More Solar Jobs Is A Curse, Not A Blessing

Tyler Durden's picture

Authored by Paul Driessen via The Mises Institute,

Citing U.S. Department of Energy data, the New York Times recently reported that the solar industry employs far more Americans than wind or coal: 374,000 in solar versus 100,000 in wind and 160,000 in coal mining and coal-fired power generation. Only the natural gas sector employs more people: 398,000 workers in gas production, electricity generation, home heating and petrochemicals.

This is supposed to be a good thing, according to the Times. It shows how important solar power has become in taking people out of unemployment lines and giving them productive jobs, the paper suggests.

Indeed, the article notes, California had the highest rate of solar power jobs per capita in 2016, thanks to its “robust renewable energy standards and installation incentives” (ie, mandates and subsidies).

In reality, it’s not a good thing at all, and certainly not a positive trend. In fact, as Climate Depot and the Washington Examiner point out — citing an American Enterprise Institute study — the job numbers actually underscore how wasteful, inefficient and unproductive solar power actually is.

That is glaringly obvious when you look at the amounts of energy produced per sector. (This tally does not include electricity generated by nuclear, hydroelectric and geothermal power plants.)

  • 398,000 natural gas workers = 33.8% of all electricity generated in the United States in 2016
  • 160,000 coal employees = 30.4 % of total electricity
  • 100,000 wind employees = 5.6% of total electricity
  • 374,000 solar workers = 0.9% of total electricity

It’s even more glaring when you look at the amount of electricity generated per worker. Coal generated an incredible 7,745 megawatt-hours of electricity per worker; natural gas 3,812 MWH per worker; wind a measly 836 MWH for every employee; and solar an abysmal 98 MWH per worker.

In other words, producing the same amount of electricity requires one coal worker, two natural gas workers — 12 wind industry employees or 79 solar workers.

Even worse, whereas coal and gas electricity is cheap, affordable, and available virtually 100% of the time — wind and solar are expensive, intermittent, unreliable, and available only 15–30% of the time, on an annual basis. Wind and solar electricity is there when it’s there, not necessarily when you need it.

In truth, about the only thing solar and wind companies do well is collect billions of dollars in subsidies from taxpayers and billions of dollars in much higher electricity rates from consumers. And when you look at the overall picture, solar and wind power generation is far worse than this.

Land. Wind and solar require vastly more acreage. Modern coal or gas-fired power plants use roughly 300 acres to generate 600 megawatts nearly 100% of the time. The 600-MW Fowler Ridge wind farm in Indiana covers 50,000 acres and generates electricity about 20% of the year. Nevada’s Nellis Air Force Base solar panels generate a trivial 14 MW 22% of the time from 140 acres; getting 600 MW 22% of the time from such panels would require 6,000 acres.

Backup power. Because wind and solar power generation is random and intermittent, it must be backed up by reliable coal or gas power plants that actually do 80% of the work. So we must build both renewable systems and fossil fuel systems.

Transmission lines. Coal, gas and nuclear plants can be located just a few miles from cities. Wind and solar facilities are often 100–200 miles from cities, and thus require ultra-long transmission lines.

Raw materials. All those wind turbines, solar panels, backup power plants and transmission lines require huge amounts of concrete, steel, copper, fiberglass, rare earth metals and other resources. Ores must be dug out of the ground, processed into usable raw materials, and turned into finished components.

If we relied just on coal and gas power, we wouldn’t need all the land and raw materials (and energy to process them) required for hundreds of wind turbines and thousands of solar panels.

Environmental and human rights impacts. The United States has essentially banned mining for rare earth and other metals, so we import them from other countries. Rare earth metals for wind turbines and solar panels come from the Baotou region of China/Mongolia, where environmental and worker health and safety standards and conditions are horrendous — leaving sick workers and ecological degradation.

High electricity costs. Even with all the hidden taxpayer subsidies, electricity from wind and solar is typically twice as expensive as from conventional sources. That affects family and business budgets. Energy-intensive hospitals and factories face soaring energy cost increases that result in layoffs and plant closures. Studies in Britain, Germany and Spain found that every wind and solar job created resulted in two to four jobs lost in other sectors of the economy that must buy expensive wind or solar electricity.

Wildlife and habitats. Solar panels blanket vast acreage, preventing plants from growing under them and reducing wildlife habitats and populations. Wind turbines are notorious for killing eagles, hawks, other birds and bats — though the actual death tolls are hidden by wind companies and government agencies, which also exempt Big Wind companies from endangered species and other wildlife protection laws.

Climate change. Once we factor in the redundant energy systems, long transmission lines, raw materials required to build all of them, and energy required for mining, processing, manufacturing, transportation, construction and maintenance, wind and solar bring no reductions in carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, even if these gases now drive climate change (which they don’t), wind and solar bring no climate benefits. They are all pain, for no gain.

