Also not included are costs of building, maintaining, and recycling or disposing the storage capacity which will need to be replaced every 20 years or sooner (estimation is given on materials required for construction of batteries).

g.     Cost for land used that includes but is not limited to animal life destroyed, crop land and forests, towns, streets, valleys, mountains that would have to be cut or eliminated (see Figure 3).

h.     The impact of large-scale solar PV farms on local temperatures in non-desert environments, which may have a substantial heating effect. Sunlight on vegetation (grass, trees) supports plant growth and plants support transpirational cooling. On areas covered with solar panels, 70-90 % of absorbed sunlight cannot be transformed to useful energy nor can it be absorbed by plants, thus, warming the surroundings (see Lu et al. Dec 2020 and Li et al. Sep 2018[12]).

i.       Positive side effects such as producing green hydrogen with excess capacity in the summer. Hydrogen is briefly addressed in section 3.4.

3.      Calculating the PV-Spain

The goal of this paper is to calculate how much installed solar capacity in Spain (PV-Spain) is required to supply 100% of Germany’s electricity requirement which equals just over 15% of EU’s demand. To accomplish this, the PV-Spain installed capacity has to be sufficient during winter months. During winter, however, solar energy is at its minimum while consumer demand is the highest. 

Figure 2: Typical PV sunny day output winter and summer (Austria during 2015 for illustration).
Source: elkemental Force, Austria, accessed 4 Sep 2020 at this

3.1.      PV-Spain installed capacity and space requirement

For calculation purposes, the authors use the well-documented Solar Star3 Project in California. Solar Star produced on average 1,66 TWh/p.a. of DC electricity or 128 GWh/km2/p.a. (see A5.a) or 10,67 GWh/km2/month with 747 MW total and 57,5 MW/km2 installed capacity. German electricity demand is on average 45 TWh or 45.000 GWh per month (see A1).

Therefore, it appears at first sight that monthly 45.000 GWh ÷ 10,67 GWh/km2 = 4.220 km2 of solar panels in Spain should be sufficient. However, the following adjustments detailed above are required:

·         Adjusting for the Peak Power Factor of 1,6x (A2),

·         Adjusting for the Backup Peak Power Factor of 1,5x (A3)

·         Adjusting for DC/AC Conversion and Transmission loss of 30% (A4) or a factor of 1,3x,

·         Adjusting California’s higher solar irradiance to Spain’s lower solar irradiance with an ESP/CA DNI Factor of 1,5x (A5.c),

·         Adjusting the average capacity factor to the Winter Capacity Factor of 1,8x (A6).

Total required adjustments are 1,6 x 1,5 x 1,3 x 1,5 x 1,8 = 8,4x. Thus, the total required area of PV-Spain only for Germany becomes ~35.000 km2 (8,4 x 4.220 km2 = 35.448 km2). Since solar panels last on average 15 years, this translates to ~2.300 km2 of new solar panels to be built every year in perpetuity.

Considering that Solar Star in California has an installed capacity of 747 MWDC, then PV-Spain will have a total installed capacity of 2.000 GW or almost 3 times the 2020 installed solar capacity worldwide of 715 GW[13] (35.000 km2 x 57,5 MW/km2 = 2.013 GW). Please note that PV-Spain provides only for 1/5th of Germany’s total energy demand and that Germany accounts for 2% of global anthropogenic energy CO2 emissions not accounting for methane.

PV-Spain with an area of ~35,000 km2 is oversized to produce the electrical energy required for Germany in wintertime. Excess output is nominally zero in mid-winter and increases to a maximum in midsummer. Integrated over a year, generously about half of PV-Spain is producing excess power, albeit intermittently, which could be used for green-hydrogen or for other purposes such as smelting (see Section 3.4).

The authors would like to point out here that the area required of PV-Spain may be reduced substantially if the backup capacity would be increased by a factor of ten. This reduction would be possible if such backup – possibly also in the form of hydrogen – could store half a year of Germany’s electricity demand, such that the energy collected and stored in the summer can power a part of Germany’s winter demand. To match the European Union’s electricity requirements, the above numbers will all have to be multiplied by six.

3.2.      Storage Capacity or Backup

It is evident that all intermittent forms of power generation require a backup even if the sun shines “almost” every day or the wind blows “almost” every hour. The backup has to be such that the resulting power availability at the consumer is more than 99% reliable at all times. An economy that cannot provide reliable power all the time risks human life and loses its economic relevance in the global context.

We will make two calculations. A) Calculate the backup capacity required for one single day, assuming the sun shines every day in Spain. B) Calculate the backup for 14 days of cloudy weather, which happens rarely but has occurred in Spain in January 2021 with a 50 cm snowfall over several days, requiring several days more to melt from PV-panels as temperature were sub-zero. The reader should make his/her your own calculation.

One day of Germany’s demand equals 1,5 TWh (A1). It appears that storage matching this daily demand would suffice. However, again as specified above, the following adjustments are required:

·         Adjusting for the Battery Storage Utilization Factor of 1,7x (A8),

·         Adjusting for the DC/AC Conversion and Transmission loss of 30% (A4) or a factor of 1,3x,

·         Batteries last 20 years (A8.c).

Thus, Germany’s one-day energy demand of 1,5 TWh has to be multiplied by a factor of 1,7 x 1,3 = 2,2x. Therefore, the resulting required one-day storage capacity increases to ~3,3 TWh or the output of about 65 Gigafactories. Since batteries last for 20 years, more than 3 Gigafactories would have to produce 165 GWh of battery capacity annually in perpetuity just for one day storage capacity. During those production years, no Tesla could be produced.

A more realistic 14-day storage backup for Germany during the winter requires ~45 TWh of battery storage. The output of ~900 Gigafactories is required for construction of the batteries in one year, and then the output of ~45 Gigafactories or 2,25 TWh is required for annual replacement of batteries in perpetuity (45 TWh/50 GWh/20 yrs). For comparison, the replacement of batteries alone exceeds the current global battery production of 0,5 TWh in 2020 by a factor of 4 to 5x. To match the European Union’s storage requirements, the above numbers will have to be multiplied by six.

Figure 3: Global and Spanish Cropland Coverage, Fractional Cropland Area.
Sources: Ramankutty and Foley 1999, Cropland Intensity 1992, accessed 4 Sep 2020 at this link; Castillo et al., An Assessment and Spatial Modelling of Agricultural Land Abandonment in Spain (2015–2030), accessed 4 Sep 2020 at this link.

3.3.      Spain vs. Sahara vs. California

In May 2020,[14] announced that “10.000 km2 of Solar in the Sahara could provide all the world’s energy needs”. The author referenced the renowned book of MacKay: “Sustainable Energy – without the hot air”[15]. This statement is refuted by the author MacKay himself who states on page 178 that “To supply every person in the world with an average European’s power consumption (125 kWh/d), the area required would be two 1.000 km by 1.000 km squares in the desert”. That is 2.000.000 km2 not 10.000 km2.

The authors’ calculations for Germany powered from Solar PV in the Sahara, adjusting for A5.c and Figure 1 irradiation in the various regions, are as follows:

1.     Southern Spain ~1.900 W/m2/p.a.

2.     Southern California ~2.900 W/m2/p.a.

3.     Sahara ~2.300 to 2.600 W/m2/p.a.

4.     India ~1.300 to 1.900 W/m2/p.a.

5.     South East Asia <1.500 W/m2/p.a.
(example Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia)

The first observation is that, on average, India and South East Asia have worse sunshine conditions than Southern Spain. This is primarily a result of the Monsoon. For the Sahara at 22 ºN latitude, the DNI map (Figure 1) illustrates that, except for a core region, the Sahara has a lower DNI than Southern California but is superior to Spain. However, neither MacKay nor the authors of the article considered the following key problems with the Sahara or, in fact, with any desert-based solar solution: lack of water, lack of infrastructure, high temperatures, haze, dust, and, most importantly, sandstorms.

Nomadd[16], founded at Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah University of Science & Technology in 2012, has studied this subject intensively and concludes that “Dust build-up is the greatest technical challenge facing a viable, desert solar industry. A 0,4-0,8% per day baseline yield loss caused by dust. 60% energy yield losses during and after sandstorms are widely reported. If left more than a day, dust particles from organics, dew and sulfur adhere to the panels”. Solar Star in California requires almost 200.000 m3 of water annually to wash the panels for dust control[17]. If dust conditions in the Sahara were similar (they are much more stringent), then rainfall over about 250 km2 would need to be collected and used for washing, requiring storage and distribution facilities as well.

Numerous peer-reviewed studies researched the issue of sandstorms and large solar parks in the desert, but so far, no commercially viable large-scale solution has been found. The Saudi Arabian Nomadd, however, suggests that the Nomadd system16, itself can work without water and clean a solar panel within two hours. The system has not been implemented at large scale and costs/maintenance and abrasive effects on the panel surface are to be detailed. Electrostatic methods removing dust from PV elements, as planned by ACWA in Saudi Arabia, have been studied and offer promise. No moving parts or water would then be required[18]. These methods reduce the need for water-surfactant cleaning but may not eliminate it.

In addition, the desert regularly reaches temperatures of over 50 ºC. Coupled with heating by the absorbed solar energy, the panels’ efficiency drops by at least 0,5% per ºC above 0 ºC[19]. This means that the typical temperature rises from a typical morning temperature of 10 ºC to an afternoon temperature of up to 50 ºC will cause a loss of up to 20% in efficiency. This requires an even larger PV-Sahara to meet the world energy demands. Further, the constant expansion-contraction from diurnal cycles of over 35 ºC stresses the panels’ electrical and physical connections, leading to failure. Lifetimes for PV panels in the Sahara Desert are likely to be well below the typical 15 years. NASA[20] concludes that “Solar power in the desert brings some challenges. According to IEEE Spectrum, extremely high temperatures can sometimes damage inverters, which convert the DC power made by the photovoltaics into the AC power needed for the grid. High voltage transformers are also subject to high temperature loss of efficiency and failure.”

In conclusion, even if the authors assume dust, haze, and sandstorms are not problems and assume a Sahara/CA DNI Factor of 1,1x and reduce the Winter Capacity Factor to an optimistic 1,3, the following applies:

Total required adjustments compared to California are 1,6 x 1,5 x 1,3 x 1,1 x 1,3 = 4,5x. Thus, the total required area of PV-Sahara for Germany becomes~19.000 km2 (4,5 x 4.220 = 18.990 km2). If one now takes the world 27.000 TWh vs. Germany 550 TWh, one has to multiply the 19.000 km2 by 49x, or ~1.000.000 km2, to provide electricity for the entire world with solar photovoltaics in the Sahara. This is half the area required by MacKay because he assumed average European consumption for the entire world. Presently, over 600 million people in Africa have no access to electricity at all. However, it should be considered that above calculation and in fact also MacKay’s numbers are too optimistic because of lack of water, lack of infrastructure, high temperatures, haze, dust and most importantly, sandstorms.

