While there is a lot of talk in the global media about the progress being made in the energy industry in regards to converting from fossil fuels to renewable energy the true cost of the conversion process is rarely mentioned. The problem is that we are consuming massive amounts of fossil fuels in order to create the renewable infrastructure. Just last quarter in the US alone there was 750 MW of new Solar capacity added to the total supply. That results in a substantial amount of fossil fuels that were consumed in order to create the all that renewable capacity.
An interesting way to look at the issue is by looking at the total amount of capacity that needs to be replaced. In the US the consumption rate has peaked in 2009 and stayed steady for the past three years at approx 3.9 billion kilo watt hours per year. With existing installed solar capacity at approx 2660 MWh at the end of 2010 (according to Wikipedia) and an increase in installation capacity of 69% in 2011 compared to 2010 resulting in an additional 1,750MWh we can begin to get an idea of how much ground there is left to cover and how much fossil fuel will be required to make the transition.
Total Capacity : 39000 GWh
Total Existing Solar Capacity : 4.4095 GWh
39000 – 4.4095 = 38995 GWh
In the last quarter installed Solar capacity reached an all time high in the US of 750 MWh. If we can use that as an example of how much Capacity can be installed in a year we would see a total of 3 GWh in 2012. If the US continues to install 3 GWh of Solar Capacity in order to replace the existing infrastructure
38995 / 3 = 12998 years
At this rate it will take approx 12998 years to convert the remaining amount of existing US electricity capacity to an entirely Solar based infrastructure.
Clearly this represents not just a massive issue in terms of logistics but also in terms of the shear amount of fossil fuels that are required to enable the transition. Given that this issue has to be repeated across the globe and we have only got approx 10 years worth of oil left to consume due to exponentially increasing consumption rates while it is increasingly energy negative to extract it in the first place there is a very serious energy supply issue happening at this very moment. We like to call it the “Energy Crunch” (EC) or the “Global Energy Crisis” i.e (GEC). It is tied to it’s very good friend the “Global Financial Crisis” (GFC) which started to kick in most painfully in 2007 with the crash of the global housing market. Now it has spread to Contagion status in the EU and the US is holding on simply by printing more and more money which can only result in Weimar hyper inflation as the instrinsic value of the US dollar falls to it’s real value of zero.
With the only solution that the Banksters, entrenched Fossil Fuel and Nuclear industries and the moronic corrupt political Elite are prepared to commit any significant resources to being the perpetual war machine stealing what resources are left from their neighbours while consuming more fuel than they gain as a result of their theft the whole situation is incredibly dire.
The time is now for a serious change in direction and it cannot be left any longer. Even if there is a 10 fold increase in global installation of Solar capacity this year through a concerted cooperative effort by all the industrialised nations resulting in a 10 fold drop in price over existing already historically low installation prices it would still require 120 years to replace all the existing infrastructure with a Solar economy which is technically impossible as we will have run out of energy positive fossil fuels by that point. That is not forgetting that other parts of the world are yet to see the per capita capacity that is enjoyed in the US.
The only solution at this point is for the consumption rates to decrease dramatically in the coming years. This decade will be the last that we get to enjoy the abundance of cheap fuel. The 20′s are going to be a very lean decade for the industrialised world although it will just be more of the same for the remaining 80% of the worlds population…