Reality Versus The Tesla Energy Report, Part II


Francis Menton

My previous post discussed a few aspects of the just-issued Tesla Report with the title “Sustainable Energy for All of Earth.” Today, I’ll poke around at a couple more.

If you were to try to read this Report (not recommended) you will quickly find your head spinning in a sea of numbers the significance of which is completely unclear. Was that last number expressed in kilowatts, megawatts, gigawatts, terawatts or petawatts? Is it big or small? Reasonable or completely absurd? It’s quite difficult to tell without some context. So let me try to provide some of that.

You probably know that New York State seeks to establish its pre-eminence in the energy transition game with its Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act of 2019. The CLCPA sets a series of targets for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. The first big target is a 40% reduction in GHG emissions by 2030. The easiest place to achieve those reductions — and maybe the only place to achieve most of them — is in the electricity generating sector. Since the electricity sector represents well less than 40% of primary energy consumption in New York, the achievement of the 40% GHG reduction essentially means the near complete elimination of fossil fuels from electricity generation by 2030.

How to get there? Basically the entire idea that these geniuses have come up with is to build lots and lots of wind turbines and solar panels. At the end of last year they put out an endless and impenetrable document known as the Scoping Plan, supposedly laying out the specifics. Here is an easier-to-digest summary dated January 3, 2023 from a publication called The City. A few key lines:

There are grand plans in the works . . . for large investments in renewable energy with wind power at the forefront. Under the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act of 2019 (CLCPA), New York State has committed to developing nine gigawatts of offshore wind-produced electricity by 2035 — enough to power over six million homes, the most ambitious target in the country. That puts New York at the forefront of an emerging trend along the east coast. . . .

The plans are “grand.” They are “the most ambitious in the country.” They put New York “at the forefront.” And what are these “grand” plans? Nine GW of offshore wind turbines by 2035. Read a little further, and you will find that the plans also include some 3 GW of solar by the same date.

Enough to “power over six million homes”? If you know these numbers, you know that would only be true if the wind blew all the time at full strength, which it doesn’t, not even close. And then, there’s a lot more to powering an economy than powering the homes. What about the cars, industry, agriculture, airplanes, ocean and rail freight, and so forth? New York State’s current electricity generation capacity is 39.89 GW per EIA 2021 numbers, and almost all of that works almost all the time. The new 12 GW of wind and solar will work on average about 30% of the time, so will add on average 3.6 GW to the existing base of 39.89 GW. Our “grand plans” come to less than a 10% increase in effective capacity, and will only work intermittently. The 12 GW of wind and solar additions, even assuming they all get built (they won’t) won’t bring us anywhere near net zero electricity generation in the 2030s, let alone a net zero economy. But they do represent a good indication of the limits of the possible in building these things over the next decade or so.

With that context, let’s now go back to the Tesla Report. Here is their chart for the U.S. of the new generation facilities that will need to be built to fully electrify the economy with carbon-free generation:

That’s right — it’s 5,338 GW of renewables, of which 1,971 is wind and 3,052 is solar. Almost all of that 5,338 will have to be newly built. (Per this EIA chart for 2021, the current nameplate capacity of “nonhydro renewable” electrical generators in the U.S. is about 200 GW.)

New York State is about 6% of the U.S. by population, so I guess that under Tesla’s scheme we will have to be building around 6% of 5,338 GW of renewable capacity, or about 320 GW. Our “grand plans” to build 12 GW in the next decade are insufficient by a factor of about 27. But I guess if we can get going and then maintain the pace of building about 12 GW per decade for 270 years, we can get there by, say, about the year 2300.

So the correct term for the Tesla document is “completely absurd.” The same goes for New York’s energy transition plans.

But you knew the Tesla Report was absurd without reading it. If a company has a vision for a new product or system that is better and cheaper than what currently exists in the marketplace, the last thing it would ever do is put out a Report like this supposedly telling everyone else how to do it. Instead, it would invest its own money to develop the product or system, and keep all the profits for itself. Here, the plan is transparently to get the government to put up all the money and for Tesla to harvest the subsidies.


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via Watts Up With That?

April 14, 2023 at 12:23PM

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