A large-scale solar park in the Sahara would negatively impact the climate by warming the atmosphere noticeably by ~1 ºC as discussed by Lu et al. in their Dec 2020 study Impacts of Large-Scale Sahara Solar Farms on Global Climate and Vegetation Cover12. In addition, the task of storage and transmitting the power to the consumers around the word would be significantly more challenging and there would not be sufficient raw materials available under any scenario to construct the required solar panels for the world.

Concentrated Solar Power (CSP – essentially a “solar furnace” where sunlight is focused onto a target to heat it) does not appear to be a viable alternative as demonstrated by numerous efficiency issues with California’s CSP plants. A proposed hybrid PV-CSP system would use the remaining portion of the solar spectrum that silicon cannot absorb to boil water for a Rankine Cycle engine. Ivanpah and other CSP plants in California produce little power in winter due to a 7x seasonal decline in the capacity factor[21]. Thus, the use of only a small part of the solar spectrum will be even more inefficient. In the context of H2 production, a hybrid approach might be considered.

Figure 4: Typical electricity demand curve and photovoltaic production. The photovoltaic peak must be approximately twice the demand peak.
Source: Nominal electricity demand curve with photovoltaic production schematic by the authors, adapted from EnergyMag accessed 4 Sep 2020 at this link.

3.4.      Hydrogen and PV-Spain

H2 can be produced via electrolysis using PV-Spain’s excess electricity generation in summers. European governments suggest that “green Hydrogen“ will solve the intermittency problem of wind and solar via synthetic production of H2 as an energy carrier. However, with today’s technology hydrogen’s low volumetric energy density and high cost to transport is a barrier to the wide use of H2. Compressed H2 storage requires heavy duty storage cylinders of substances that do not become brittle as H2 permeates the material. More energy is required to compress or liquefy and transport H2 – energy which must also be derived from the excess energy from PV-Spain available during summer months.

On the subject of transport, Bossel et al.[22] concluded that “At 200-bar, a 40-ton truck delivers about 3,2 tons of methane, but only 320 kg of H2, because of low density of hydrogen and because of weight of pressure vessels and safety armatures. About 4,6 times more energy is required to move H2 through a pipeline than is needed for the same natural gas energy transport.” Natural gas pipelines may suffer from H2 transport. H2 tends to permeate steel pipes, making them brittle and increase failure rates. ACWA in Saudi Arabia plans to produce ammonia in combination with H2 to ease the transportation burden of Hydrogen[23]. We have not considered the efficacy of this hybrid H2-NH3 concept.

It should be noted, however, that significant research and progress has been made in recent years in relation to so-called “Hydrogen Sponges” (see Morris et al. 2019, and Northwestern University as example[24]). Some candidates appear to reach 8% by weight of H2. The materials used are relatively inexpensive and abundant, such as transition metals and carbon lattices as a scaffold for the metals. In the not-too-distant future, this work promises to lead to an “H2-Revolution” allowing for an appropriate medium for storing H2 in a dense manner presenting a potentially viable alternative to lithium-ion battery storage. A 500 kg Tesla battery, for example, contains less than 100 kWh of energy. The metal-organic H2 ‘tank’ with 8% H2 by weight contains about 1.300 kWh of energy, or over 13x the energy density of the Tesla Li-ion battery. That would translate to a range of over 4.000 km. Refueling, therefore, would not be a daily task.

PV-Spain with an area of ~35,000 km2 is oversized to produce the electrical energy required for Germany in wintertime. Excess output is nominally zero in mid-winter and increases to a maximum in midsummer. Integrated over a year, generously about half of PV-Spain is producing excess power which can be used for hydrogen.

At an average annual capacity factor for Spain of 16,5% (see A6), PV-Spain with 2.000 GW installed capacity produces about 2.900 TWhDC of electricity (2.000 GW x 16,5% x 8.760h = 2.891 TWh). Instead of battery powered backup, hydrogen may be produced in Germany near the point of consumption. Electrolysis of H2O to H2 and then the use of H2 in a fuel cell may yield an overall net efficiency of ~40%. Then, there is the additional 30% AC/DC and transmission loss. Thus, PV-Spain would yield ~800 TWh of power in Germany annually via H2. This would replace the entire battery backup calculated above and would be sufficient for Germany’s entire electricity consumption plus a large portion of the energy requirements for the transportation sector. The other option is to use “only” the excess power produced in PV-Spain of ~1.450 TWh (half of 2.900 TWhDC) and convert this to ~600 TWh of usable hydrogen for the transport sector (assuming 30% AC/DC Transmission loss and 60% electrolysis efficiency). However, the physical challenges of transporting H2 effectively over larger distances remain and have been covered above.

The authors note that a hydrogen-based storage solution does not solve the underlying issues of solar installations illustrated in this paper, which are mainly high raw material input, low energy density, and low eROeI.

Figure 5: California solar photovoltaic capacity factor 2018-2020.
Note: Values for 2019 and prior years are final. Values for 2020 are preliminary. For 2020, only data from January to November is considered.
Source: EIA, accessed 3 Jan 2020 at this

4.      Raw Material Requirements

For the solar panels: Global production of silicon has been about 7,5 million metric tons p.a. since 2010[25]. About 2-4 kg of Si are required per 1 kW nameplate 6-7 m2 solar panel[26]. The authors assume 2 kg and 7 m2 or 0,29 kg Si per m2 of solar panel.

This means the current global silicon production could yield m2 or 26.000 km2 of solar panels annually (7.500.000.000 kg silicon ÷ 0.29 kg/m2). Since we need to build one time 35.000 km2 and then 2.300 km2 of solar panels every year in perpetuity just for Germany, this translates to one time ~10 million tons of silicon or 1,35x global silicon production and then ~660.000 tons of silicon annually or ~9% percent of current global silicon production in perpetuity. Of course, you would have far less silicon left to produce any other globally required silicon product such as computer chips or glass. On a side note, polycrystalline silicon thin films could allow a larger area of photovoltaic, but as of today would translate to half the quantum efficiency and lower stability requiring more frequent replacement.

Silicon has been addressed above, but high-quality silver which is produced primarily in Latin America and China is also a critical ingredient for solar panels. CRU estimates that in 2019 about 11% of global 27.000 tons silver production went into solar panels and that one solar cell requires about 0,1 mg of silver[27]. Assuming 72 cells per 2 m2 panel, this translates to about 7 g of silver per 2 m2 panel or 3,5 tons of silver per km2. Since we need to build one time 35.000 km2 and then 2.300 km2 of solar panels every year in perpetuity just for Germany, this translates to one time ~120.000 tons of silver or 4,5x global silver production and then ~8.000 tons of silver annually or ~30% of current global silver production in perpetuity. Recovery of silver from recycle panels would be essential. A similar conclusion was reached by Zoltan Ban[28] whose requirement is twice the amount of silver that the authors assumed. As per today, the use of alternate materials such as aluminum or organic conductors results in lower panel efficiency and shortened lifetimes of the panels. To match the European Union’s electricity requirements, the above numbers will have to be multiplied by six.

For the batteries: To calculate the approximate material requirement for a battery park with 45 TWh nameplate capacity using Tesla’s newest technology, the weight for one Tesla battery could be assumed to be about 500 kg with 85 kWh capacity, a factor of 5,9 kg per kWh[29]. However, to be generous the authors halve the battery weight to 250 kg, to a currently still impossible 2,9 kg per kWh, in further calculations.

Considering that 1-2 % of ore body mined end up in the battery (A7.a) and accounting for halving the battery weight, this would translate to 8-15 million tons of raw materials p.a. for one 50 GWh factory that need to be mined, transported and processed such as lithium, copper, cobalt, nickel, graphite, rare earths & bauxite, coal and iron ore (for aluminum and steel). In addition, the mining, transportation and processing of these raw materials requires significant energy.

In summary, the raw materials required for batteries to keep PV-Spain backed up for 14 days would translate to one time demand of 900 Gigafactories (45 TWh) or 7-13 billion tons and then 45 Gigafactories (2,25 TWh) or 0,4-0,7 billion tons of raw materials annually in perpetuity. For battery replacement alone, this equals 0,5-1% of all globally mined raw materials of 92 billion tons[30] just to create backup for Germany (a little over 15% of the EU), a country which is home to ~1% of the global population. To match the entire European Union’s storage requirements, the above numbers will have to be multiplied by six.

Other materials to build the required 2,25 TWh of battery capacity annually in perpetuity for Germany include[31]:

·         ~6x current global Lithium production (~880 tons Lithium per 1 GWh, 2020 production about 320.000 tons, ~70 % from China),

·         ~22x current global Graphite Anodes production (~1.200 tons Graphite anodes per 1 GWh, 2020 production about 210.000 tons, ~80 % from China),

·         ~2x current global Cobalt production (~100 tons Cobalt per 1 GWh, 2020 production about 120.000 tons, ~80 % from China), and

·         ~8x current global Nickel Sulphite production (~800 tons Nickel Sulphite per 1GWh, 2020 production about of 230.000 tons[32], ~60 % from China).

5.      Summary

Unless the safety, space, environmental, raw material, and energy considerations can be overcome, PV-Spain is a poor choice for solving Germany’s, Europe’s, or the global power dilemma. Alone the material requirements for the panels (see silicon and silver) or batteries cannot be met. Moreover, the energy required to build and maintain the batteries for such a large solar facility in Spain – also referred to as energy-Return-On-energy-Invested eROeI – have not yet been considered in this paper.

If it does not make sense to replace Germany’s power demand (or a little over 15% of EU demand) with solar from Spain, why would it make sense to replace alone a fraction of power requirement from solar panels installed further North of Spain or in India or Asia for that matter, where the natural sunshine conditions are worse?[33]

Alternatives to currently available solar photovoltaic technology, as well as more research to understand the material and energy input, are required for the proposed energy transition away from conventional power. Solar PV may be an environmental and economical choice for certain local power requirements without access to large scale grids, or to augment non-critical power requirements for selected – non-scale – power requirements.

Note: Silicon is produced essentially from silica (quartz stone), wood chips, and coal. Silicon is the second most abundant element in the Earth’s crust, but so far only high-purity silica (quartz stone) is commercially viable. Metallurgical-grade silicon (MG-Si, about 98% purity) is manufactured at a process temperature of more than 2.000 ºC in electric arc furnaces that also require coal for reduction and energy. Both solar-grade silicon (SoG-Si, 99,9999% purity) and electronic-grade silicon (EG-Si, 99,9999999% purity) are then produced out of metallurgical-grade silicon in a refining process (“Siemens” or other processes) that again requires large amounts of energy and also chemicals.[34]

[1] Estimated data according to Agora and, accessed 4 Sep 2020 at this link and this link.

[2] Germany’s actual peak power demand reaches up to 82 GW in the winter according to Wikipedia, Agora, BMWI,   and entso-e, accessed 3 Jan 2021.

[3] Facts on Solar Star and the World’s largest solar power parks, accessed 3 Jan 2021 at this link and this link.

[4] Solargis: Solar Irradiance Data, accessed 3 Jan 2020 at this link.

[5] Aleo Solar: Solar panel lifespan – The 6 things to know, accessed 3 Jan 2021 at this link.

