I was dismayed by Patrick J. Byrne’s uncritical article on Germany’s introduction of “renewable” energy sources (News Weekly, May 24, 2008).
Solar energy, like the other forms of “renewable” energy, is impractical for wide-scale electricity generation. The German government is forced to pay large subsidies to make solar competitive (if such a term can be used for something subsidised) with coal or other serious methods of electricity generation.
Australia is already meandering down the same path of wasting vast sums of money on the fruitless exercise of making solar a viable means of electricity generation. Solar is the favourite of either the ideologically blinkered or misinformed, attempting to find an alternative to power sources like coal.
The failure of photovoltaic cells to become a serious electricity producer since their discovery is usually blamed on a conspiracy of industrialists with interests in fossil fuels, à la Confessions of an Economic Hit Man.
The creation of solar panels is itself quite polluting, and as yet no one has solved the problem of storing electricity for times when the panels aren’t generating, be it bad weather or night. Attempts to do so have only grown more farcical, the latest I am aware of involving acres upon acres of highly pressurised, toxic, flammable gas! Is this not a cure worse than the disease?
The global-warming panic and resulting carbon-trading schemes have brought solar to the fore again, as in the 1970s. This sudden spike in the production of solar panels has caused skyrocketing costs for the silicon required in the panels, further underscoring that solar panels are useful in niche applications, not base-load electricity generation.
Given the myriad of other, more useful applications of silicon, especially in electronics, people should only be frustrated with governments driving the price of silicon ever higher in the pursuit of “renewable” energy targets, all fuelled by the global-warming scare that is already fading. The subsidising of inefficient energy will ultimately hurt the German economy.
For the foreseeable future, coal is the best method of electricity generation in Australia. Even our petroleum woes can be partially mitigated by coal-to-oil methods currently suppressed by the Greens, which could potentially yield oil at $50 a barrel.
If, some time in the future, we run out of coal, we can utilise alternatives such as uranium and thorium. We have a very long time for technological advancements to mature “renewable” energy into something practical. Until it is practical, any right thinking person should reject its introduction on the back of taxpayer-funded subsidies.
I can only be disappointed that News Weekly would adopt an uncritical stance in regard to Germany’s misadventures with “renewable” energy.