Flat White

Australia’s giant green gamble on solar energy toys

7 January 2022

12:00 PM

7 January 2022

12:00 PM

By the time solar energy reaches Earth’s surface, it is spread very thin – even midday sunshine will not boil the billy or make toast. And solar collectors will only convert about 20 per cent of that weak energy into electricity. Thus thousands of solar panels are needed to collect significant energy, and lots more to charge the expensive batteries needed to maintain the electricity supply overnight and during cloudy weather.

Despite these disadvantages, force-feeding of ‘green’ energy by all levels of government has given Australia nearly three million solar collectors (mainly imported from China).

It requires scads of land to generate significant electricity from the sun’s weak rays. But even in sunny weather they produce nothing for 16 hours every day. A sprinkling of dust, pollen, ash or salt, or a few splatters of poop from birds or flying foxes can reduce output by 50 per cent, while night, snow or heavy cloud cover snuffs them out completely.

Solar energy collection is maximised if the panels face the sun exactly and follow the daily and seasonal movements of the sun across the sky. No rooftop collectors and only 40 per cent of ground facilities can do this. Thus, to produce the planned energy requires an even bigger area of collector panels, covering even more land.

More interested in propaganda than science, greens call land-based arrays ‘solar farms’ suggesting they are plant-friendly places. However, solar panels steal sunlight, leaving real plants beneath them to die. Solar ‘farms’ have nothing in common with real farms except the need for large areas of open countryside – usually consuming valuable flattish cleared farmland or open grassland.


In fact, growing plants are a liability to solar ‘farms’ because they can block solar energy, so the operators must prevent grass, weeds, and bushes from shadowing the panels and stealing their sunshine. Thus most plant life in solar ‘farms’ is killed – either by the blocking of the sun, or by regular applications of herbicide, or by roadways.

A big solar ‘farm’ in Australia could contain one million solar panels and smother 2,000 acres of land. Each operation also needs miles of cleared access roads and transmission lines to maintain the facility, collect the electricity and transmit it to urban demand centres. Most of the time these transmission lines are operating well below capacity, creating an expensive web of inefficient maintenance liabilities.

Australia is also a world leader in installing subsidised rooftop solar. But a quick drive around the suburbs will show that few panels have the size, the ideal orientation or the cleanliness to be efficient collectors of solar energy – they are green status symbols designed to collect subsidies. Many will fail to recover the real cost of manufacture, transport, installation and restoration. They destabilise the electricity network and elevate average electricity prices for industry and for those who cannot afford a house, let alone one with its own solar panels.

All for zero climate benefits.

Intermittent ‘green’ energy forces coal and gas plants to operate at full capacity to cover peak demands around sunrise and sunset, but to wind back or shut down when solar energy pours into the system around midday. Recently in just one week in South Australia (Australia’s green energy guinea pig), electricity generation went from ‘over 130 per cent renewables to less than 4 per cent, renewables with everything in between’. Despite South Australia being home to ‘the biggest battery in the world’, the energy regulator has been forced to lease diesel back-up generators and to order gas-fired plants to stand by in case the wind suddenly drops – this encourages mechanical and financial breakdowns, and high electricity costs.

Europe has also gone out onto the green energy limb, but this is no comfort for Australians who cannot import nuclear power from France, gas from Russia or hydro-power from Scandinavia.

Every solar installation consumes energy to mine metals, manufacture, transport and erect panels, and to build access roads and transmission lines over long distances. Careful analysis will show an energy deficit over their short lifetimes. And when an earthquake, hailstorm, cyclone or hurricane smashes these exposed rows of solar panels, rubbish dumps of mangled trash will be left. Most of this debris cannot be recycled and tonnes of metals, glass and plastic are destined to end their life as toxic, non-degradable landfill.

Bureaucrats will try to force solar operators to clean up, but smart operators will have bankruptcy petitions prepared for such emergencies.

Proven and reliable electricity generators, driven by coal, gas, hydro or nuclear, with a small land footprint and housed in storm-proof structures, are far less damaging to the green environment than these landscapes of inefficient, intermittent, expensive plant-killing ‘farms’.

Where are the Green objectors now?

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.


Show comments
Close