[6] Nevada Gigafactory hoping to achieve 40 GWh output according to Rich Duprey, The Motley Fool, accessed 4 Sep 2020 at this link.

[7] Not much research has been done on this subject, this assumption seems realistic and conservative and has been vetted by the authors. Refer to Mark Mills, accessed 4 Sep 2020 at this link and this link.

[8] A 1C rate means the discharge current will discharge the entire battery in 1 hour. For a battery with a capacity of 100 Amp-hours, this equates to a discharge current of 100 Amps. A 5C rate for this battery would be 500 Amps, and a C/2 rate would be 50 Amps.

[9] Hagopian: Battery Degradation and Power Loss,, April 2006, accessed 3 Jan 2021 at this link.

[10] BatteryUniversity: What’s the Best Battery?, March 2017, accessed 3 Jan 2021 at this link.

[11] Brook: The Catch-22 of Energy Storage, Energy Central on eROeI, August 2014, accessed 3 Jan 2021 at this link.

[12] Lu et al.: Impacts of Large-Scale Sahara Solar Farms on Global Climate and Vegetation Cover; AGU Research Letter, Dec 2020, accessed 15 Feb 2021 at this link; see also Li et al.: Climate model shows large-scale wind and solar farms in the Sahara increase rain and vegetation; Science Magazine, Sep 2018, accessed 15 Feb 2021 at this link

[13] Total global installed solar capacity in 2020 was 715 GW according to IEA, accessed 3 Jan 2020 at this link.

[14] Energy Post: 10,000 sq km of Solar in the Sahara, May 2020, accessed 5 Jan 2021 at this link.

[15] David MacKay: Sustainable Energy — without the hot air, November 2008, accessed 5 Jan 2021 at this link.

[16] NOMADD: The Desert Solar Challenge, accessed 5 Jan 2021at this link.

[17] BHE Renewables: Just the Facts – Solar Star Projects, March 2017, accessed 15 Jan 2021 at this link.

16 NOMADD: The Desert Solar Challenge, accessed 5 Jan 2021at this link.

[18] Kawamoto: Electrostatic cleaning equipment for dust removal from soiled solar panels, Journal of Electrostatics,

    Volume 98, March 2019, Pages 11-16, accessed 15 Jan 2021 at this link.

[19] Moharram et al.: Enhancing the performance of photovoltaic panels by water cooling, Ain Shams Engineering Journal, Volume 4, Issue 4, December 2013, Pages 869-877, accessed 5 Jan 2021 at this link.

[20] Catching Rays in the Desert, accessed 5 Jan 2021 at this link.

[21] Information on Ivanpah Solar Power Facility, accessed 15 Jan 2021 at this link.

[22] Bossel et al..: The Future of the Hydrogen Economy: Bright or Bleak?, Cogeneration and Competitive Power Journal Volume 18, Issue 3, 2003, accessed 10 Jan 2021 at this link.

[23] Air Products: ACWA Power and NEOM Sign Agreement for $5 Billion Production Facility, July 2020, accessed 18 Jan 2021 at this link.

[24] Northwestern University: Gas storage method could help next-generation clean energy vehicles, April 2020, accessed 10 Jan 2021 at this link; and Morris et al.: A manganese hydride molecular sieve for practical hydrogen storage under ambient conditions, Energy & Environmental Science, Issue 5, 2019, accessed 10 Jan 2021 at this link.

[25] Statista: Silicon production worldwide from 2010 to 2019, February 2020, accessed 4 Sep 2020 at this link.

[26] Stack Exchange, accessed 4 Sep 2020 at this link.

[27] The Silver Institute: Market Trend Report, June 2020, accessed 15 Oct 2020 at this link; and Statista: Global mine production of silver from 2005 to 2019, February 2020, accessed 15 Oct 2020 at this link.

[28] Zoltan Ban: Not Enough Silver To Power The World Even If Solar Power Efficiency Were To Quadruple, Seeking Alpha, February 2017, accessed 4 Nov 2020 at this link.

[29] Tesla’s Powerwalls designed for power backup have a capacity of 13,5 kWh and masses 114 kg including the frame. Assuming 100 kg is the net battery weight, this translates to 7,4 kg per kWh, so less effective than Tesla‘s car batteries, but the authors remain optimistic and overlook this.

[30] WU Vienna (2020): Material flows by material group, 1970-2017, accessed 4 Jan 2021 at this link.

[31] Benchmark Mineral Intelligence Data 2020, accessed 3 Jan 2021 at this link and this link.

[32] Despite the total nickel market being large (over 2,3 million tons) only a fraction is geared to making nickel sulphate chemical for lithium-ion battery usage, see also footnote 30 for more details.

[33] The latest 180 MW PV-park project in Germany by utility ENBW, located in Brandenburg, at over 50 ºN latitude, will not be able to achieve its purported energy production with realizable PV materials. The project is summarized by ENBW, accessed 20 Jan 2021 at this link.

[34] Bine Information Services, accessed 4 Sep 2020 at this link; and PV Education, accessed 4 Oct 2020 at this link.

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John Pickens
March 7, 2021 6:34 am

I appreciate the work that went into this paper. But it is sad that the common sense conclusion that solar PV cannot provide a viable energy solution will continue to be ignored by those in power. “Follow the science”, yeah, sure….

Reply to  John Pickens
March 7, 2021 7:52 am

At some point, they can’t ignore physical reality.

It appears that solar’s low energy density, high raw material input and low energy-Return-On-energy-Invested (eROeI) as well as large storage requirements make today’s solar technology an environmentally and economically unviable choice to replace conventional power at large scale.

As the greenies push renewables harder and harder, they bump up against physical reality more and more often and the failures become more and more frequent. There is now a track record. People are starting to notice.

Reply to  commieBob
March 7, 2021 8:48 am

commie Bob: “At some point, they can’t ignore physical reality.”

I can, however, ignore Yogi Berra’s admonition that “predictions are hard to make, especially about the future,” and predict that, due to money and inertia, “some point” is $10T and 10 years from now; say 2031.

Reply to  commieBob
March 7, 2021 11:49 am

No problem, just legislate a different reality. Seems to be the typical approach lately.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  commieBob
March 7, 2021 11:57 am

Sure they can … if they control the media. They rebrand genuine “crises” as “challenges”, and the media unquestioningly accepts it without pushback. If they control the language being used and what is allowed to be talked about they can ignore it until the a feudal society of Lords and peasants is realized. Very Orwellian.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
March 8, 2021 4:08 am

Correct Joel, thank you..


We published in 2002 that there is no real global warming crisis. It has always been a deliberate fraud, promoted by scoundrels and believed in by imbeciles – wolves stampeding the sheep.

I published in March 2020 that Covid-19 was a relatively mild flu that was only dangerous to the very elderly and infirm, and the lockdown of the low-risk under-65 populations was NOT necessary. It was another scam.

Then elitists all over the world linked these two huge scams, saying “To solve one we must solve the other” – totally irrational nonsense– and a false segue to their ultimate scam – the Great Reset”.

The “Great Reset” proposes that a few rich elitists live like all-powerful Princes, and rule over the poor oppressed masses (that means YOU) – essentially the Chinese Communist Party model – It is TREASON.

The Big Picture:
The global warming / climate change scam, the Covid-19 full-Gulag lockdown scam, the specious linkage of these two huge frauds, and the leftists’ “Final Solution”, the Marxist “Great Reset” – aka “Live like a Chinese peasant”.


Sky News Australia exposes the “GREAT RESET”, the wild Marxist “Final Solution” from the World Economic Forum (WEF), as espoused by its founder Klaus Schwab (aka “Doctor Evil”) and a host of bizarre villains out of an Austin Powers movie. (Schwab starts at 5:05)

Here is another video exposing the GREAT RESET – the ultimate scam.

Seriously good people, wake up – you are being conned by traitors and sleep-walked into slavery for your children and your grandchildren.

Walter Sobchak
Reply to  commieBob
March 7, 2021 9:00 pm

To understand them, understand that Orwell’s 1984 is not a warning. It is an operating manual. O’Brien is the spokesman for their metaphysics.

‘We control matter because we control the mind. Reality is inside the skull. You will learn by degrees, Winston. There is nothing that we could not do. Invisibility, levitation–anything. I could float off this floor like a soap bubble if I wish to. I do not wish to, because the Party does not wish it. You must get rid of those nineteenth-century ideas about the laws of Nature. We make the laws of Nature.’

Read it. Read it and weep.

Reply to  Walter Sobchak
March 8, 2021 4:17 am

Global politics has now become toxic and unhinged, with the extreme-left panicking, and trying to force the neo-Marxist Great Reset on us all.
WHY NOW? Because solar-driven global cooling is upon us, and the fraud of catastrophic human-caused global warming is about to be exposed to even the most obtuse of humanity.
The Situation Assessment is described below – its perpetrators are among the most evil scoundrels on Earth, and to date they are succeeding.
For decades, climate skeptics have been correctly arguing that the science of the global warming extremists was wrong, but it was never about the science – it was always a fraud – a false scheme concocted for political and financial gain.
People give the warmist cabal too much credibility – false alarm is their tactic – the climate alarmist leaders know they are lying – they’ve known it all along.
first published many months ago:
It’s ALL a Marxist-Democrat scam – false enviro-hysteria including the Climate and Green-Energy frauds, the full-Gulag lockdown for Covid-19, the specious linking of these frauds (“to solve one we have to solve the other”), paid-and-planned terrorism by Antifa and BLM, and the mail-in ballot US election scam – it’s all false.
The Climate-and-Covid scares are false crises, concocted by wolves to stampede the sheep.
The tactics used by the warmist propagandists are straight out of Lenin’s playbook. The Climategate emails provided further evidence of the warmists’ deceit – they don’t debate, they shout down dissent and seek to harm those who disagree with them – straight out of Lenin.
The purported “science” of global warming catastrophism has been disproved numerous ways over the decades. Every one of the warmists’ very-scary predictions, some 50 or so since ~1982, have failed to happen. The most objective measure of scientific competence is the ability to correctly predict – and the climate fraudsters have been 100% wrong to date.
There is a powerful logic that says that no rational person can be this wrong, this deliberately obtuse, for this long – that they must have a covert agenda. I made this point circa 2009, and that agenda is now fully exposed – it is the Marxist totalitarian “Great Reset” – “you will own nothing, and you’ll be happy!”
The proponents of both the very-scary Global Warming / Climate Change scam and the Covid-19 Lockdown scam know they are lying. Note also how many global “leaders” quickly linked the two scams, stating ”to solve one we have to solve the other”- utter nonsense, not even plausible enough to be specious.
Regarding the sheep, especially those who inhabit our universities and governments: The sheep are well-described in this essay by Nassim Nicholas Taleb as “Intellectual-Yet-Idiot” or IYI – IYI’s hold the warmist views as absolute truths, without ever having spent significant effort to investigate them. The false warmist narrative fitted their negative worldview, and they never seriously questioned it by examining the contrary evidence.

