Bill Gates says solar and wind is “cute” but no answer

Bill Gates says] it doesn’t matter how efficient wind and solar technology become. Neither tech possesses the necessary oomph to “deal with our climate problem … because the climate problem requires more than 90% reduction of CO2 emitted, and no amount of efficiency improvement is enough.” For every one step forward developed nations make in becoming more energy efficient, the billions of energy consumers coming on-line in the developing world will take the globe two steps back — and they’ll use dirtier fuels to do it.

California has ambitious plans to use 33% renewable power by 2020. Right now it’s at about 12% so there is a long way to go. Several huge solar projects are planned for California deserts and when completed their aggregate output will be 4.2 GW or what one big nuclear plant can do. It’s that oomph thing. Wind and solar just don’t have it plus their power is variable, which makes things worse.

Gates is an investor in Terra Power, a startup with a plan to use depleted uranium in nextgen Traveling Wave nuclear reactors that could run for 50 years without refueling and with far less waste.

There are currently 700,000 metric tons of this low-level nuclear leftover product in the United States. Using a TWR, an 8-metric-ton canister of depleted uranium could generate 25 million megawatt-hours of electricity – enough to power 2.5 million U.S. households for one year.

It’s becoming increasingly clear to me that renewable energy on its own simply won’t be able to provide the power we need. Other methods of generating power will be needed too.

  • The biggest “other” source of energy is not using it at all.

  • SirKaid

    @Ross Because of course that’s not an unworkable idea at all, what with two billion Indian and Chinese people trying to claw themselves into the first world. Of course they’ll be perfectly willing to remain in abject poverty in order to save something as nebulous as the environment, especially on the advice of first world countries who, surprise surprise, got where they are today by ramping up energy production and usage. That’s a totally reasonable suggestion and not laughably ignorant of basic human nature at all.

    Gimme a break. While there most certainly does need to be swift action taken to reduce humanity’s impact on the Earth, at least if we want to keep living here in comfort, simply saying, “Gee, the answer is obviously not using as much power!” isn’t helpful.

  • Kilgore Trout

    Everybody is an expert on energy usage. They each have their own pet projects. Lots of good ideas but not much else. Look at the Cape Wind project in Mass.
    How long has it been now? Twelve years? Americas’s first off shore wind farm and still no construction.
    This country should be ashamed.

    • I agree. Europe has zoomed ahead of us. The US still has no offshore wind… None, zero, zilch.

  • TexasGooner6

    The beauty of renewables is that they are getting cheaper and more efficient. We in the industry are not trying to get rid of the grid. We are trying to offset energy. So right now it doesn’t make sense for the US to leave coal and natural gas but it will in the near future.

    As for developing countries using dirty fuels, there is a solution. If we use more renewables the demand on fossil fuels decreases so their prices stay lower. Also renewables due to economies of scale will also become more affordable. It just makes sense.

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