We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

Wind and solar energy are inherently inefficient ways of generating electricity. They are low density, which means they require vast amounts of capital to produce and transmit the same amount of electricity as traditional power stations. Plus, they are intermittent, so investment and staffing of parallel generating capacity are needed to keep the lights on. Wind and solar might reduce emissions of carbon dioxide – much depends on the parallel capacity running in the background – but this is not cost free. Growing crops to turn into biofuels is also highly inefficient, as is shipping wood pellets across the Atlantic to exploit a carbon accounting loophole that zero-rates their emissions. None of these things boosts productivity and raises living standards. All of them stunt the economy’s growth potential.

Rupert Darwall

13 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Deep Lurker

    …and that’s the whole point. If shiny renewable magic unicorns ever were to become a practical large-scale source of energy, the Greens would condemn those unicorns as a dangerous invasive species and demand that they be prohibited.

    The goal isn’t to provide better, cleaner sources of energy. The goal is to make the revolting uppity peasants suffer and die in the dark, harrowing them and breaking any survivors into “KNOW YOUR PLACE, SERF!”

  • Alex

    I agree with all of that except solar. Solar is very reasonable, the panels last a long time and their performance degrades predictably, they produce power even on a cloudy day, private power storage is effective and simple. Libertarians I thought would be generally interested in technologies that reduce dependency on centralised grids and the associated risks of “we don’t like what you say, enjoy your cold winter without any power”. Doesn’t mean I like “solar farms”, which exist because subsidy.

    Things like wood pellets being regarded as carbon neutral, biodiesel etc – all completely greenwash bullshit designed at enabling companies to pay lip service to the green fever but not actually change in a meaningful way (not saying that such change is necessary, but I think we can all agree that greenwashing is dishonest and harmful).

  • Stonyground

    Electric cars are another example of green dishonesty. Manufacturing them is much more environmentally damaging than making ICE cars while we pretend that they get their energy only from nice clean sources.

  • Solar and wind are perfectly usable – if we go back to the days when solar and wind were common. But there was no time in history they gave us the power we now enjoy (save perhaps for Atlantis, but I heard they were switching from solar to unicorns just before they sank). Wind? Wind use has been around a long time. Sailing ships ran on wind. Windmills ground flour and pumped water, and circa 1900 were used to electrify some houses. They charged batteries, which could then be used to light lights, run fans, and later on in their career, run the radios. Refrigerators worked by regular delivery of blocks of ice.

    You don’t want to go back there. You couldn’t have your computer, internet, or television.

  • William O. B'Livion

    I agree with all of that except solar. Solar is very reasonable, the panels last a long time and their performance degrades predictably,

    I recently had enough solar panels put on my roof to produce–in theory–9.9kw of electricity. I have a 10kw battery backup. We have a 15 year loan at low interest rates (right before they took off) to pay this off, plus we will be getting a 10k government subsidy.

    This is not some study, this is not some PR piece. This is my experience.

    IF we had sane policies in this country *that system would not make economic sense*. I’m ignoring the 10k subsidy, because I believe that that is mostly zero sum.

    Just looking at the cost of the system minus the subsidy, I will be paying about 2x a month of what I was paying for electricity for 15 years. Which is about when the non-panel components start breaking down.

    Under current conditions–with the idiots forcing coal plants to shut down, but building nothing to replace them AND people being forced to switch to electric cars, electricity prices are going up rapid. So it was a great buy. BUT THOSE AREN’T SANE POLICIES.

    I got this system because I KNOW that our energy policies are insane, and the system I have will ride out brownouts and blackouts.

    I live in Colorado, which is probably about 7 or 8 on a scale of 1 to 10 for Solar electrical production.

    they produce power even on a cloudy day, private power storage is effective and simple.

    I’ve had my panels up and running since early Feb, and there’s a website that they give you so you can monitor production.

    My panels are on a regular roof facing due south. They aren’t at the perfect angle, but since the perfect angle changes over the weeks, they couldn’t be.

    I *never* get the full 9.9k of production. In theory I should for a few hours in the afternoon, but the most I ever get is about 7.8k.

    If a cloud wanders across the sun that production drops to somewhere between 2 and 3k. My “normal” utilization during the day is around 2k (both wife and I work from home, and Child is home for summer break). Doing laundry (electric dryer) or cooking (electric stove, but I hope to change that at some point) drives that average up.

    2-3 inches of wet snow *completely* shuts production down until I can get up on the roof and remove it. Get up on a *snowy* roof and remove it.

    I’m not anti-solar. I think there are places that it would work pretty well and if you had sane people making these choices could be a useful part of an energy system.

    But there are a lot of problems with it, including that after those panels have degraded past the point of utility, what are you going to do with them? We currently don’t have a good recycling path for them (“ship them to Africa and let `those people` tear them apart with their bare hands” is not a plan), in half of the country production is degraded (clouds and snow) when you need it most, and it’s just not possible to store energy on the scale needed. That battery I have is barely enough to get me through a full day of *restricted* utilization (should the grid drop on a snowy day), and it was NOT cheap. Most of the people around here who have solar don’t have the battery backup because of that.