Reply to  commieBob
March 8, 2021 12:13 am

“People are starting to notice.” Actually, even stupid people are “starting to notice.”

We have known this reality since forever and published it in 2002.

2. “The ultimate agenda of pro-Kyoto advocates is to eliminate fossil fuels, but this would result in a catastrophic shortfall in global energy supply – the wasteful, inefficient energy solutions proposed by Kyoto advocates simply cannot replace fossil fuels.”

Charles Higley
Reply to  John Pickens
March 7, 2021 8:34 am

A 14-day battery storage solution for Germany would exceed the 2020 global battery production by a factor of 4 to 5x. “

Let’s chose a country by lottery every year and pour the world’s production into them. And, at the end of the year, if it was not enough, (1) the other countries are told to take a hike, which screws the other countries, or (2) that country is screwed. It’s a win-win for everybody.

This is like the U.S. NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND program in the 90s. A better name would have been NO CHILD GETS AHEAD. A win-win for all as no one wins. Yeah, that’s nice.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Charles Higley
March 7, 2021 6:55 pm

Two biggest producers of batteries for EVs, Panasonic and LG Chem. Hyundai just recalled 80,000+ EVs for battery issues. Bit of a shortage of batteries at the moment no matter what Tesla says.

Reply to  Patrick MJD
March 8, 2021 2:37 am

This Fatal Flaw Just Ended the Future of Electric Cars in America
Scotty Kilmer
4.01M subscribers

Reply to  Robertvd
March 16, 2021 6:07 am

This video refers to Hyundai’s recall of 80,0000 Electric Vehicles due to battery problems.

Not my expertise, but what about EV battery fires – apparently impossible to extinguish! So your car takes fire and burns down your house?

In the early days, cars were kept in a separate coach house, which was distant from the residence in case the car started a fire. Is that going to be the new norm, the detached garage? Are modern lots even big enough to do this?

What are the stats on EV battery fires?

Reply to  Charles Higley
March 7, 2021 10:43 pm

I wonder what solution would be needed for the UK as we have just had a ten day period with negligible wind generation.
If we had batteries they would be mostly flat by now, and how long would it take to recharge them from wind generation, or solar, to meet the next wind-less period?

Joel O’Bryan
Reply to  John Pickens
March 7, 2021 9:25 am

For liberals trained in social sciences and the arts, they employ feelings, wishful thinking, and magic as common replacements when “Follow the science” produces inconvenient results.

Reply to  John Pickens
March 7, 2021 10:12 am

Of course it can. but nobody is going to rely only on solar, or only on wind.

Reply to  griff
March 7, 2021 10:40 am

Wind and solar cannot be “relied on” AT ALL.

But you knew that didn’t you, griff..

Let’s see how much UK’s waste of money on wind is currently performing…

They really are in the “why bother” basket !

comment image

Reply to  fred250
March 7, 2021 12:37 pm

First we build enough solar to power Germany.
Then we build enough wind to power Germany for those times when the sun isn’t shinning.

The only thing you have saved, is the need to build quite as many batteries as before. At the cost of more than doubling the resources needed to build your sources of power.

Only a progressive would think this makes sense.

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  griff
March 7, 2021 11:33 am

Then why waste money on it?
It takes more to build it then what you get out so there is no reason to do it

Equivalent of digging a hole in order to fill another hole then repeating endlessly


Eliminate the rest for power gen

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  griff
March 7, 2021 12:01 pm

the Left will rely on wind and solar to drive the western middle class to serfdom and subservience.
Absolute political power is not a means, it is the end state. As Orwell said, absolute power is the end state being sought by those pushing wind and solar power for modern technological societies.

Reply to  griff
March 7, 2021 12:32 pm

Spending scarce resources to build two systems that don’t work.
What a system.

Abolition Man
Reply to  griff
March 7, 2021 8:23 pm

I think griff is right; if everybody would just get on the alarmist bandwagon the ChiComs would have no problems building the Marxist Utopia we all dream of!
China can become the sole economic power in the world and we can all share in their enlightened leadership with our very own gulags, slave labor camps and organ harvesting for dissenters and other heretics!
What’s your favorite part, griff? Are you a slave master in your dreams and fantasies or do you gravitate more toward the dark medical experiments and forced organ donations that just shriek Marxism like a Uighur under torture?
China will continue building out their coal and nuclear power capacity and the rest of the world can buy Unreliables from them since soon no one else will have enough energy for manufacturing anyway!

Reply to  griff
March 8, 2021 5:17 am

You kicked an own goal there Griffy as the others stated once you admit you can’t do it then the “renewable dream” crashes down.

Reply to  John Pickens
March 7, 2021 3:30 pm

It’s more than sad, it’s economically and socially destructive.

We will all suffer due the higher costs of everything. Some of us more than others.

Reply to  John Pickens
March 8, 2021 12:33 am

With the present direction of travel, those in power will soon be those without power.

Reply to  John Pickens
March 8, 2021 7:47 pm

No one will be able to ignore the millions of tonnes of redundant solar panels that will start piling up in the next 5 years . Very difficult and hugely messy and polluting to recycle but required to at least to reclaim the silver . A bit like the wind turbine blades that are impossible to recycle and are just buried to hide them ! If left out in the sun at least after a while the resin would breakdown .

March 7, 2021 6:46 am

Sounds doable, let’s do it.

Reply to  KyBill
March 7, 2021 9:32 am

Tomorrow, I’m busy right now.

March 7, 2021 6:51 am

The only way to solve Germany’s (& most other country’s ) energy problem is NUCLEAR ,
lots of Small Modular Reactors preferably using Thorium.

Steve Case
Reply to  saveenergy
March 7, 2021 7:40 am

It’s wikipedia, but a pretty good read if you haven’t done so already. Probably slanted, there’s this hardly objective quote:

“Hyman Rickover, de facto head of the US nuclear program, wanted the plutonium from uranium-powered nuclear plants to make bombs.”

But still a good read

Reply to  Steve Case
March 7, 2021 8:50 am

The Rickover reference points to a Wired article which provides no references to find the ultimate source of the assertion. I doubt it because Rickover was more concerned about securing long term fuel supply for nuclear propelled naval ships and submarines and had no role in the design or fabrication of nuclear weapons. This motivated an effort at the Shippingport reactor to be used as a Light Water Breeder reactor.

Reply to  Steve Case
March 7, 2021 9:38 am

It’s important to realize that Plutonium created in commercial reactors has NEVER been used in U.S. nuclear weapons. The U.S. doesn’t reprocess spent fuel from commercial reactors which is necessary in order to extract Plutonium and while the Plutonium from commercial reactors could, theoretically, be used in a nuclear weapon it is inferior to the low-burnup Plutonium that was produced in the DOE production reactors like those that used to exist at Savannah River.

Beta Blocker
March 7, 2021 6:52 am

Vanadium redox flow batteries are now being touted as the long-term solution for handling the grid-scale energy storage requirements of a wind and solar powered economy:.

Can Vanadium Flow Batteries beat Li-ion for utility-scale storage?

The theoretical advantage of a vanadium flow battery is that when its efficiency falls below a useful level, it can be quickly and easily refreshed on site with a new batch of internal v-flow chemicals.

Curious George
Reply to  Beta Blocker
March 7, 2021 7:10 am

V-flow chemicals don’t grow on trees yet. These trees will have to be developed, but no genetic modifications are allowed in the EU.

Jeremiah Puckett
Reply to  Beta Blocker
March 7, 2021 7:18 am

You completely missed a main point of the article. You’d have to cover the entire planet with solar panels.

Beta Blocker
Reply to  Jeremiah Puckett
March 7, 2021 9:30 am

No, I didn’t miss any point of the article. The fact remains that even if you cover the entire planet with solar panels, half of the planet remains in darkness every day. Most advocates of the renewables admit that huge amounts of grid-scale energy storage capacity are needed to make wind & solar work.

What most advocates of the renewables will not admit is that in a utopian wind-and-solar powered world, per-capita consumption of energy in the industrial nations must fall to half or less of what it is today. IMHO, only government-mandated strictly-enforced energy rationing measures could achieve the necessary reduction targets.

Reply to  Beta Blocker
March 7, 2021 2:00 pm

half of the planet remains in darkness every day

If this was the case, it would not be quite so challenging. That fact is, the sun can go missing for days on end. That is what places serious demand on energy storage. The situation is much worse than the article indicates because it makes the fundamental error of working on averages. Any thorough analysis requires real time solar data over the region.

I live in a relatively sunny spot in Australia and I get an annual average capacity factor of 7% from my off grid solar panels. That is the optimum level taking in the cost of storage and cost of the panels.

See if you can find Spain in the attached. Also Australia is gradually learning that the “geographic diversity fairy” is just that – make believe.

Screen Shot 2021-03-08 at 8.51.36 am.png
Tombstone Gabby
Reply to  Beta Blocker
March 7, 2021 4:12 pm

IMHO, only government-mandated strictly-enforced energy rationing measures could achieve the necessary reduction targets.”

I have a sneaking hunch that that government wouldn’t last past the next election – if free elections are permitted.

Reply to  Tombstone Gabby
March 8, 2021 8:19 am

That’s why the Democrats are working so hard to get rid of free elections.

Reply to  Jeremiah Puckett
March 7, 2021 4:01 pm

You only need to completely carpet Arizona, Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado and Vermont (or a Vermont sized area of a state that has sunshine) to get 1.5 million square kilometers of solar panels. I’m an optimist but that’s a tall order. Honestly I don’t see this happening.

H. D. Hoese
Reply to  Beta Blocker
March 7, 2021 7:31 am

There is a common critter in the ocean that concentrates vanadium.
Goldberg, E. D., et al. 1951. The uptake of Vanadium by tunicates. Biological Bulletin. 101:84-94.

Itdoesn't add up...
Reply to  Beta Blocker
March 7, 2021 8:18 am

The problem for storage is that the return that can be generated from the investment depends on how frequently the storage capacity can be turned over. Current utility batteries turn over their storage capacity on average more than once a day, as they respond to short term fluctuations in supply/demand balances. You can turn a midday solar peak into an evening redelivery for a once a day turnover (except that you may not get that in winter at higher latitudes). Beyond that, the frequency of turnover drops dramatically, requiring a huge margin per cycle to justify the investment. This is also a major problem for hydrogen as a storage medium, amplified by the very low round trip efficiency.

Despite the hype at your link, there is little evidence that Vanadium redox batteries are at the party. There was a very public failure at the King Island venture, with the battery failing rapidly, and now replaced with lead acid alternatives.

Beta Blocker
Reply to  Itdoesn't add up...
March 7, 2021 9:37 am

That may be so. However, most advocates of the renewables admit that huge amounts of grid-scale energy storage capacity are needed to make wind & solar work. For those who claim that technology can solve every problem a wind & solar powered economy presents, vanadium flow batteries fill the placeholder niche for a battery technology which in theory doesn’t have the same issues as lithium ion batteries.

Itdoesn't add up...
Reply to  Beta Blocker
March 7, 2021 11:19 am

Well, it seems to be another unicorn as far as I can see. Remember, we are talking of 45TWh of storage just for Germany.

