Renewable Energy Series: Solar Vs Wind | Answers With Joe

Today I wrap up my renewable energy series with a look at solar vs wind energy. Support me on Patreon!

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Legendary oilman T. Boone Pickens called the US the Saudi Arabia of wind and when you see maps like this, you understand why.

As the Earth spins toward the west, it slides underneath the air in the atmosphere, giving it from our perspective a generally eastward direction.

That easterly wind sweeps over the rocky mountains and then rushes back down across the Great Plains, creating one of the largest wind corridors in the world.

And in the last 10 years, investments in commercial wind energy have boomed across the United States. Economies of scale have started to kick in, causing the price of wind turbines to drop.

They also cost little to maintain and operate and help create energy independence for smaller communities and provide a revenue source for local ranchers who lease out the land to the energy companies.

And they’re more space-efficient. On the ground they take up very little space and those ranchers can still use the land below them for agriculture.

Plus it’s a large growth sector for jobs and currently employs over 100,000 people, expected to rise up to 600,000 in the next 30 years.

And there’s a reason I saved saved solar for last. Because there’s something different about solar from all other forms of energy, clean or dirty.

Photovoltaic solar panels, or PV panels, have no moving parts.

Every other energy source creates electricity by using heat or steam or water or wind to turn a turbine. Solar literally just collects the energy coming out of the sun and repurposes it.

When asked if he was interested in fusion power as a source of energy, Elon Musk famously said that we already have a massive fusion reactor in the sky just feeding us energy every day. All we have to do is collect it.

Now there are some negatives to solar power, let’s just get that out of the way…

First the obvious one, there’s no sun at night, so solar power is intermittent. But intermittent more like tidal energy than wind energy because we know the sun will be coming up every day.

And even in cloudy weather, it is producing something.

They take up a lot of land, unlike wind farms mentioned earlier, if you have a solar farm, you can’t use that for other things.

But, you can also use existing infrastructure like buildings and transport corridors.

The big hangups come in the construction of the solar panels because there are some hazardous materials used that need to be properly disposed of at the end of the panel’s life span.

And some PV panels require rare Elements like those found in cadmium telluride (CdTe) or copper iridium gallium selenide (CIGS), which is all the more reason to recycle the panels properly.

Luckily, 96% of a solar panel can be recycled. Unfortunately, the recycling infrastructure for solar panels is pretty small, but expected to grow tremendously in the next 30 years.

But the one that gets the solar haters the most worked up is that producing solar panels does generate greenhouse gasses. Specifically nitrogen trifluoride and sulfur hexafluoride. And yes, that sucks.

But the argument that we should stick with something like coal because PV panels create greenhouse gasses is frankly absurd.

Because with the solar panels, it’s a one-shot deal and then you’re getting clean, free energy for the next 20 or 30 years, while coal is constantly pumping out greenhouse gasses that whole time.

This debate was laid to rest by Wilfried Van Sark of Utrecht University in the Netherlands. In a paper for the trade Nature Communications, he and his team calculated the amount of greenhouse gas emissions created by PV panel production all the way back to 1975 to see how long it would take before they made back their debt.

I didn’t even mention the other type of solar energy, concentrated solar thermal plants.





  • The reason solar and wind are controversial is that we have a vast military-industrial complex that is dependent on oil. We also have oil companies that
    don't want to change lose their investments and government subsidies which keep them extremely rich. Solar and wind and the large variety of energy
    storage devices and methods are a threat to their power and control. If you can make your own electricity and run your EV on it ARAMCO just lost
    its hold on you and our huge military lost their role as protectors of Saudi Oil.
    They would rather boil our planet in oil than give up their power.

  • 900M birds thats not a lot

  • Shoot the nuclear used rods into deep space. They will keep going further away from us forever. Or shoot them into the sun to be burnt up.

  • Who else thought this was a recent video until he mentioned 2018 as a future date?

  • Solar panels sounds great but we need to consider the true cost of the materials that will have to be recycled or damaged that will be done if they are not!

  • The calculation at 7:00 is simply bad. Why?

    The available percentage of the land is muchless what is said in the video.

    1. The barren lands simply do not play the game. They are barren for a very good reason. They are on too extreme altitude or latitude.
    2. Forest. We won't clear forests for solar plants. Because it is a bad exhange.
    3. A part of the land is flooded with each year. They cannot be used.
    4. AGRICUTURE. Just check. We can use them for these purpose or solar. You cannot do both.

    Nobody cares about the year energy balance. The foundation of the grid is the POWER balance. In every second. You cannot produce more power with intermittent PPs with more than about 50-60% of peak power demand. This is at summer. The off design working point of wind + solar is very bad at winter…
    Most of highly developed zones of the world is above 40 deg latitude…

    Satellite solar power is the most idiotic thing which ever can be imagined. Even with 1000 USD/kWe install cost in most of the world is not worth to build them without subsidy on power price and mandatory accept from PP by the grid. You cannot go LEO any material less than 2000 USD/kg.