Even with all of this special treatment, Suniva just became the latest solar company to file for bankruptcy. And now it says it and other U.S. solar companies will totally disappear unless the government immediately imposes tariffs on all solar cells and modules imported from anywhere outside the USA.

Wind and solar are simply a bad deal for consumers, workers and the environment.

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Zepper's picture

ZH should just become the Putin National Energy propaganda site at this point. OIL OIL OIL, keep Pushing OIL.... and dont forget Nat gas and Coal. 


VWAndy's picture

 Its always the Russians! Not saying Putin aint another fn spook but come on man. Hey maybe Putin killed Seth Rich?


  Maybe this nice tune will help you understand. The walls came down.

jeff montanye's picture

excellent.  this is precisely the kind of government "help" that the renewable energy industries do not need, however much they may beg for it.  the government would be far better off supporting basic and applied research in the fields of interest and even making it easier for the owner of the renewable energy generator to sell excess energy back through the meter to the power companies (this will require negotiation and probably time sensitive, even weather sensitive pricing, so be it).  politicians are not good stock pickers (unless they have inside information).

AlexCharting's picture

Invest in dying industry (fossil) or futureproof (the sun).

Moe Hamhead's picture

Fossil is the best way to harness the sun.

ejmoosa's picture

Fossil fuels are the sun's energy collected and stored over millions of years.


And I am not so sure that oil is a fossil fuel.   Abiotic processes may play a role.

jeff montanye's picture

but they are stinky and dirty and often make a mess to get out (and kill people).  they are also way, way cool as compounds and maybe we shouldn't burn up the last barrel of cheap stuff to blow that damn cut grass into the street one more time.

SmittyinLA's picture

When I say "memo" I mean like "economic Hiroshima"

jeff montanye's picture

now that's a stretch but the point's a good one.  governments must not pick winners in the sense of giving government funds to particular companies to, what, help them undercut their competitor's price?  the market does this far better.  

what the market doesn't do is price the externalities: determining what is the price of the right to pollute the air, the water or the land.  that is something the market doesn't do well (the tragedy of the commons).  this is where, if we had real legislators instead of campaign contribution gatherers and media/public relations manipulators, our elected representatives could be helpful.

AldousHuxley's picture

forgot to include all of the soldiers in middle east fighting over control of oil.....


haven't heard of any wars for solar energy yet....perhaps russians are workign on giant sun blocker in the sky.


let saudis arabia become economic desert again.

SmittyinLA's picture

..... meanwhile Germany runs their plants on lignite view ---->

Those tiny bug like machines are 700 feet long and 300 feet wide

Jay's picture

It's actually worse than the article suggests. Since wind and solar are incompatible with the grid, more gas turbines are needed by the utility to fill in the slack. This power ramping by gas turbines actually uses more gas power than if no solar or wind were attached to the grid.

VWAndy's picture

 Id rather see that money spent turning sewage and trash along with coal into the cleanest most effective fuels possible. Killing like four of the biggest issues every major city faces with one simple straight up winner of an idea.

jeff montanye's picture

but why fuck with the coal?  save it for making diamonds when we figure that out.  solar and wind can heat up sewage and trash and not cut off mountain tops and drop them into the rivers.  or similar.

while many ways of incineration are quite polluting, some are not.  again no engineer but that pyrolysis looks promising.

VWAndy's picture

 Coal has a bunch of other stuff in it we really need badly. That stuff is best removed before converting it into fuels. Solving another big issue. We need those rare earth elements badly. The other thing is trash and sewage dont contain enough to make it without the coal. Its an EROEI thing.

  F/ T wax might be the best way to store energy long term we have ever seen. Kelly Johnson loved it and so did Von Braun. Or so I was told by some guys that knew them.

G-R-U-N-T's picture

LOL, here you have the global warming loot the masses crowd putting the fear of God in the naive, ignorant and those that are easily programmable, working feverishly for a decade or so in their propaganda campaigns trying to make them believe CO2 is a pollutant when in reality is a nutrient and has absolutley no significant effect on atmospheric temperature, it's basic premise, yet they want to reach into everyone's pocket by taxing and feeing the air humanity exhales for an endless revenue stream and replace fossil fuel with solar and wind which is barely a burp as it relates to other energy products. 

Fuck these liars, cheats and thieves! They've been trying to perpetrate this fraud to shake down as much loose change as they can from any life form that's composed of Carbon and emanates CO2 to further subjugate the people with their braindead, collectivist, Utopian, Statist, tyrannical agenda!