Reply to  Beta Blocker
March 7, 2021 12:44 pm

In theory, fusion should work.

Call me back when you have a working model.

Reply to  Beta Blocker
March 8, 2021 9:52 am

this may be an oversimplification but it seems like the present energy system / technology evolved over something like 200 years of trial and error progress . there are all sorts of new technologies being speculated about but they may require considerable evolution to work out . forcing global scale changes too quickly with unproven technologies seems kinda risky . not only may there be overwhelming shortcomings and problems but a truly workable path may either end up displacing these new technologies or a newer technology may find a path to adoption preempted . part of me is really happy to see the green ascendence for the next four years to at least give them a chance to put up or shut up . the ball is in their court now .its gonna be an interesting few years to see what kind of future green ideologues create .especially if the North Atlantic Ocean continues moving into a cool phase , and solar activity stays low or gets lower .( without any significant drop in atmospheric co2 of course ).

Reply to  Beta Blocker
March 7, 2021 9:19 am

What’s the point, why not go with nuclear power?

Reply to  Derg
March 7, 2021 4:59 pm

why not stay with coal?

Carlo, Monte
March 7, 2021 6:53 am

What is the unit “TWh/p.a.”?

Don Thompson
Reply to  Carlo, Monte
March 7, 2021 7:10 am

Terrawatt hours per annum.

Carlo, Monte
Reply to  Don Thompson
March 7, 2021 7:20 am

These power types use strange units: the SI unit for energy is the Joule (J), not (watts)*(time)/(time).

Reply to  Carlo, Monte
March 7, 2021 8:55 am

Using Watt-hours allows easy use with stations whose output is measured in Watts without worrying about Joules. Most electrical grid storage requirements are concerned with timescales of hours.

Itdoesn't add up...
Reply to  Kevin
March 7, 2021 2:47 pm

Not if you hope to rely on solar over a whole year. Then the seasonal requirement dominates utterly.

Ben Vorlich
Reply to  Carlo, Monte
March 7, 2021 7:16 am

The SI unit would have to be a Trenberth, at least for solar panels anyway.

Carlo, Monte
Reply to  Ben Vorlich
March 7, 2021 7:44 am

Not according to IEEE/ASTM SI 10; the Trenberth must be some kind of strange climatology unit, given its namesake at NOAA.

Tim Spence
Reply to  Carlo, Monte
March 7, 2021 9:35 am

A ‘Trenberth’ is an undefined quantity of energy hiding in the sea.

Carlo, Monte
Reply to  Tim Spence
March 7, 2021 11:04 am

Interesting; I did not know this, thanks.

Joel O’Bryan
Reply to  Ben Vorlich
March 7, 2021 9:43 am

Similar to horsepower (hp) units, magical unicorn power (up) can be related in units of Trenberths.
1 Trenberth = 1,000,000 unicorn-power per equivalent tonne = 1 Muppet.
Don’t ask me explain the magical thinking in 1 Trenberth = 1 Muppet.

Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
March 7, 2021 9:58 am

Muppets are now considered racist. Does that mean Trenberths are racist, too? Maybe we need to come up with a new energy unit, something that promotes social justice equity… :))

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  SMC
March 7, 2021 12:08 pm

1 AOC = 1 unicorn fart of energy equivalence

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
March 7, 2021 1:08 pm

Are you sure 1AOC is equivalent to 1 millionth of a Trenberth. That standard may need to be reevaluated, I think the valuation is to high.

March 7, 2021 7:07 am

Five Eyes alliance urged to forge ties with Greenland to secure minerals

So now you know that all that global warming attention Greenland got was pure bull$hit.

Globull Warming invaded Greenland and we sent troops to liberate them. Now all of their minerals are belong to us…

Jeremiah Puckett
Reply to  john
March 7, 2021 7:20 am

Not sure who you think “us” is. Last I read, China and Russia own most of the mineral companies in Greenland.

Reply to  Jeremiah Puckett
March 7, 2021 8:12 am

look up Angus King Greenland. Look at his Sen. Committee assignments and his wind energy business. He’s the point man on this effort.

Meanwhile, Banks are going to move the carbon scam forward.

Enabling financial institutions to assess and disclose greenhouse gas emissions of loans and investments

Jeremiah Puckett
March 7, 2021 7:17 am

Just for kicks, I’d like to see them mine, manufacture, and install all these panels and battery systems without petroleum. And the workers that build these cannot use petroleum products, either, so no Zip-Loc bags for sandwiches and no coolers made with plastics. No work boots or safety helmets and glasses. No chapstick when their lips get dry. No plastic water bottles. No bulldozers or cranes unless they’re operated solely on battery power. No truck deliveries should be accepted unless the truck is also an EV.

Reply to  Jeremiah Puckett
March 7, 2021 9:00 am

Nether Musk’s Gigafactory in NV nor his Gigafactory in Buffalo, NY are powered by renewables. That speaks volumes.

Once we are completely powered by renewables, how are renewable energy generators going to make money selling carbon offsets?

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Kevin
March 7, 2021 12:21 pm

The energy-returned on (over) energy-invested metric captures the insanity of the mining, refining, and manufacture of wind power components and solar power components compared to the electrical energy they will produce over their functional life-span.

Wind and Solar have EROEI < 1.0 when the entirety of the operating life cycle of a completely assembled wind turbine or solar PV unit is considered. As the article points out, almost all of the energy used on the “input” is conventional energy sources like oil, natural gas and their refined products.

The silver recycling from solar panels discussed above as being just one example of mnay that are needed energy inputs at the end of the life-cycle to recover this precious metal from old PV panels.

We must destroy the planet in order to save it. At least according to the Libtard climate alarmists pushing the renewable energy scam.

Don Thompson
March 7, 2021 7:23 am

Perhaps the realities will begin to sink in for Germany and others when they try to implement these nutty schemes.

First, purchase 1/3 of Spain, using eminent domain to force land sale. Then, move the Spaniards to Germany or Eastern Europe (did anything similar happen in the past?). Then. build the solar system by commandeering the world supply for raw materials. Build transmission lines. Start system and observe rapid degradation of efficiency from environmental impacts. Build battery storage and parallel system of gas plants to provide emergency back-up.

Observe massive delays and cost over-runs. Observe German industrial decay due to mismatch between mandated shut downs of coal and nuclear and availability of solar power and massive energy cost increases which can’t be disguised any longer. Freeze in dark.

Rinse and repeat.

Reply to  Don Thompson
March 7, 2021 7:26 am

Not to foreget the diesel generators for nightly “sunshine” 😀

Reply to  Don Thompson
March 8, 2021 9:00 am

They have ALREADY implemented them, to the tune of 40 to 50% and more of their annual electricity supply. and no problems…

Reply to  griff
March 8, 2021 12:27 pm

There is no lie so thoroughly refuted, that griff won’t repeat it over and over again.
5 minutes, once during the year magically becomes, the whole year.

BTW, if it weren’t for the fact that Germany is connected to France’s nuclear plants, Norway’s hydro plants, and Poland’s coal plants, their grid would have collapsed years ago.

Steve Case
March 7, 2021 7:26 am

“It is evident that all intermittent forms of power generation require a backup even if the sun shines “almost” every day or the wind blows “almost” every hour.”

We know that the sun shines daily and even when it’s cloudy solar panels produce some power. Is it also well known that the wind is about as fickle at the sun?

Here’s a link to the weather out look for the local airport in my neck of the woods:

Winds are often nearly calm at night.

Alasdair Fairbairn
March 7, 2021 7:41 am

Indeed a very comprehensive analysis for which I am grateful. Will take time to read in detail.
Unfortunately there will be many that will have difficulty in getting their heads around the large numbers involved, including myself.

For my part it seems that these figures, at the bottom line, quantity to a degree the basic second law of thermodynamics which requires an input of energy to a low energy intensity source in order to enable useful work energy to be harvested. The first law also states that you cannot convert all the energy so harvested into useful work with a proportion needing to be dissipated elsewhere (Usually around 30%).

I suspect that the bottom line of these figures will reveal that for this solar source the energy required to harvest the energy will be considerably greater than the useful energy provided from the source itself.
In other words it is a net negative return on investment in energy terms, requiring other sources of energy to do the heavy lifting.

As for the resources required:— The mind boggles.

Reply to  Alasdair Fairbairn
March 7, 2021 7:54 am

Politicians rely on the story line that a vote for them is a vote for a utopian future. They assume that the voters are not actually going to do any calculations to check the numbers.

Chris Hanley
Reply to  Alasdair Fairbairn
March 7, 2021 12:38 pm

This study found that solar PV in Germany is a net energy sink (also includes link disputing that):

March 7, 2021 7:46 am

The only nitpick I have is the European/British use of commas and decimals versus western habits. Those three orders of magnitude make a huge difference while reading. 1.200 terawatts is much smaller than 1,200 terawatts.

Reply to  Rhs
March 7, 2021 3:04 pm

Conversion is a problem left to the student! 🙂

Joseph Zorzin
March 7, 2021 7:49 am

An 18 acre solar “farm” next to my neighborhood in Massachusetts- built in 2012- is already replacing panels- at least for some of it- not sure why.

Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
March 7, 2021 12:29 pm

I see one along the new rt.44 in carver is replacing them too. The panels look like the cells shorted out in the panel due to clouding and heat damage I see going by them. It’s the lower arrays they put in less than 2 years ago.


Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  john
March 7, 2021 12:54 pm

I could be wrong- but I think that when a panel is being replaced- there is a loss in quite a few as they are all connected (all those in an array or a row or whatever) – so shutting down that array to replace one panel results is a substantial temporary loss. I’m sure an electrician or engineer could say more about this.

Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
March 7, 2021 3:06 pm

For the same reason that series Christmas lights went out when one failed.

March 7, 2021 8:01 am

Mark Mills of Manhattan Institute put together a collection of interesting calculations as well.

Here is a small sample but please view the complete document.

5. Renewable energy would have to expand 90-fold to replace global hydrocarbons in two decades. It took a half-century for global petroleum production to expand “only” 10-fold.

14. To make enough batteries to store two-day’s worth of U.S. electricity demand would require 1,000 years of production by the Gigafactory (world’s biggest battery factory).

31. No digital-like 10x gains exist for solar tech. Physics limit for solar cells (the Shockley-Queisser limit) is a max conversion of about 33% of photons into electrons; commercial cells today are at 26%.

33. No digital-like 10x gains exist for batteries: maximum theoretical energy in a pound of oil is 1,500% greater than max theoretical energy in the best pound of battery chemicals.

34. About 60 pounds of batteries are needed to store the energy equivalent of one pound of hydrocarbons.

Reply to  S.K.
March 7, 2021 3:11 pm

I always liked the comparison that ONE 18650 model Li-ion battery weighing 45 grams stores less electrochemical energy than the chemical energy in ONE potato chip weighing 2 grams.
I know it is not entirely fair, but it is humorous!

March 7, 2021 8:07 am

An interesting perspective, thanks. I would like to see an estimate of EROEI, in order to imagine how fast our civilisation would decline: off a cliff, or more gradually?

