Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach
In my recent post yclept Bright Green Impossibilities, I showed that it is not humanly possible to eliminate fossil fuel CO2 emissions by 2050. I live in California, the heart of the green lunacy. Here, there’s a group called Climate-Safe California. Given that there is no sign of the much-hyped “CLIMATE EMERGENCY” I’m not sure what they’re trying to keep us “safe” from … but I digress. Their genius plan is to reduce fossil-fuel emissions by 80% below 1990 levels by the year 2030.
Now, energy use will continue to increase in California, but that will largely be offset by increases in efficiency and changes in manufacturing, with less CO2 per unit of fossil fuel used. In fact, current California emissions are only about 1% higher than they were 30 years ago in 1990. So to reach their goal, if we leave out magical fairy dust and giant imaginary vacuums sucking CO2 out of the air, we’d have to reduce fossil fuel use by 80% by 2030.
The green folks think this can be done with wind and solar … but the sad fact is, you need something close to 100% backup for the times when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine. We’re already suffering occasional blackouts due to our insane dependence on expensive, intermittent wind and solar. Given the existence of that ugly thing called “reality” that green folks like to ignore, that means we have to replace fossil fuels with nuclear-generated electricity.
So how much fossil fuel does California currently use? Turns out its about 1.7 petawatt-hours (PWh, or 1015 watt-hours) per year. And to replace 80% of this with nuclear, allowing for peak power and downtime, we have to increase our generation capacity by about 307 gigawatts (GW, or 109 watts). By comparison, Diablo Canyon, the only remaining nuclear power plant in California after green activists have had their say, generates 2.3 GW of electricity … 307 GW needed, 2.3 GW per big nuke plant, 8-1/2 years to do it … can you see a problem developing here?
Now, they want to do this by 2030. So we need to find sites, do feasibility studies, purchase land, get permits and licenses, manufacture, excavate, install, test and hook up to the grid a 2 GW nuclear plant, a bit smaller than Diablo Canyon, each and every three weeks from now to 2030. And that’s starting tomorrow …
It’s worth noting that in the US, the timespan from feasibility study to grid hookup is longer than ten years … so if we started tomorrow, by 2030 we’d have exactly zero new nuclear plants online. Here’s an overview of the US process:
And people with industry experience say that timeline is optimistic, it can be 15-20 years … not to mention the intense opposition from California greens to anything nuclear.
Still want wind? To do it with wind, we’d have to find sites, do feasibility studies, purchase land, get permits and licenses, manufacture, excavate, install, test and hook up to the grid no less than 1,000 two-megawatt (MW, or 106 watts) wind turbines, each and every single week from now to 2030. And that’s starting tomorrow … a thousand per week.
Solar sound better? NREL says the actual delivery 24/7/365 of of grid-scale solar farms averages 8.3 W/m2 of ground area (not panel area). That’s 8.3 MW per square kilometer of ground area. So to do it with solar, we’d have to find sites, do feasibility studies, purchase land, get permits and licenses, manufacture, excavate, install, test and hook up to the grid no less than 83 square kilometers (32 square miles) of solar farms, each and every single week from now to 2030. And again, that’s starting tomorrow …
Just finding suitable land for that scale of development is nearly impossible. Here’s some information from California regarding how hard it is to find suitable land for solar power.
… Another issue is the fact that such solar ‘farms’ require huge tracts of land. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has been tasked with finding 24 tracts of public land of three square miles each with good solar exposure, favorable slopes, road and transmission line availability. Additionally, the land set aside for utility-scale solar farms must not disturb native wildlife or endangered species such as the desert tortoise, the desert bighorn sheep, and others. The wildlife issue has proved to be a contentious one. Projects in California have been halted due to the threat caused to endangered species resulting in a backlog of 158 commercial projects with which the BLM is currently contending.
Note that the BLM is having trouble finding a mere 75 square miles of land for solar power generation that doesn’t have too much impact on the environment, and we’re talking about building 31 square miles of new solar power per week … for the next 446 weeks … yeah, that’s totally legit.
Then, of course, there is the stupendous cost of this whole enterprise. In addition to the decommissioning costs of our existing generating facilities, the cost to build a hundred plus new nuclear plants, plus putting hundreds of thousands of people out of work, and getting rid of hundreds of thousands of automotive gas stations, the entire electrical grid would have to be hugely upgraded to allow it to carry all the power for newly electric homes, businesses, industries, and cars.
And that’s not just replacing the wires, including rewiring every home like mine that uses gas for cooking and for water and space heating. It’s replacing the transformers, switches, substations, control systems, overload protection, breaker boxes, and every other part of the grid as well.
In fact, to do that the California grid would have to handle no less than 3.75 times the power it is currently carrying … that’s what “hugely upgraded means”. Not just upsized by 10%, or even 100%. It will require three and three-quarters times the volume of wiring, switches, substations, and all the rest.
According to the California Public Utilities Commission, California has 25,526 miles of higher voltage transmission lines and 239,557 miles of distribution lines, two-thirds of which are overhead and one-third underground. So we’d need to install another 94,000 miles of high-voltage line and 886,000 miles of distribution lines. At a rate of 440 miles every workday. From now until 2030. Starting tomorrow.
Or we could pull out all ~ quarter-million miles of lines, above and below-ground, and replace them with much, much bigger wires.
Billions and billions and billions of dollars in pursuit of an unattainable chimera, on a quest that will do nothing to change the climate.
I gotta say … the fact that impassioned but totally innumerate folks like the “Climate-Safe California” people get listened to at all gives me nightmares about how many people have fallen for the Great Green Climate Scam … let me be clear:
It. Cannot. Be. Accomplished. This is just another bright green impossible fantasy.
AS ALWAYS: I can defend and explain my words and am happy to do so. I cannot defend or explain your interpretation of my words. So please, QUOTE THE EXACT WORDS YOU ARE DISCUSSING.
- California CO2 Emissions By Year: EIA
- California Primary Energy Consumption: EIA
- California Total System Electrical Generation By Fuel: California Energy Commission
ACKNOWLEGEMENTS: I gotta give huge props to Anthony Watts, who conceived of and created WUWT, and to Charles The Moderator and all of the volunteer moderators around the world. My thanks to you all.
Charles saw the draft of what I was writing and sent me the following, one issued an hour ago and one a few minutes ago today (Wednesday, June 16) by CAISO, the California Independent Systems Operator responsible for the operation of the California electrical grid. Top one is the most recent.
An hour ago … “no anticipation of outages”. One minute ago … “Flexalert”, and “conserve electricity” … the lunacy of unreliable, intermittent, mostly useless renewable energy never ends.
DISCLAIMER: Don’t be misled by my contempt for the modern “environmental” groups. I am and have been since my youth what I would describe as a true environmentalist, as opposed to today’s “watermelon environmentalists”, who are green on the outside and solid Marxist red on the inside … here’s a post on that.