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It’s Not Easy Being Green
August 8, 2007 Environment

More from Jesse Ausubel’s excellent, Nuclear and Renewable Heresies:

Over 500 years, in a fully nuclear world the high level readioactive wastes might amount to … less than the … coal Americans burn in one year to produce half of USA electricity … all of the reactors needed to produce 100% of the world’s energy over the next 500 years (mjr: this probably does not account for the possibility of exponential growth in energy consumption, but is nonetheless a good comparison with other less scalable technologies) could be stacked one high in an area of a little over 250 square kilometers, about the land area required for a solar farm to provide 1000MW of power (mjr: enough to power about 500,000 homes – the US has roughly 150 million homes) … Nuclear is green.”

Or try this – hydro power is not green:

Imagine the entire province of Ontario (Canada) collecting its entire 680 billion litres of rain … behind a dam 60 metres high … doing so would inundate half the province … and produce about 11,000 MW of electricity.

This 11,000 MW represents 2.4% of the current US electricity production (the USA produces roughly¬†455,000 MW of electricity). In other words, we’d have to flood an area 41 times as large as half of Ontario to power the US with hydro.

 

Or try this, Biomass is not green:

Iowa’s 55,000 square miles might yield about 50,000 MWe of electricity if all of its land were converted to biomass production.

From land use alone, we would require over NINE Iowas to power current US electricity consumption needs. This abstracts from the water, pesticide, and other problems related to using this land for biomass production.

 

Well, is wind green?  Hardly.

To meet 2005 US electricity demand of about 4 million MWhr with around-the-clock-wind would have required wind farms covering over 780,000 square kilometers, about Texas plus Louisiana.

And that of course assumes constant winds in excess of zero mph and below 25 mph.

And photovoltaics are not green either:

Present USA electric consumption would require 150,000 square kilometers of solar cells … the current industry produces roughly 0.36 square kilometers each year …

 

Thus, from a scientific perspective, much of what people consider “green” technologies are in fact not green at all. And the foregoing analysis ignores the ancillary costs of each of these technologies, and of course ignores the real economic costs to move to one of these technologies and away from nuclear and other sources.

Kermit was right, it’s not easy being green.

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