30 Fairmont Park
Re: “Clean energy is a wise investment”, August 30, FP15
Bjorn Lomborg usually makes a lot of sense. This time he has fallen for a false premise.
He asks us to consider the immense progress that has been made in personal computers and credits their development to money poured into the space race. He then suggests something similar could be done to “make the cost of green energy too cheap and easy to resist.” Not so!
Sure, the space race might have sparked the electronics revolution. Engineers have immensely improved the efficiency of computers. The fundamental reason is that they have been able to miniaturize components dramatically. This unrelenting effort to make computer components smaller and less expensive continues and costs are still going down.
Unfortunately the analogy does not apply to solar and wind power. The diffuse nature of energy from the sun ands wind demands huge systems and extensive expensive transmission systems. Their intermittent nature requires deployment of expensive storage systems. Even free solar panels and wind turbines would still make for a costly electricity supply system.
There is a case for miniaturization of solar power. That is to build miniature suns right here on earth. These are known as fusion reactors and billions of dollars are being provided for basic research. That may one day pay off, but practical results remain far in the future after some fifty years of effort.