Small point: if one solar cell requires 0.1 mg Ag, 72 solar cells do not require 7 g of Ag.

Reply to  Jit
March 7, 2021 3:14 pm

There are always typos! Please check these numbers and let us know.

Charles Higley
March 7, 2021 8:28 am

I love to play with the math. If the US needed 30 million wind turbines and started making 1 million a year, and having to deal with all of the transport and installation, this would be a war-footing effort (nothing gallant about war-footing for the wrong reason, BTW).

So, they make a million a year until the initial turbines reach their 12–15 year lifetime and need to be replaced. Now, the country needs to produce 2 million a year to keep expanding the wind fleet. By about 24 years, production needs to increase to 3 million a year, as the second generation turbines start to fail. If 1 million a year was war-footing, what the heck is 3 million a year? Oh, and this progression means that you have a mega-war-footing forever with no let up, as all you are doing is trying to stay in place.

This is completely ignoring the fact that there are not enough raw materials and rare elements to make this come close to happen, even drawing on world-level production. In fact, to convert the UK to all wind and electric vehicles would be drawing on the world’s production of several key elements. Do they really think the world would tolerate that?

Math is fun, but the numbers are not.

Joel O’Bryan
Reply to  Charles Higley
March 7, 2021 9:52 am

With wartime footing for an economy comes necessary rationing. My Dad has a boxful of his parents ration cards and coupons needed for everyday life in the US from 1942 thru 1945.

During WW2, everything in civilian life was rationed, gasoline, sugar, flour, to lumber and car tires for those 4 years. Now imagine that in perpetuity for the climate scam. But of course the wealthy elites have their eye on being able to afford extra rations.

Reply to  Charles Higley
March 7, 2021 3:20 pm

The combined wind-PV park is our next goal.
We cannot guarantee that the wind-PV combo will be better than either alone since a glance at the replacement energy map for Germany shows wind to its north and PV to its south.
Ne’er the twain shall meet except via immense, costly infrastructure!

Peta of Newark
March 7, 2021 8:38 am

Good grief.
Can we please have some standardisation on what is and is not a Decimal Point

My way of doing it.
A ‘monocrystalline’ silicon solar panel has a nameplate of 200 Watts per square metre under a ‘standard’ sun (1000 Watts per sqm)

NB: Mono panels are NOT full of or even slightly composed of Rare Earths.
Thin Film panels maybe, but, they are very heavy lumps of near solid glass and are only rated about 125Watts per sqm under the standard sun. Nobody uses them

In UK or German conditions, a 1sqm mono panel will produce 10% of that (20Watts) averaged over a whole year
In Spain, maybe 30Watts.

Thus a 1 sqm panel, in Spain will produce:
30*8500/1000 kWh per year **
=250kWh per year

** When i do a BoE, I take a year to be 8,500 hours long
Eight thousand five hundred.
NOT 8.500

Germany uses 550 TWh we’re told.
= 550,000,000,000 kWh

Thus, Germany needs (that 550 number, divided by 250) square metres of panels installed in Spain
I get 2,200 square kilometres or 544 thousand acres

Thus, roughly 0.5% of the land area of Spain will provide all the electricity Germany presently uses
(It will be a lot less soon)

NB: That is = solid wall-to-wall panelling. At least double that for ‘access’

I leave it up to folks more intelligent than I how to sort out what happens at night-time….

Reply to  Peta of Newark
March 7, 2021 9:48 am

Please reread the article.

Itdoesn't add up...
Reply to  Peta of Newark
March 7, 2021 2:08 pm

The German/French habit of using commas and points the “wrong” way round is annoying, but you can get used to it. It’s more obvious if you are reading in the original language of course. My rule of thumb is a solar park is about 5acres per MWp , so for 1.5TWh/day at one sixth average capacity factor typical for Spain that is 6x5x1,500,000/24 or 1.875 million acres. Boost by other losses, including storage round trip for after dark power, transmission losses, etc.

Reply to  Itdoesn't add up...
March 7, 2021 3:18 pm

For my edification: How would you tell if 123.456.789 is 123,456,789 or 123,456.789? Or “wrong” way means that 123,456.789 would be 123.456,789?

Reply to  TonyG
March 8, 2021 8:24 am

They use a comma for the decimal point. 123,456.789 would be written 123.456,789

March 7, 2021 10:11 am

Well, you see, nobody is going to power Germany with Spanish solar panels. Nobody is even going to power Spain with just solar panels. You only need to worry about the area solar panels take up once you’ve allowed for all the rooftops, warehouses, parking lots and even reservoirs you can put solar panels on.

Any European nation will be using a mix of solar, wind, offshore wind and hydro… and yes, it will not be relying only on power generated within its own borders. It might make sense to take some of the power from N Africa…

Reply to  griff
March 7, 2021 10:49 am

Wind is currently all but USELESS in the UK, solar a total no-show.

You are accidentally correct, wind and solar CAN NEVER BE RELIED UPON… AT ALL !

comment image

You continue to live in a hallucinogenic based fantasy La-La-Land, griff

Reply to  fred250
March 8, 2021 8:57 am

And on another day, you’ll get a different result. Exactly what have you proved?

Reply to  griff
March 8, 2021 12:30 pm

He has proven that wind and solar can’t be relied on to provide reliable power.

Reply to  griff
March 7, 2021 11:36 am

Griff, you can carpet the entire surface of the earth with solar panels, and you still only have a maximum 50% potential power supply all up (in case you haven’t noticed, Ol’ Sol knocks off every night).

And then if Mr. Breezy decides to have a quiet night at home with Mrs. Breezy when Sol is sleeping every night, you get Texas- like power supply conditions.

Reply to  Mr.
March 8, 2021 8:58 am

but you don’t get that worldwide… you don’t even get it across the UK very often and you get it even less often across the connected European grids.

Reply to  griff
March 7, 2021 1:02 pm

We need enough solar to power a country when the wind isn’t blowing.
We need enough wind to power a country when the sun isn’t shinning.
We need enough hydro to power a country when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shinning.
We need enough batteries to power a country when the wind isn’t blowing, the sun isn’t shinning and the resevoirs have all run dry.

Or we could just build a couple of nuclear power plants and be done with it.

willem post
Reply to  MarkW
March 7, 2021 1:18 pm

I will borrow that for my other comments

Reply to  MarkW
March 8, 2021 8:58 am

Could you address my point? which is that this is a completely unrealistic view of how any nation or region would ever address powering itself with renewable energy?

Reply to  griff
March 8, 2021 12:30 pm

I not only addressed your point, I’ve completely refuted it.

Reply to  griff
March 7, 2021 1:24 pm

What the eff for?

Reply to  Derg
March 8, 2021 8:25 am

So griff can feel good about saving the planet.

Reply to  griff
March 8, 2021 5:25 am

Griff are you that stupid …. do you understand if you can’t generate it in your own landmass then it becomes a ponzi scheme. If you can’t generate it then your neighbours can’t and there neighbors can’t.

Someone has to produce EXCESS YOU MORON.

Reply to  LdB
March 8, 2021 8:59 am

Well duh: and frequently in the context of solar and wind somebody does…

Reply to  griff
March 8, 2021 10:29 pm

We did the numbers dropkick currently Europe is currently 84.7% non renewable and 15.3% renewables. You are talking about 100% renewables you won’t even get to 25% with your stupidity before it collapses.

Lets start with the primary school obvious that the whole of Europe is in the dark for a few hours because it fits inside a 180deg part of Earth so you are down to wind at that point. So you need to hold the whole thing up on wind and >>> EVERY COUNTRY must produce excess so if they are the one with the wind they can feed the others.

Tom in Toronto
March 7, 2021 10:24 am

An interesting follow up would be to calculate the energy requirements to mine and produce all those raw materials for the panels, and more importantly, the ridiculously large amount of batteries required.
We know that Solar Panels by themselves have an EROI > 1, but how about the Panels+batteries?
If it’s <=1, NO amount of panels + batteries could ever power the world since it would cost more energy to create and maintain the system than it produces.

Dennis G Sandberg
Reply to  Tom in Toronto
March 7, 2021 1:04 pm

Storage for a few days of cloudy and calm costs 10X as much as the turbines and panels. The sunshine and breezes fraudsters know this; that’s why they’re promoting hydrogen for storage for use on “not enough days”, and as marketable green product on “too much days”. They know that’s just as ridiculous but it stretches out the sell a few thousand more turbines and panels gravy train a couple more years. It’s encouraging to see this hoax is loosing favor as indicated by China ending wind subsidies effective January 1, 2021.

The best statement in this article, is the always ignored, “importing of energy from China and India” in the form of the energy intensive products every modern society requires. Giving up these industries, together with the jobs, tax base and profits and then virtue signaling and in turn shaming China and India for their emissions is beyond stupid (way beyond).

Joel O'Bryan
March 7, 2021 11:12 am

2 million sq km ( 2 squares @ 1000km x 1000 km each side) or 10,000 sq km (one square 100 km x 100 km)…

Latter is undo-able, the former is insane to think its even possible.

March 7, 2021 11:57 am

This is a back-of-the-envelope calculation based on experience from existing PV plants in California and publicly available battery data and insolation data for Spain. The calculations can be adjusted using different assumptions.

Excellent disclaimer. The phrases “back-of-the-envelope calculation” and “calculations can be adjusted using different assumptions” should probably be included in just about any academic paper on climate and energy.

March 7, 2021 11:58 am

We’re going to need a lot more room for all those solar panels. Maybe we should build a big sphere completely surrounding the sun?

Reply to  TonyG
March 7, 2021 3:26 pm

Dyson would approve!

Reply to  whsmith
March 7, 2021 7:44 pm

Except in Europe, where vacuum cleaners aren’t allowed to use so much power.

William Astley
March 7, 2021 12:04 pm

The above analysis is too detailed. Authors miss the points, do not find and explain concepts which kill the green scams.

The general public and most politicians do not understand why green energy is a pathetic scam.

Every country is now committing to zero emissions 2050 and are starting to spending money on a scheme that will never work….

The Green scams used fake analysis that ignores the energy required to build green stuff and to connect the green stuff to the grid.

The Green schemes all fail at the point where there is more green energy generated on any one day than can be used by the system.

German is at that point now. Germany has cheated and exported the green energy and then bought back reliable nuclear/gas power from other EU countries who play along with the scam. That hides the problem.

Installing more wind and sun gathering just makes the wasted green power worse.

In the summer, in Germany, there is too much sun and wind power and in the winter.

In the German winter there are weeks which would require batteries to provide say 70% of the current German electric power, for a week or two. That problem cannot be fixed with batteries.

Batteries cannot be used to move summer power (when there is a surplus for weeks) to the winter (when there is deficit for weeks and weeks). This summer- winter green energy waste problem would occur in all other the Northern countries.
It is absolutely impossible regardless of how much is spent, to get to zero emissions, using batteries and sun/wind gathering.

This is not a game. The idiots are spending and forcing our countries by legislation to get to zero. Green stuff that stops reducing CO2 emission at the point Germany is at now.

