by Matt Owens February 7, 2013
The answer is yes, but it's not so simple as a yes or no question, and there are qualifications to that yes answer.
Critics of wind and solar are fond of saying that the sun doesn't always shine and the wind doesn't always blow; their point is that there will be periods when there isn't enough energy generation to supply demand. The critics are right.
But, if those same critics are also critical of the idea of pushing ahead with wind and solar to replace fossil fuels as much as possible, then they're dead wrong. Continued use of fossil fuels is a suicide move. A play on who can kill the human race first.
Another criticism of wind and solar is that not all areas have good wind and/or good solar prospects. Some areas just aren't very sunny, like England, or Seattle. Other areas just aren't very windy, or maybe they only get decent winds for part of the year. These are also good points. But the response to these concerns is simple: power lines. Giant power lines. Power lines so big, you're going to be able to imagine the Earth transforming into a mechanized man, standing up, and grabbing the moon with one outreached arm.
That's it in a nutshell. Very large power lines coupled with as much wind and solar capacity as possible. Not all areas would have access to cheap power. They'd be shit out of luck. The residents there could move; or they could keep using fossil fuels until the UN decides to bomb them to hell for violating carbon pollution laws. "Sorry, but your carbon pollution is killing me, please stop now, or we're going to destroy you."
Perhaps that's a bit harsh; instead of blasting the carbon rebels to hell, the UN could bombard them with a recording of Rush Limbaugh scoffing at climate change, played over and over until they give up or kill themselves. Personally, I'd rather die.
But, what about the details, who would move - who would stay - when should this transition happen, and how fast can it happen? These are all vital questions that will be answered in part 2.
Below is the chart of natural trends in solar and wind power generation on a global basis. If trends over the past 200 years of energy consumption continue, and if solar and wind generation increase at the same rate as they have over the past decade or so, then the globe will see fossil energy eclipsed by about 2050. But this will not be fast enough. Action must be faster if we are to avoid devastating impacts. Action can be faster - if we want it to be. More in part 2.