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"Planet of the Humans" claims: Wind & Solar unsustainable. True?

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epk
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Joined: 10-02-07
May 2 2020 20:11
"Planet of the Humans" claims: Wind & Solar unsustainable. True?

There has recently been some controvesy in US media regarding film on the question of the sustainability of Solar and Wind-powered electricity production: Planet of the Humans (see also the Wikipedia entry)).

The film makes multiple claims, suggestions and allusions, but I was hoping that people with better knowledge and understanding of energy production and economy, especially in the predictive/futuristic context, be able to address some of the main points for me:

* Is it the case that using solar panels for energy production eventually requires more energy not produced by the panels, to power the production, maintenance, intermittency handling/storage etc. of the panels, than the energy the panels produce?
* Same question, but for wind turbines.
* Is it conceivable that solar panels could be made, nearly-100%, from materials which can be sustainable sourced in non-environmentally-destructive ways? i.e. not the highly-polluting mining of rare elements?

I realize the answer to the first two questions can depend on the amount of exposure to sun and wind at the installation site, whether there's an installation base over a larger area which cushions intermittency somewhat, and potential improvements in production and materials engineering over time. So, you can make any reasonable assumptions - but make them explicitly.

For the sake of discussion I'm ignoring issues such as, well, Capitalism, lack of collaboration between nation-states in running their electric grids, war and sabotage, and the ecosystem impact of wind and solar farms.

radicalgraffiti
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Joined: 4-11-07
May 3 2020 16:52
epk wrote:
* Is it the case that using solar panels for energy production eventually requires more energy not produced by the panels, to power the production, maintenance, intermittency handling/storage etc. of the panels, than the energy the panels produce?
* Same question, but for wind turbines.

no thats not true, photovoltaic solar and wind turbines both have a EROEI of more than one https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_returned_on_energy_invested
which means they produced more energy they is used to make them

sometimes people claim the eroei is less than one, but these claims are based on a dishonest analysis of the data

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421516307066