How much energy is required to construct the batteries, to mine the metals for the batteries, and so required to produce the batteries?

Wind and sun gathering CO2 reduction schemes stop reducing CO2 emissions…. Go in the wrong direction when batteries are required.
And the analysis is for the current German electrical grid.

“The German electrical grid power supply output would be required to INCREASE by a factor of THREE (with zero emissions) as all heating, manufacturing, and transportation, is going to be powered from electricity”

Where is the carbon free energy going to come to construct the batteries?

A Cambridge University has written a report which at least, quantifies some of the obvious, impossible to solve problems, to get to Zero Emissions

“The UK electrical grid power supply output would be required to INCREASE by a factor of THREE (with zero emissions) as all heating, manufacturing, and transportation, is going to be powered from electricity”

Cement cannot be made and there is no solution.

There is no solution to how to power ships or airplanes.

There is no solution as to how to construct buildings or what is going to replace plastics.

There is no solution for how to mine with zero emissions or how to smelt steel. The solution is more recycling.

Green energy is a fable, an urban legend.

It is not possible to get to zero CO2 emissions using wind and sun gathering and batteries and biofuel and burning forests, regardless of how much money is spent.

There are entire regions of the US where wind is not viable. And it is a fact a wind and sun system cannot get to zero co2 emissions. The CO2 calculations did not include the energy and CO2 to build the green stuff and the new power lines to the green stuff.

Wind turbines produce full power for about 12 to 15 years. At that time, the wind turbines are de-rated by 30% to 50% to avoid turbine failure.

Wind turbines wear out and so do the wind turbine supports. So every 20 years all of the wind turbines and all of the wind turbine supports will need to be replaced. The energy to remove and dispose of the wind turbines and the sun gathering equipment needs to be included.

The Green Schemes do not work for basic engineering reasons. For example, solar panels are roughly up to 30% less efficient due to dust. In a commercial solar system, de-ionized water is used every day, to clean the solar panels, to avoid that loss. On roof tops, the solar panels need to be de-rated as they will not be cleaned on a daily basis.

This is one of the reasons why Germany’s green energy is so inefficient. The calculations are fake and do not discount the CO2 savings with the CO2 required to construct everything that changed to accommodate the new remotely located windfarms such as transmission lines.
German sun and wind gathering gathers on average less than 20% of its nameplate rating.
Another is Germany installed wind turbines where there is insufficient yearly wind, same as other EU countries, and where it is too cloudy for effective sun gathering.
Zero CO2 emissions would require replacing all hydrocarbon powered transportation, construction, and mining equipment with electric powered equipment.

Itdoesn't add up...
March 7, 2021 12:05 pm

This is taken from refactored weather data covering 1985 to 2016:
Reply to  Itdoesn't add up...
March 7, 2021 4:03 pm

Please remember that Capacity Factor is not Efficiency. Power output is CF times efficiency.
Output must then be integrated over a time period, e.g. diurnal or annual.
THEN, that LONG list of subsequent losses occurs on the way to the consumer.

Itdoesn't add up...
Reply to  whsmith
March 7, 2021 6:49 pm

The efficiency of solar panels is limited by physics – the Shockley-Queisser limit (and the same is true of wind turbines, which can never capture more than 16/27ths of the energy in the wind that passes through). The efficiency of the devices may vary according to the inputs. For example, this chart short the real efficiency of a wind turbine relative to the energy in the wind at different wind speeds.

It never exceeds about 45%, or about 75% of the theoretical maximum Betz limit, and is much lower than that at both low and high wind speeds.

Capacity factors are a convenience because they scale with capacity installed. Looking at historical amounts generated by wind or solar requires adjustment to reflect the pace of build out, which otherwise can give a misleading impression of likely variations in output across a year, since often there is much more commissioning of new capacity in the summer months.

Losses downstream of generation are a separate item, and depend mainly on the configuration of the transmission and distribution networks. It is conventional in grid studies to look at energy sent out onto the grid rather than worrying about own consumption of power through pumps and motors etc. although where fuel has to be purchased, the efficiency of operation affects the size of the fuel bill (and frequent ramping instead of steady operation at an optimal level can also add to the maintenance bill).

Batteries and other forms of storage do require proper accounting of the round trip losses .

willem post
Reply to  whsmith
March 8, 2021 2:44 am

If a wind turbine is rated at 1000 kW and produces an annual average of 300 kW, the CF is 0.3

Nuclear plants in the US have a FLEET AVERAGE CF of 0.91, plus they have had UP-RATINGS over the years, plus they have had 20-y LIFE EXTENSIONS over the years.

Nuclear plants normally operate at near 100% of RATED output for about 500 days, RAIN OR SHINE, then they are down for refueling for 4 to 5 weeks, then they run at 100% of RATED output for another 500 days.

They have been doing that for DECADES, RAIN OR SHINE, GW OR NOT


It doesn't add up...
Reply to  whsmith
March 8, 2021 3:14 am

Not sure if you had understood that the capacity factors I used were quoted for every hour of every day of every year, reflecting the weather. I did shortcut by taking the daily averages, whereas a full calculation should use the maximum resolution of the data. That becomes important when you account for storage losses and wastage/curtailment, as these can accrue any time generation and demand differ. But daily is good enough to give a handle on the need for storage to cover periods of unfavourable weather and seasonal variations and differences between years.

Only when you have computed all the detailed data can you compute average capacity factors achieved. Even a theoretically perfect generator would be limited to a capacity factor defined by the ratio of average demand to peak demand, with the peak being essentially instantaneous.

Reply to  It doesn't add up...
March 9, 2021 6:18 pm

But you need to understand you don’t want “the average” you want “the worst” case because it is at that moment your grid collapses. You do want your grid up 100% of time or near enough to it right 🙂

willem post
March 7, 2021 1:14 pm

Lars and William,

Your article should have included wind, as well as solar, hydro, bio, plus other electricity sources

Determine storage for Germany

Take the production of all electricity producing sources, plus imports, in Germany.

Add their production and imports throughout the year, as they occurs, into many giant batteries, located in Germany.

Withdraw from the batteries what is required to satisfy daily demand curves, and exports (exports would be considered a demand), as they occur.

The resulting graph will show and upward rising curve, reaching a maximum around August, decreasing to near-zero in about October, and start rising again thereafter, etc, year after year.

That would give the capacity required for storage.

In New England that capacity, adjusted for 20% in/out losses, is about 10 TWh for a 125 TWh system

Germany, 600 TWh, would need at least 600/125 = 48 TWh.
Your article mentioned 45 TWh, which may not have been adjusted for losses.

You will find the storage balance for NE in this article


Reply to  willem post
March 7, 2021 3:35 pm

Coming soon…

Willem Post
Reply to  whsmith
March 7, 2021 6:14 pm


Germany has an abundance of published minute by minute production data for all energy sources.

You could make various runs

About 20 years ago, practically no storage was required, i.e., the good old days, before inane madness captured the gullible public mind.

Each run would take away a source, such as nuclear, and replace it with more wind, solar, etc., and/or with more imports and exports, as required by conditions.

Cliff Hiilton
March 7, 2021 1:14 pm

Workers? How many laborers and labor hours are required to install/maintain such a disaster? I dare say the world does not contain the working age to support this fantasy.

Thank you for all your work on this talk.

Reply to  Cliff Hiilton
March 7, 2021 6:06 pm

So there really are a lot of green jobs to be had?

March 7, 2021 1:50 pm

Nevada all over again. Clear the grazers, cast a Green blight upon the land, and don’t spare the ranchers… people… persons.

March 7, 2021 2:08 pm

Large fortunes have already been wasted on intermittent weather dependent generators over 2 decades to achieve 2% of the world energy requirements. And that is the really easy part.

The one obvious conclusion is that weaning off fossil fuels is incredibly challenging.

Realisation should be slowly emerging that WDGs are not going to be the solution. The shortage of fossil fuels will eventually encourage other realistic options to be considered.

Itdoesn't add up...
March 7, 2021 2:28 pm

I had a go using data from Staffell & Pfenniger on refactored weather estimated PV capacity factors hourly over the period 1985-2016 for Spain, and a German demand profile they also produced. First, I averaged the data to daily figures on the grounds that you have to have at least sufficient storage to covert the midday peak to cover the hours of darkness and twilight. However, you should note that this daily process will consume energy in its storage round trip – via batteries or pumped storage, perhaps 75-80% efficient.

Next, I calculated daily PV production figures from the daily capacity factors and subtracted the daily demand to produce a daily surplus or deficit. The surpluses and deficits were added or subtracted to a running total stock of energy in store. I adjusted capacity to produce the total demand over the 32 years, and set an initial stock of energy in store. I limited the store to a maximum of 100TWh. It turns out this is not quite enough, with a couple of instances of the store emptying completely and imposing blackouts, although the amount lost to the store being full is quite small. I made no allowance in this initial calculation for storage losses, or for significant overprovision of capacity and consequent wastage.

This is the storage profile that results:

Spain PV Germany Demand.png
Itdoesn't add up...
Reply to  Itdoesn't add up...
March 7, 2021 3:51 pm

Next I looked at limiting the storage to 50TWh, and raising the capacity to compensate. Another 150GWp of capacity is required to compensate for the loss of 50TWh of storage (100TWh down to 50TWh). Net of course it adds nothing to supply, with surplus production simply being wasted. Such a surplus would have a negative value in the marketplace (as would all production during hours of surplus), which complicates the economics of the trade off between storage and capacity with wasted production. Nevertheless, storage is likely to be the more expensive option. 50TWh at even say $50/kWh for pumped storage is $2.5 trillion – if you can find the sites – and horrendously more if you want to use batteries. Even at $2/W, the capacity option is “only” $300bn. But of course the wasted production means that all the cost has to be recovered over the used MWh, adding at least 50% to electricity prices on average.

The storage profile looks like this:

Spain PV Germany Demand 50TWh store.png
Itdoesn't add up...
Reply to  Itdoesn't add up...
March 7, 2021 3:56 pm

Perhaps I should add that I did an article for Euan Mearns’ Energy Matters site a few years ago, which tackles the issues of the tradeoffs between storage and capacity and looks at the breakpoints and economics of the various options for wind and solar in the simple case of Thursday Island. Hopefully it is easier to see what is going on.

Reply to  Itdoesn't add up...
March 7, 2021 5:27 pm

Any solar/battery power system that does not have fossil fuel backup needs to design for the minimum insolation condition over every time frame. Worst is typically mid winter with four or so days of next to no sunshine in temperate climates. Surprisingly it is not much different in tropical climates where cyclones and associated depression can hang around for almost a week. Working on average capacity factor is a naive mistake that indicates little understanding of the real world situation. The Earth has a lot of persistent cloud. Attached is Spain on 8th March 2021.

The only realistic means of assessing is realtime run data for both demand and insolation. Australian grid operators are slowly learning this. There used to be great weight placed on the magic of the geographical diversity fairy but with real system operations comes the realisation that geographical diversity is fantasy for averaging insolation and wind.

