Renewable Energy? Why Not! Part 5 – Geography

More of common arguments against renewable energy, and why they aren’t right

5. Solar/Wind power doesn’t work in my area

It’s true that some areas are better than others for renewable energy.  After all, when the fuel is sunshine or wind, places that get more of those resources will produce more electricity.  But you don’t have to live in Arizona to use solar power.  In fact, most of the US is blessed with plentiful sunlight making solar a viable power source for most of the country, all the way from Houston to Minneapolis.  Maps here at


Wind resources are less ubiquitous.  You need an area with constant, substantial wind, but not too strong.  Wind turbines can’t be safely used at high wind speeds.  But, wind turbines work better when hooked to the grid rather than in someone’s backyard, meaning that they don’t need to be located nearby.  In Missouri, people all over the state benefit from clean efficient wind  electricity generated in only the Northwest corner of the state, even though most of the state is not prime wind territory!


Speaking of Missouri, a 2010 study by Arizona State puts Missouri as 6th state for best cost-per watt for solar installation, and 4th best for optimal deployment of solar!  (more at the Huffington Post)  So no excuses there,  Missoura’.  You don’t need to be in New Mexico or Arizona to harness the sun!



Renewable Energy? Why not! pt 3

More rebuttals for arguments against renewable energy:

3. Wind Turbines/Solar Panels are Ugly

I personally don’t get this one:  Working for a company that signs people up for Wind RECs, I’ve had many people tell me that wind turbines are ugly, they hate seeing them, that they ‘ruin the landscape’.

I disagree, and I know many others do too.  I think they look kind of cool.  Maybe a bit “War of the Worlds”.  They would probably scare Don Quixote, but I think they look modern and interesting.  More importantly, when I see them, I feel happy.  Optimistic.  I think of progress and clean brighter futures.  Maybe you don’t agree.  That’s fine.  But ruining landscapes?  No offense, but I typically don’t see turbines in the most scenic places.  Corn fields, sure.  Lots in flat, farm areas.  Not to say that these areas are ugly, but it’s not like we are putting them up in Yosemite.  Also, placement of wind farms is a very important factor, to be discussed here later.

And they sure look better than smokestacks.  

coal_fired_power_plant    wind turbine plants shipyards

Which looks better to you?

 What about solar panels on homes?

Again, I think they look cool.  But I understand that when you have a classic home, they could mess with the aesthetics.  That’s why it’s important to work with you installer to design the right array for you, in terms of size, efficiency, and look.  Plus, new, thin flexible solar panels are allowing for much more creative designs.


Renewable Energy? Why Not! pt 2

Another look into arguments AGAINST renewable energy, with rebuttals:


2.  It’s too expensive

Here’s the argument:  If renewable energy was a better option than conventional sources, then it would be cheaper and utilities would build more.


So just how much does renewable energy cost?  Well, first bear in mind that we are talking about several different sources.  We’ll focus on wind and solar here.  And yes, at the moment, those sources are more expensive on the grid than coal or natural gas.  That is, when utilities build solar or wind farms, the electricity costs more than what comes from a coal plant.


But what if YOU are the electricity producer?  There’s no doubt about it, if you put a solar panel up on your roof, you are saving money.  You can even make money if you produce more than you use!  The problem is that the equipment and installation costs can be high.  Sure, you start saving money as soon as you install a system, but the average payback time for a solar array is 10-15 years.  While it’s still a sound investment, that can be a long time to make your money back.  The good news here is that there are some great incentives out there from federal and local governments, as well as utilities that substantially lower the costs of setting up a system.  Take advantage of incentives like these, and you make your money back in no time.


But what about the cost of renewable energy on the grid?  Many states are building windmills to bolster their grids.  How much does that electricity cost?  About 5 cents per kwh. (


The costs may be higher than conventional sources, but the price is coming down.  Wind production must reach an economy of scale, where the industry is big enough to lower the price.  These wind farms are competing with large networks of established industries that already have this economic advantage.   As with any new(er) technology, we need the early adopters: the people how are willing to pay a premium in order to try something out, help the industry grow and mature.  This is why DVD players used to cost $500 dollars, and now they practically give them away.  Enough infrastructure gets put it, we will reach that point where wind and solar are cheaper all around.  Australia already has.


Another thought:  Coal may look cheaper when looking at fuel and plant costs, but when you consider the hidden costs of related health problems, clean ups and more, the total cost to society skyrockets!  Renewable energy is much cheaper when you look at the total cost to society.  Unfortunately, we rarely do.


Another thought: Remember, the other big draw of wind and solar?  That there is no fuel to produce, no fuel cost whatsoever?  This is a huge benefit to consumers of energy, and a big impact on cost.  Unfortunately, this is seen as a downside to the energy industry.  It’s hard for them to get behind a technology that eliminates a revenue stream.  That’s why Proctor and Gamble would rather sell you disposable Swiffer cloths than a nice reusable broom.  Sigh.

Renewable Energy? Why not!

Despite all of the benefits of clean energy and advances in technology, there are still a lot of detractors out there.  Let’s look at some of the arguments people make AGAINST renewable energy, and why they are wrong.

1. Renewable energy wouldn’t exist without huge, wasteful government subsidies

Here’s how this argument goes: Renewable energy is only around because special interest groups push for it and the government spends huge amounts of money subsidizing projects to prop up the industry.

Some people argue that the only reason that renewable energy programs are growing is that the government is using subsidies to lower the cost to make the technology feasible.  And you know what?  This is true: between 2002 and 2008, the federal government subsidized ‘traditional’ (wind, solar) renewable energy in the country by $12.2 billion [source].  And at a time when citizens are becoming increasingly worried about our country’s debt and deficit spending, some say this is frivolous.

Any idea how much fossil fuels were subsidized during the same period? $70.2 billion [source].  Again, between 2002 and 2008, the government subsidized the fossil fuel industry by $70.2 billion! That’s over five times as much money during the same period!  With subsidies like this, it’s no wonder that fossil fuel prices are so low, making transportation, electricity and heating so affordab…oh wait.  Gas prices continue to skyrocket, and utility rates climb year after year.  And the tax payers are out $70.2 billion on top.

Some people may argue that both numbers are wasteful and should be cut from the budget.  But like it or not, the government will continue to subsidize industries that it think are crucial to our country or that could provide economic growth.  We may never have developed the advanced computers we all enjoy today, not to mention the Internet, had it not been for government investment and subsidies.  And that’s an important point: subsidies can be used to help emerging industries get a foothold and develop, which pays us back through economic growth, jobs and income.  So why are we investing five times more in a mature, stable industry that is old, damaging technology, rather than investing in newer technology to drive growth in the future!

The government subsidizes the corn industry, the aviation industry, telecommunications, and even the financial industry.  So what is the savvy businessperson/consumer to do? Turn up their nose and take some moral stand and refuse the money? No, take advantage of it!  And let’s put our tax dollars to better use creating a sustainable future.

More info on subsidies at

More arguments and rebuttals to come…