Moe Hamhead's picture

Rumor has it Elon Musk is hatching a plan to cap Kilauea to save us all from the gaseous expulsion and generate electricity from the heat.  As long as taxpayers will pay for it of course.

jeff montanye's picture

hands off the volcano.  also no wave to energy mills on the north shore of oahu.  get real.

Pasadena Phil's picture

Same logic that argues for less mechanization in agriculture. Slavery was a big jobs program at one time in this country too.

Hikikomori's picture

If you want the cheapest solar possible, you can do what I did 5 years ago - put up a clothesline - under $50, and I put up a fancy one.  Paid for itself in a few months.  Only thing I've had to do is change the line once - $6.

turing's picture

GREAT comment-and true.


jeff montanye's picture

when do we hook up the gyms to the grid? 

Moe Hamhead's picture

I did the same.  Two bamboo poles and a string of line.  Works great.  They're illegal here though, unless they're out-of-site.  If the gov. was serious about saving energy, they'd make them legal again in most places.

Greenecho's picture

As an electrical design Engineer for 40+ years, there is more truth to your statement than anything I’ve heard out of the solar/wind industry. You are not going to generate enough watts to run an average household in most of the US without supplementing it with fossil fuel, period. Googles own scientist concluded after years of study that to replace fossil fuel generation with “green” sources would require the consumption of all fossil fuel sources to manufacture “green” sources and then some. There would be no fossil fuel left to expand or replace/repair those “green” sources of energy or anything else generated/gained from the loss of fossil fuels Game over!

jeff montanye's picture

it's not that each house has to be self sufficient for goodness sake.  the houses, office buildings, any stores amazon leaves, schools and other public buildings have a part to play but there are obviously areas far richer in solar and wind resources than the average.  the power is transported out of these places as electricity, compressed gas, or other liquids or solids, conceivably as charged batteries.  hell maybe they shoot lasers to a satellite and back down again.

no study that is made historically can reach valid conclusions such as you cite since the technology and pricing are changing so quickly. 

obviously the pressure of the market will put wind turbines in windy places, solar in sunny, first.  as the technology improves and prices continue to fall, renewable energy will creep into the next best places, allowing for demand, cost of transport, etc.  to model all this is an impossiblity as it takes clairvoyance.

captain-nemo's picture

The fact is that the entire industry that is created by the globalist to handle a better environment is just a fraud and it's all kept alive due to heavily subsidizing.  It's not fair to other industries.

It is also a bad idea to continue this subsidizing because it is obvious that these industries all are hijacked by liberal  never Trumpers ,and are nesting places for the deep state. In addition to this the people who work in these institutions are also cocky and arrogant, just demanding more and more favors from the government.


It's all fake , and the subsidizing needs to stop.

turing's picture

Most people have a child's concept of how solar energy gets into the net. Their concept is it just flows into the net like hydro power. IT DOES NOT. It is one of the most inefficient ways to produce electrical energy. The panels produce DC which has to be stored in large battery banks. Then this DC has to be inverted and stepped up to net voltage. The amount of energy produced by the panels is dependent on how clean they are and the intensity of the sun light-Sorry governor Brown, the moon does not hack it. The batteries and panels have an effective life, generally not as much as ten years. It is possible to invert and bypass storage but that requires standard systems to be on the line. Of course, electrical energy is needed to produce batteries, panels and inverters. Then shall we talk about foot print. Solar power needs lots of space. environmentally friendly? Do not tell that to birds.

It is like human caused climate change, BS.


LeftandRightareWrong's picture

Brown needs to study Physics and Thermodynamics instead of Moore's Law.  Bits and bytes are not the same as electrons.

Is-Be's picture

Brown needs to study Physics

I used to be a true believer too and then I got the Internet.

Physicists are people too, you know.

Newton spent most of his time deciphering the works of florid schizophrenics who wrote "Revelations" .

Naïve will always lead you astray.

GatorMcClusky's picture

Sorry, this isn't true. You only need batteries and charge controllers if you want to store the power. Panels *should* last 20 years.
Our system has 8 Rolls lead/acid batteries and they will store a ton of power.

VWAndy's picture

 How do you deal with the lead acid issues? 

jeff montanye's picture

not sure but the price of solar and wind in sunny and windy places respectively, without subsidies, just last year underbid new construction coal fired power.  check out number 3:

VWAndy's picture

 At one time I was a fan of solar too. Then I went out and picked one up. Battery pack and controler all new. Played around with it. Tested it. Kiched it around. Read a few books. Played around some more. Yes it has some uses. No it will not be the energy answer we are looking for.

just my opinion I am sure there are lots of experts that will sell/tell you something different.

Is-Be's picture

Edison cells are indestructible. The ones he made are still in use.

