Why Planting Flowers under Solar Panels Won't Make Solar Work
The journal Nature Sustainability published an article this month: "Techo-ecological synergies of solar energy for global sustainability." The first author of 16 is Rebecca Hernandez, a professor at the University of California, Davis. According to the abstract, the purpose of the article is described thus:
Here, we propose techno-ecological synergy (TES), a framework for engineering mutually beneficial relationships between technological and ecological systems, as an approach to augment the sustainability of solar energy across a diverse suite of recipient environments, including land, food, water, and built-up systems.
Given that utility-scale solar power is an outright fraud that makes no economic sense and no environmental sense, it seems to be unnecessary to worry about such embellishments as planting flowers under the solar panels. The following example was provided in the article:
For example, in 2016, grassroots environmental organizations in the state of Minnesota successfully advocated for legislation supporting the deployment of ground-mounted PV on over 1,600 hectares of land outplanted with native foraging habitat for bees, butterflies and birds, equating to 2.4 million homes with 6' x 12' pollinator gardens.
According to the Merriam-Webster unabridged dictionary, "outplant" means "to transplant from a nursery bed, greenhouse, or other location to an outside area." But why does one have to transplant native plants? Shouldn't they grow by themselves if they are native plants? When I was a kid, everyone called native plants weeds. And why is anyone planting solar panels in Minnesota, a recipient environment impaired in insolation? Is it a good idea to have birds defecating on solar panels?
Floatovoltaics is installing solar panels on pontoons floating on water. This should reduce evaporation "in arid land environments, covering approximately 40% of the Earth's terrestrial surface[.]"
Another handy application of solar panels is to fit them with gutters to collect rainwater.
I could go on, but I think I've made my point. Techno-ecological synergy applied to solar is the pursuit of trivia built on the lie that utility-scale solar is a worthy endeavor.
Solar energy is great for off-the-grid houses and installations. It can be usefully applied for pumping water for cattle. Non-electrical solar is perfect for heating swimming pools. Passive solar can help with building energy usage and lighting. Utility-scale solar that is going to participate in the electrical grid is nonsense. It's too expensive, even with huge subsidies. It doesn't work if it is cloudy or at night. It delivers too much electricity in the middle of the day and not enough late in the day. It can't replace any natural gas or coal plants because it can't be counted on. It is an extremely expensive technique for reducing CO2 emissions compared to many other options. Feel free to examine the details here.
Yet there is a huge academic industry writing papers about all they ways that solar and wind energy can be utilized and even take over supplying electricity for the country. The implicit assumption, completely wrong but rarely questioned, is that solar or wind is a serious contender. To question the foundational assumption behind all these papers would be to admit that the academic industry is pointless — a waste of time.
Sustainability is defined in the Brundtland Report, a 1987 U.N. document, overseen by Gro Brundtland, a female prime minister of Norway. The basic idea is that we have to protect the Earth's resources so that future generations will be able to utilize them. The implicit assumption is that the Earth's resources are susceptible to depletion, creating a crisis for future generations. That idea was thoroughly debunked by Julian Simon, the author of the book The Ultimate Resource 2. When a resource becomes in short supply, new resources or a substitute is found. The sustainability idea is falsified by history and economics. Most of the big ideas from Norway and Sweden are bad ideas, often laced with anti-Americanism. Norway gave Al Gore and the International Panel on Climate Change the Nobel Peace Prize. That is not the first time that the peace prize has been given to dubious characters. The peace prize enabled the petro-kingdom of Norway to strike a blow against America under the guise of doing good.
Renewable energy marries sustainability and global warming. Renewable energy is supposed to be sustainable and not emit carbon dioxide. But renewable energy, as defined by many state laws, lacks logical consistency. For example, most states outlaw hydroelectricity as renewable except in narrow circumstances — not because it does not meet the theoretical definition, but because the environmental community does not like dams. Many states allow geothermal energy or electricity from hot underground rocks. But geothermal resources can be and often are depleted because the rocks cool down if you keep using the heat to generate electricity. Fossil fuels have two strikes: they are subject to depletion, and they emit carbon dioxide. Nuclear energy is banned, even though it emits no CO2 and the fuel supply is very large. The reason is that the environmental movement conducted a hysterical campaign against nuclear in the 1970s to build up its membership and finances. They can't backtrack now.
Renewable energy, in practice, is actually a list of environmental prejudices rather than a coherent idea.
The belief that underlies all these ideas and industries is the belief that we face a global warming disaster unless we stop emitting CO2 and other greenhouse gases. Global warming changed its name to climate change because the globe was failing to warm. It is a belief, because the scientific underpinning is nothing beyond computer models of the atmosphere that disagree with each other and that don't accurately model the climate. The biggest mythology behind global warming is the idea that scientists can be trusted to be objective even if goes against their professional and financial interests. They are a special interest group just like so many others. The scientists are allied with environmental groups for their mutual benefit.
It is well known that plants grow better with less water when the atmosphere is fortified with CO2. For that reason, CO2-generators are routinely placed in greenhouses. Fortifying the atmosphere with CO2 is surely a gift to future generations.
Norman Rogers writes often on energy and the environment. He has websites here, here and here.