Net-zero Reality Check #3

Net-zero Reality Check #3

(This is the third of five articles, using published data and simple logic, to demonstrate net-zero carbon is unattainable by 2050 with wind, solar or nuclear, or a combination of these methods for power generation.)

Climate change scaremongers insist we eliminate the use of fossil fuels.

But what does that really entail?

Here is the third reality check: Can PV solar achieve net-zero carbon?

Three steps are required to determine the amount of utility scale PV solar needed to achieve net-zero carbon by 2050. (All references are to utility PV solar.)

Step 1

Step one determines the amount of new PV solar that needs to be installed to replace all the electricity generated by fossil fuels in 2021.

Today there is 64,624 MW of installed PV solar capacity in the United States generating 115 billion kWh of electricity in 2021.

The amount of electricity generated by fossil fuels in 2021 was 2,512 billion kWh, which is arrived at by subtracting renewables and nuclear from the total.

Step one, therefore, is to establish the amount of new PV solar needed to replace the 2,512 billion kWh generated by fossil fuels. 

This is determined by dividing the amount of electricity generated by fossil fuels, i.e., 2,512 billion kWh, by the amount generate by PV solar, i.e., 115 billion kWh, which is a multiple of 22: And then multiplying 22 by the installed capacity of 60,603 MW.

  • Amount of new PV solar capacity to replace fossil fuels = 1,411,613 MW

Step 2

Step two is to determine the amount of new PV solar capacity needed to supply the electricity needed when all light vehicles are battery-powered, and homes use electricity for heating rather than natural gas. The national renewable energy lab (NREL) has determined that total electricity consumption will double when all light vehicles are BEVs and homes rely on electricity for heating. Hydro can’t be doubled, and without increasing other renewables the additional electricity needed to be generated by PV solar will equal the amount generated by all methods in 2021, i.e., 4,116 billion kWh.

  • Amount of new PV solar capacity needed is 36 times the capacity installed in 2021, or 2,312,977 MW.

Step 3

Step three is to determine the amount of new PV solar capacity needed to generate the electricity required to produce enough hydrogen to make steel and cement that meet net-zero carbon requirements. (Cement will also require carbon capture and sequestration to be fully net-zero carbon.) There’s little reliable data on using hydrogen in the making of cement, while there is considerable data for using hydrogen in the making of steel. The estimate shown here for the amount of new PV solar is based on the amount of hydrogen required to make 62 million tons of steel, which excludes the amount of steel made using scrap in electric arc furnaces, and then doubling the amount of new PV solar to compensate for the production of cement.

  • Amount of new PV solar required to generate the electricity used by electrolyzers to produce the hydrogen to make steel and cement = 194,406 MW

Summary

The total amount of additional PV solar capacity to achieve net-zero carbon by 2050 is:

  • 1,411,613  + 2,312,977 + 194,406 = 3,918,996 MW

Additional considerations

Nuclear power plants are scheduled to be shut down beginning in 2032 unless their operating licenses are renewed, with all existing nuclear power plants shut down by 2064. There is no provision in the above calculations for the additional PV solar capacity needed to replace the nuclear power plants shut down before 2050.

Wind and PV solar have expected lives of 20 years. This means that:

  • All 54,244 wind turbines and all solar panels installed prior to 2022 will also have to be replaced with additional PV solar capacity before 2050.
  • All PV solar panels installed between 2021 and 2030 will also have to be replaced with additional PV solar capacity before 2050.

Tis additional PV solar capacity has not been included in the above calculations.

Conclusion

If PV solar is used in an attempt to eliminate fossil fuels, it will require building over 3,918,996 MW of new PV solar capacity before 2050.

The EIA forecasts that the most PV solar capacity ever added in one year will be 21,500 MW in 2022 

  • At this rate, it will take 182 years to install all the PV solar capacity needed to achieve net-zero carbon using PV solar.
  • There are 28 years in which to add all the PV solar capacity needed to achieve net-zero carbon by 2050, or 139,964 MW per year.

Clearly this is an impossible task.

Equally important, PV solar can’t generate electricity at night so a huge amount of storage capacity would also be needed. No battery yet produced can store large quantities of electricity for a week or two.

This reality check should give everyone pause, as it demonstrates that it’s not possible to eliminate fossil fuels using PV solar.

Net-zero carbon cannot be achieved using PV solar.

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One Reply to “Net-zero Reality Check #3”

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