Screen Shot 2021-03-08 at 8.51.36 am.png
March 7, 2021 4:43 pm

 DC to AC conversion before consumption incurs a loss of 21-24%3 of direct current power produced.

That figure is pure rubbish. Modern inverters have an efficiency of over 95%.

Reply to  sibeen
March 8, 2021 7:21 am

I thought the same. But another question: is this factor ALREADY taken care of in the published output figure for the solar station?

In other words I am wondering if the correct factor to use in this calculation is actually 1.000 ?

Reply to  sibeen
March 8, 2021 8:55 am

Yes: there has been a revolution in conversion as regards power put into then taken out of HVDC long distance lines, which is why so many are built now

Tom Abbott
March 7, 2021 6:08 pm

From the article: “It appears that solar’s low energy density, high raw material input and low energy-Return-On-energy-Invested (eROeI) as well as large storage requirements make today’s solar technology an environmentally and economically unviable choice to replace conventional power at large scale.”

I think that sums it up nicely.

Solar is just not up to the job of powering the world.

Alarmists have chosen a power generation solution that is not viable.

March 7, 2021 6:36 pm

I was a bit shocked to see there is apparently 1,900 W/m2 p.a. in Spain. Even up in space, above the atmosphere, the solar constant is 1,360 W/m2. This is the total energy hitting a 1 sq. metre surface directly facing the sun in space at the average Earth-Sun distance. The situation in California is even more bizarre with 2,900W/m2, more than double the solar constant. Perhaps this is California, Venus?

Anyhow, I then realised the authors probably mean 1,900 Wh/m2 p.a. and 2,900 Wh/m2 p.a.

That being the case, what hope is there for the rest of the calculation if they cannot even get this right?

March 7, 2021 7:02 pm

Battery discharge at 1C and the “C” means “Coulombs” ? Really?

I’ve only skimmed this article and it is obviously a complete mess.

First of all look up what “C” means in relation to rechargeable battery discharging.

Then, realise that Li-ion batteries can tolerate a wide range of charging and discharging rates. They do not need to be particularly nurse-maided. The efficiency of a charge-discharge cycle is typically 99% not 90%.

It doesn't add up...
Reply to  kzb
March 8, 2021 2:46 am

The data on the Hornsdale Power Teserve battery in Australia suggest the round trip efficiency is about 80%. That’s real world data, not theory. It will likely decline as the battery ages further.

Reply to  It doesn't add up...
March 8, 2021 6:24 am

Oh, come on, you can do better than that. I suspect you already know that the efficiency is down at that level as that site is used for Frequency Control Ancillary Service (FCAS) for the vast majority of its operation. It’s actually how the site makes money. This is a short discharge cycle and lowers the round trip efficiency substantially. This is not what is being proposed in this mooted scenario.

Itdoesn't add up...
Reply to  sibeen
March 8, 2021 2:35 pm

I think you need to show that its operating regime worsens its performance. My understanding is that batteries perform best spending most of their time part charged, providing ancillary services to grids. Here’s some research, rather than your claims:

Reply to  It doesn't add up...
March 8, 2021 7:08 am

The round trip efficiency is a minor point at the moment (even though it is far better than 80%). The biggest problem is that if I had produced something like this at physics A’ Level, it would’ve been thrown back in my face. The authors claim to be university professors but make basic errors with units. How this got published is another very good question.
This calls the whole calculation into question. If they cannot get the units right, it all could be very wrong. This is the first thing to get sorted out, we can nit pick about battery efficiency later.

Itdoesn't add up...
Reply to  kzb
March 8, 2021 2:36 pm

Are you saying that the data on the HPR are false?

Reply to  Itdoesn't add up...
March 9, 2021 6:44 am

I’m saying the authors have apparently not used the correct units. That throws the whole calculation into doubt. There is a big difference between a Watt and a Watt-hour.

Reply to  kzb
March 8, 2021 8:32 am

You aren’t counting all of the circuitry needed to get the power from the grid and into the battery, then out of the battery and back onto the grid.
Nor are you counting the power needed to run the facility that houses the batteries.

Reply to  MarkW
March 8, 2021 12:42 pm

The process is similar to charging an EV, which is held to be around 99% efficient. Which brings me to the next point, which is that charging EVs will be used for load smoothing. When there is a huge fleet of tens of millions of EVs in use, that will represent a huge storage capacity for the grid.
However you do not address my main point which is they can’t even get the basics correct. The units are wrong. I can’t trust a single word of this article because of the basic errors.

Itdoesn't add up...
Reply to  kzb
March 8, 2021 2:38 pm

V2G. That results in battery degradation. That requirees you to stop, and hook up to the grid while driving home in the rush hour, to deplete your battery. You idealists are something else.

Reply to  Itdoesn't add up...
March 8, 2021 4:28 pm

You can pre-set the amount of charge you want left in your battery. But that is not the point, the point is, this vast energy storage resource is never even mentioned in the article. I’m not an idealist, I am just as sceptical as anyone when I see that the electricity supply needs to be tripled (at least) over the next 15 years or so and no-one seems to realise that fact. But if you don’t cover the ideas put forward by the climate mainstream you are not engaging with the argument. No-one is actually proposing vast centralised battery storage like the article says, the storage will take place without anyone noticing, in their own car batteries.

Danley Wolfe
March 8, 2021 10:13 am

Excellent analysis and I believe the level of detail is sufficient to get people thinking. The climate liberati will immediately discount even trash the author as unqualified and conclude that this information needs to be discounted and disregarded. The most important conclusion coming to my mind is before you commit to any economically transformative undertaking everyone needs to be assured the science and engineering e.g., of scale up, is completely validated before major commitments are made. The climate movement has been based on pipe dreams that may come crashing down.

Reply to  Danley Wolfe
March 8, 2021 12:52 pm

I am not a climate liberati I just want the truth. These kind of articles do your cause no good whatsoever. Simple errors like these will result in the other side being able to laugh at you and completely discount what you have to say. This is the second article on here in the last couple of weeks that has got units confused and it is very disappointing.

Steve Z
March 8, 2021 11:08 am

An excellent article, showing the impracticability of using only solar panels to provide the electrical needs of any country, including that produced in Sunny Spain.

The article left out a political question–why would farmers in Spain allow their land to be confiscated to send solar power to Germany when their primary occupation is producing food to feed Spaniards?

From the map of Spain in Figure 3, it appears that the provinces of southwestern Spain have a very high percentage of land devoted to agriculture, so that covering them with solar panels would have a huge impact on the food supply for Spaniards.

Reply to  Steve Z
March 8, 2021 12:45 pm

Er… heard of the EU? Spain actually sells food across Europe including a lot to the UK. Germany is now effectively funding the whole EU and so is in charge.

Reply to  Steve Z
March 8, 2021 7:36 pm

This statement from the top is true-
“Therefore, it appears at first sight that monthly 45.000 GWh ÷ 10,67 GWh/km2 = 4.220 km2 of solar panels in Spain should be sufficient. “

This is based on average Solar Star output per year divided by the 3200 acres it sits on.

He then goes on to say that Calif’s Solar Star gets more sun than Spain, etc.

There are the A.1 through A.9 adjustment-normalization factors. He only gets really A.4 wrong I think, as DC to AC conversion (total loss from panel to household outlet) should not be 30% in total, but 15% is believable. The transmission line run is around 1600 km. California looses about 7% a year in overall distribution loss, according to Stanford University (AC Transmission Line Losses (

Michael S. Kelly
March 9, 2021 12:01 am

Another storage technology that seems under everyone’s radar at the moment is cryogenic storage. A blunt description is that one builds a liquid air manufacturing plant run by solar or wind, and fills up large Dewars of product while the sun shines or the wind blows. Power is produced by a combined cycle process, first transferring heat into the liquid to evaporate it through a Stirling cycle heat engine, then expanding the high-pressure gas through a series of turbines (with reheat from the surroundings between stages). Very realistic engineering estimates show that recovery of 160 W-hr per kg of liquid air is feasible. The Dewars that hold liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen at LC 39 A and B at Kennedy Space Center could each hold 445 MW-hr worth of liquid air, a total of 1,780 MW-hr. Using a Claude cycle air plant, with no bells and whistles, the round-trip efficiency is only 25%, but that can be upped to around 50% with “cold storage” beds of gravel.

Though I am not a proponent of “renewables”, I kinda like this idea. For one thing, it could completely eliminate the tons of rare earths and copper in a wind turbine, if the turbine is just used as a direct mechanical drive for an air compressor – the “head end” of the Claude cycle. The number of charge/discharge cycles is effectively infinite. If built on sufficient scale, it would make renewables (even wind) dispatchable, and the storage infrastructure cost would not be ruinous or of such enormous extent (like pumped hydro) that it would destroy entire ecosystems. Each 445 MW-hr storage Dewar would be 62 feet in diameter, so its footprint would be 3,019 square feet. Lake Mead (feeding Hoover Dam) has an area of 247.1 square miles. Assuming a 50% fill factor, one could place 2.2817E6 Dewars on the same amount of turf, sufficient to store 1 billion MW-hr of energy. Of course, if each cost $1 million, the total bite would be ~$2.3 trillion. But we’re talking about storing 1,000 hours worth of the entire electric power capacity of the United States, so one wouldn’t expect it to be “cheap”. But it wouldn’t be the environmental disaster (at least storage-wise) of batteries.

Reply to  Michael S. Kelly
March 9, 2021 4:52 am

Very attractive in many ways but likely the 50% efficiency figure lead to the idea being discounted.
Question: how much energy has to be supplied by the surroundings in order to produce hundreds of MW electricity generation? Is this a problem on this scale?

March 9, 2021 7:22 am

The Wikipedia page (ref 3) gives the Solar Star output explicitly in MW (AC). Therefore, no DC/AC conversion efficiency should be used in the subsequent calculation.

Cole Byrne
March 9, 2021 8:07 am

Despite the fact that green energy is more expensive than nuclear or other types, but it is much more environmentally friendly and saves our environment. But recently, there has been more and more information that green energy creates a lot of waste. Please tell me, is this just a fake? By the way, many businesses use the services of firms like rubbishwaste for garbage collection and recycling. So this is another argument in defense of enterprises. I hope that our countries will soon come out of the pandemic crisis and the economy will start working at full speed again!

March 9, 2021 9:43 pm

There is just no way you can power a modern economy with solar power, I work in this field and know the limitations. The only way we can ever hope to power the world is to resort to space-based solar power using thousands of square miles of paper-thin collectors beaming down the energy via micro-wave to collectors on earth. But that is a very long way off.

Nell Gwyn
March 12, 2021 10:32 pm

I love napkin math. Well done. The details are great. This is going into my archives! Thank you.
I post little things on Facebook like how much solar power it would take to cook a Turkey at Christmas time in Seattle. I worked out once that given that 40% of the power generation work force in the USA is in solar and only produces 1.5% of the power. If the workers drove a Tesla to work everyday at a 45 minute commute consume they would about ~1/10 of the power they produce that day.
The poor grid operators must be pulling their hair out.

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