On the Oil Drum, physics professor Tom Murphy does the maths on wind, solar and fossil fuels. Some fascinating figures in this excellent analysis.

Solar and Wind have been vying for purchase in the energy game for many years now. Who is winning? Fossil fuels: they still beat the pants off either one. That’s our triangle. Fossil fuels are cheap and reliable and are their own storage and allow transportation by car, truck, ship, airplane, and fit seamlessly into our current infrastructure. Wind—and especially solar—don’t generally compete price-wise. Both are intermittent, so that they won’t fit into our current infrastructure at a large scale, requiring substantial storage and transmission in order to become major providers of energy. Neither one really helps with the liquid fuels crunch we will experience in the oil decline phase. Electric cars are unlikely to penetrate the market quickly and cheaply enough to avert hardship.”

I’m swayed by the raw numbers solar has on its side. I have a home-built stand-alone PV system and golf-cart batteries that provides most of my electricity (as a hobby with benefits). I am delighted by the fact that wind now generates about 1% of the electricity in the U.S. for prices that are not terribly greater than for conventional power. I personally think that we should get over our gripes about these things being more expensive than our old friends, and embrace them full-scale—dealing with the costs, intermittency, storage issues, transmission build-up, together with a reduction in our total demand.”

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