  • "you can make money selling that energy back to power grid"
    You're dreaming my friend, maybe you don't know, but they selling you 1kw of energy for 0.15$, but if you want to sell your energy to them, you will be lucky if they pay you 0.01$ per 1kw, so good luck to your "making money" idea.
    p.s. stop dreaming, come back to reality from your liberal limbo land.

  • Solar panels leach toxic chemicals into the ground and wind turbines give off a subsonic frequency harmful to humans and animals.

  • You have in your talk
    224,583,333 ×.1 equals 22,458,333 Please correct this error so others do not think you are a math idiot.
    Thank you very much for your concise, informative presentation

  • Please look into the large scale inferstructure of possible battery technology solar needs it. yet its never part of the descution as much as it should given that solar power is only reliable as a base load if it is adjacent to battery technology. The prospects look bleak(if you want to use it as primary energy source on a large scale that is) . Please change my mind.

    Sorry about spag

  • When solar power has a massive spill, it just called a nice day!

  • Is it stupid to think that if you set up solar energy cells on each pole that work alternatingly according to the seasons (those six months that have no night), you'd be harvesting a HUGE amount of energy and reducing their warming up and therefore defrosting?

  • On the run, just found this phone on a bench in the park. I have the secret big electric doesnt want you to kn

  • Wind and solar are simply not adequate technologies for the 21st Century needs. They are going to deliver less power at a time when we need more, their cost is much higher than any of these green tards will admit, and they will drive up energy prices to the point that we will have to start paying huge subsidies for poor people to keep their lights on. Let's add they are NOT GREEN either. One wind turbine requires 30 tons of concrete and another 60 tons of steel to anchor it, they are a constant maintenance nightmare, and they are far more diffused, meaning you have to string a lot more transmission lines across the land. Once you put wind turbines on a property, it is useless forever. Nobody is going to go back in there and dig up all that concrete.

  • The achilles heal of solar is the lack of efficient storage and solar intermittency.

  • Well, rare elements and toxic waste of solar panels need to be more discussed, if really placing the solar panel on every roof, wouldn't create an unbearable amount of waste and resources needs. There are already problems with waste and even solar makers dumping this highly toxic waste into the rivers. There was even armed conflict with military police with the angry public because solar power waste was already killing the fish in the rivers. This is rarely even discussed by proponents and this video was very vague about it.
    I'm not convinced solar panels are ready for massive deployment. But collecting solar energy in the orbit would sounds reasonable but I guess not ready right now?

  • Solar panel efficiency starts declining immediately and is accumulative. Although a panel may last for as much as 30 years the effeciancy of that panel has degraded so badly over that time that it provides less than 1/2 of its original output at half its life span. Accumulation of dust and wind abrasion of the panel surface also can significantly reduce performance even more and faster. The reality is solar power can not compete economically with electrical energy derived from power stations of any kind. The only reason they can be sold where power station electricity is available is government subsidy of them. Even then it WILL cost you more for your energy! The only scenario that makes sense for solar power is remote off grid installation where power line installation is cost prohibitive! Future development may change that.

  • Why haven't wind turbines got solar cells all over them on they're sunward side!??…. And if you have them just off the coast you could also add wave generators at sea level and tidal generators just under the sea level all on the one device ©

  • Every time a house installs solar panels or a wind turbine is installed an angel gets its wings.

  • What is the geothermal effect of the solar panels blocking the sun’s rays from warming the earth? Global cooling?

  • Hey, you know stuff…If l don't let my ears blink….THANKS!!

  • Why does it take 2 years for a solar panel to make up it's 20 g carbon debt? Producing 1 kWh of electricity from a coal plant produces ~1 kg of CO2, which scales to 20 g CO2 from 20 Wh. Since a 200 W solar panel produces 200 Wh in an hour, wouldn't it only take one tenth of an hour to make up it's 20 g carbon debt?

  • Why not put solar panels on the Ocean or rivers? On big rubber and nylon boats (close to the coast, where there are very low tides), and have the cabling and stuff routed through the anchor. We have the technology, just look at the tech used for underwater servers and the internet cabling tech used across New York to London.

  • nuclear energy is the only realistic solution to climate change.

  • Solar vs Wind? All about nuclear

  • I think your solar calculation is predicated on having the panels pointed in the optimal direction and angle at all times. If you have them on a roof, they're not. That can cut the energy you actually get to a fraction of your estimate. If we can increase efficiency, solve grid instability, and get grid level storage it can still work, but we're a fair ways off from that.

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