The basic assumptions of the Obama administration, as well as many other G20 countries, that a possible non-nuclear, renewable energy contribution of 20% by 2020 has been dismantled by a new study. Published by the venerable environmental organization, The Nature Conservancy, “Energy Sprawl of Energy Efficiency" focuses on the impact of climate policy in the US on the natural habitat.

The foremost concern is the amount of land required for the switch to renewable energy. They make it very clear that nuclear renewables are the least land consuming. It requires just one square mile for the generation of one million megawatt-hours – the electricity needed for 90,000 homes. How much land will be consumed for other energy sources?

  • Geothermal (natural heat of the earth): 3sq. miles;
  • Coal (mining and extraction): 4 sq. miles;
  • Solar (thermal heating fluids): 6 sq. miles;
  • Natural gas and petroleum: 18 sq. miles;
  • Wind farms: 30 sq. miles;
  • Biofuels (ethanol and biodiesel): 500 sq. miles.

This does not even include tens of thousands of new miles of high voltage transmission lines. These types of problems are rarely discussed in the renewable debate. Here is another nuisance detail:

Solar collectors must be washed down once a month or they collect too much dirt to be effective. They also need to be cooled by water. Where amid the desert and scrub land will we find all that water?

No wonder even green activists are starting to oppose solar projects in the western United States – the most suitable sites for solar panel fields. Finally some environmentalists are beginning to understand unintended consequences and externalities.