    So while yes, it doesn’t produce power on cloudy days, that is still a misleading statement, and yeah power storage is “simple”, but it’s not effective AT SCALE, and it’s neither cheap, nor is it really all that clean.

  • Alex

    I wasn’t suggesting that solar is equivalent to nuclear or such, I was merely pointing out that one thing in the list is not like the others. Solar isn’t a scam, like “carbon-neutral wood pellets” shipped half way around the world to burn in Drax, or biodiesel that can be produced only in lieu of producing food, or wind which can pretty much only be done at scale and which requires vast amounts of infrastructure and alternative backup generating capacity. Solar is a set of technologies that can be usefully used in certain circumstances. Does it meet your needs? Perhaps not, but it can be useful to some people.

    Solar is not as intermittent as wind, it’s far more predictable. Snow is indeed one of the major issues with solar, and it does tend to occur in the climates to which solar is generally more predictably useful. Wind power, in the form that has been widely deployed throughout the world at incredible expense, only generates useful amounts of power in a very narrow band of wind speeds. It’s inherently unpredictable when the wind will be strong enough. If it isn’t strong enough you get zero production. If it’s too strong you get zero production, and probably some capital losses. This is not the case with solar; you can make reasonable predictions and if the days are less sunny than you expected you still get some production. Not as much, but you do get some energy.

    Wind and solar energy are inherently inefficient ways of generating electricity.

    This is, essentially, what I was disagreeing with. Wind is inherently inefficient, I agree. Solar is efficient for certain applications.

  • Paul Marks

    The post is true – and is well known to engineers and others.

    The question is why do powerful forces, both government and Corporate, keep pushing the wind-and-solar message – when they must know it will mean grinding poverty for most people. If they were really interested in “reducing C02” emissions they would go for nuclear power – but, no, it is wind turbines and solar cells they push.

    There is something else at work here – reducing C02 emissions is NOT what this agenda is about.

  • Paul Marks

    William O.Bilivan – Tony Heller (who you may know) used to live in Colorado, but Covid lockdowns (and other insanity) led him to flee to Wyoming.

    There are powerful forces that are trying to close down the coal powered plants that Colorado depends upon – and, I am sorry Alex, but wind turbines and and solar cells will not cut it for places such as Colorado and Wyoming – and there is plenty of wind in Wyoming (actually far too much).

    For such places the choice is either hydrocarbons (such as coal and natural gas) or nuclear power – or (the third alterative) EXTREME POVERTY.

    The international establishment elite have decided on “box number three” – extreme poverty.

    But not for themselves – just for us peasants.

  • bobby b

    July 17, 2022 at 12:29 pm

    “Solar is very reasonable, the panels last a long time and their performance degrades predictably, they produce power even on a cloudy day, private power storage is effective and simple.”

    Solar makes a lot of sense if you are off-grid. American on-grid solar is primarily a subsidy-harvesting operation. I’ve installed both and run the numbers on both. (And just try to explain to my dad why, with his new solar roof, he has no power when the neighborhood power goes out.)

    I live off-grid for about eight months of the year now, under lots of panels feeding into lots of batteries, and there’s really nothing I can’t do electrically (except run A/C all day.) So there is a use for it all. But if I could always run an extension cord to the mountain and have grid power, that would be a far simpler and cheaper source.

    Human development has consisted to a great extent of learning how to scale up operations to spread costs over a wide net, leaving the product cheaper for all. Now we’re told that the secret to Gaia-love is to scale everything back down. No thank you.

  • Mr Ed

    Here’s a YT video from France 24 – a State channel (no less) about a Spanish chap who with his family invested €1,000,000 or so (including taking out loans) in a solar ‘park’ of 6 panels in Cantabria, (not the sunniest part of Spain by a long stretch); only to find that the subsidies were yanked from under him, and he has been left (perhaps virtually) bankrupt. The commentary (in English) is absolutely priceless, so deadpan, and it makes a libertarian argument by happenstance.

    ‘You can’t imagine the Prime Minister of the country bankrupting you!’ (in which Universe?)

  • Phil B

    Solar power is only financially viable if the Government chips in massive subsidies and/or buys the electricity for a much higher price than conventionally generated electricity.

    And of course, no one would dream of rigging the game to profit …


    I read about this a while ago and from memory, the wheeze was to run diesel generators to power floodlights trained on the solar panels. The difference between the price paid for the electricity and the capital and running costs was worth the bother.

    One aspect of solar and wind generated electricity carefully ignored is the disruption to the grid. It is designed and works on steady power generation. The fluctuating inputs from wind/solar cause instability and the danger of the grid tripping out and shutting down. Restarting it is not like starting a car or flicking a switch to bring the power stations back on line. But wishful thinking and belief in the green dogma won’t make it so.

  • Paul Marks

    Mr Ed – even by modern standards, Spain has a dreadful government.

    I was not joking when I said, in another thread, that Spain will change course – or there will be no Spain.

  • Stonyground

    The conclusion to be drawn from this thread seems to me that, over the course of time, we have gradually handed over more and more of our really important decisions to self serving idiots. Systems of government seem to work like a ratchet, they expand in size, power and scope but they never contract because that would require people to vote themselves out of a job.