NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Why Wind and Solar Are a Problem

January 30, 2014

Wind and solar power are frequently hailed as the solution to energy problems, but they only add to those problems, says Gail Tverberg for

Tverberg gives 10 reasons why renewables are not all that they are cracked up to be, including:

  • It is doubtful that intermittent renewables actually reduce carbon dioxide emissions: World carbon dioxide emissions actually increase when intermittent renewables increase. For example, increasing renewables boosts China's economy as it generates more wind turbines and solar panels. Those proceeds are used to build homes, roads and more businesses. Coal is primarily used for manufacturing in China.
  • Wind and solar photovoltaic panels (PV) do not fix our oil problem: Oil and electricity are used for different things, and while wind and solar create electricity, electricity does not power cars or airplanes, for example. Those still require oil.
  • The high cost of wind and solar PV doubles our energy problems, rather than solving them: Oil is costly to extract, and adding costly electricity from wind and solar is not going to help anyone's pocketbook. Moreover, exported goods are less competitive in the world marketplace as a result of the high fuel prices.
  • Wind and solar PV don't ramp up quickly: Government has spent years encouraging wind and solar energy, but in 2012, wind still did not constitute even a full 1 percent of the world's energy supply, and solar was responsible for only 0.2 percent of world energy supply. It would take a massive effort to raise those numbers even to 5 percent.

Tverberg says other problems include: wind turbines have shorter life spans than coal, gas and nuclear; wind and solar PV create serious pollution problems; there is a danger that wind and solar PV will make the electric grid less long-lived, rather than more long-lived; adding more wind and solar PV tends to make government finances less sound; we are reaching an investment capital and debt bottleneck, because of higher extraction costs of oil, and ramping up wind and solar PV actually makes this worse; wind and solar PV come nowhere near to fulfilling the promises made for them.

Tverberg suggests looking away from renewables and finding a better solution to deal with energy needs.

Source: Gail Tverberg, "10 Reasons Intermittent Renewables Are a Problem,", January 22, 2014.


Browse more articles on Environment Issues