Energia rinnovabile: uno sguardo critico

Many qualify electricity from solar panels or wind mills, in a poetical mode, as free energy.
There is no such a thing as free energy. It is renewable, but not free. It requires a large energy investment to produce solar panels or wind mills. It is imperative to use the proper tools to analyze any of the so called renewable sources of energy and dispel the notion that they represent free energy.
The objective of those renewable sources is to have a positive future flow of output energy, and that flow of renewable energy should be able to pay the initial investment in non renewable energy in a short period of time, say a maximum of 3 years. This standard indicates that we have a real innovation. Any Government financial support does not change the reality of our objective, fast payback of the energy investment.
This is the only objective we should have for a measure of reasonable sustainability and cut our dependency on foreign oil.
As you can deduct, this definition of sustainability is independent of the price of oil, as it should be. Let’s check the situation of the three most common projects for renewable sources with the standard mentioned above.
1. Ethanol: The future flow of renewable energy is negative. There is nothing left to pay for the humongous required energy investments-1 Gallon of ethanol, uses 1.85 Gallons of oil- If we do nothing, we will be better off in terms of energy consumption and emissions now and in the future. The government support, with all their financial help, cannot change the negative energy balance and the enormous increase in present emissions. Our goal is not fulfilled.
2. Wind Mills: The future flow of renewable energy is positive. However the very large investments in energy to engineer and build the units, including power lines, have an energy payback beyond 30 years.
This investment does not avoid the investment in carbon, gas, or nuclear power plants to cover the ~70% of the time they are not producing electricity. We are increasing dramatically the power consumption and emissions as we build the units now, for a meager yearly renewable volume of power. . Our goal is not fulfilled
2. Solar panels: The future flow of renewable energy is positive. The pay back for the initial energy consumption is beyond 50 years. Solar panels produce energy in average ~20% of the time. Any standard technology, let’s say small generators consuming natural gas, cost 1/30 of the energy cost of a solar panel for an equal total output.
We seem to be digging our own grave with gusto. None of those projects comply with the most elementary energy objective we have as a country; on the contrary, they produce a considerable spike of energy usage now, that could be avoided, and I doubt that they will ever have a proper pay back in created energy.
There is no wealth creation in these activities, no energy savings, only an immediate transfer of money from the Taxpayers to somebody else, destroying other Industries in the meantime.
Due to all kind of government money injected into these projects, and the high price of oil, money could be made. But if the price of oil goes below a certain threshold, boom, the project is no longer viable. See T. Boone Pickens suspending his wind mill project because oil went below US$60. Or the several bankruptcies in ethanol due to the higher price of corn in spite of all the subsidies! Millions of barrels of oil that we cannot afford to loose, thrown to the wind.
None of those programs complies with cutting CO2 emissions, a suspected objective anyway.
They make our dependence of foreign oil much worst, not better, using considerable high level engineering resources for naught.
There are enormous opportunities in energy savings and production in many Industries, with a positive balance of energy consumption and paybacks anywhere from 4 months to one year.



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