The Battery university.

Go for it. Grab some education. 

GatorMcClusky's picture

We just keep them full of water and the charge controllers do the rest.
Ours is more of a SHTF type of system than anything else.

abgary1's picture

A grid cannot function on renewables because they need to be backed up 100% by convention sources making them finacially unviable.

Germany, Britain, Netherlands, Spain and Australia know this and have gone away from them.

jeff montanye's picture

such a lack of imagination.  if left to you those dang horseless carriages would still be stuck in those muddy dirt roads easly traversed by horses.

Moe Hamhead's picture

Think about it.  Chicago was once under the Wisconsinian Glacier, and some dweebs are worried about global warming.  The climate has always been changing, with or without human intervention.  It's driven the hordes from the steppes, caused the plagues, and driven migration across the land-bridge to Alaska and South America.  Great Britain once was warm enough for vineyards during the Renaissance.

Is-Be's picture

Think about it.  Chicago was once under the Wisconsinian Glacier, and some dweebs are worried about global warming. 

You think about it.

We didn't have to feed 9 Billion back then.

We convert 10 units of oil energy into 1 unit of food energy on the end of your chopsticks.

Any planet-wide disruption in the flow of food into the major cities will bring famine on such a large scale that  statistically YOU will have very little chance of surviving.

LeftandRightareWrong's picture

Been saying this for the last 40+ years.  A variation on no free lunch, or the sun is NOT free.  But, a large number of people have hitched their wagon to alt-E and Climate Change, politically and economically.

Mining, producing, recycling/disposing of alt-E "stuff" will be the next environmental disaster once it reaches the scale to even put a dent in the energy required to support global growth.

Of course the alternative is stagnant or negative growth and consumption.

dlfield's picture

E = MC^2

You can't fool Mother Nature.

not a yahoo's picture

I'll remember next time I have my free lunch that the sun light isn't. Probably for 40+ years.

Damn. I REALLY want global stratification into intelligence classes. Everyone wear a shirt with a color representing their IQ, like they did in star trek. Same IQ people think alike. Everybody should be happy. This would be heaven. Please please god.

dl106's picture

The biggest welfare queens are in the traditional energy sectors



According to the IMF, Energy subsidies are projected at US$5.3 trillion in 2015, or 6.5 percent of global GDP, according to a recent IMF study.

If the UK can generate serious amounts of energy, then the US can trump them big time, [pun intended].


[Solar outstrips coal in past six months of UK electricity generation]

More power came from solar panels than from Britain's ageing coal stations from April to September this year, report shows.

With solar you get to beat the Limeys and you get jobs.



"There's a very sophisticated way of accessing migratory routes and siting wind farms, in the future, so we try to minimize that kind of impact. But the reality is, if you look at the wind farms in the U.S., which are quite substantial 

now, they are more birds killed on highways of Florida by cars, than there are by the entire windmills in the U.S. You have to put that a little bit into perspective. The other is that some of the big producers have invested in very 

interesting new technologies. You have radar systems now in some of the really tall, big turbines, that are able to detect oncoming flocks of migratory species of birds and shut down the turbine, until the birds pass."


[Pollution, Saving Lives And Money]]

Pollution from electricity generation still accounted for 52,000 premature deaths annually. The largest impact was seen in the east-central United States and in the Midwest: Eastern power plants tend to use coal with higher sulfur 

content than Western plants.

jeff montanye's picture

i would think that those turbines could be sufficiently geared so that they wouldn't be moving fast enough to hit a bird much less kill it and still make plenty of electricity.

not an engineer (changed major first semester).

Osamabeentokin's picture

In other news, the psycho lobbying firm The American Institute For Improving Sanity issued a warning that people who forego gouging their own eyes out and jumping off the nearest bridge have actually made the economy worse since keeping your eyes intact and abstaining from bridge jumping gives fewer jobs in Coast Guard rescues and the eventual eye surgery that usually follows such an activity. 


Furthermore, the higher life expectancy brought on by keeping your eyes intact and not jumping from tall structures brings a greater burden to the state. I was told all this as I performed fellacio on my master's penis who also has its own tin foil hat, and I'm so thankful I can just copy/paste his crazy emails on ZeroHedge to make myself feel so smart and worldly. 

jeff montanye's picture

almost got an upvote for the penis's tin foil hat.

Nobodys Home's picture

Right. Bullshit! That's why I would love to live off grid with solar wind water and wood power. It's such a terrible thing to break away and live your own life huh?
Storage is the problem. Not generation. A few years of subsidies into liquid metal batteries and they would pay for themselves. Far cheaper than funding Musk etc. ..Never happen though because it could work. Can't upset the applecart!

silverer's picture

Just show me an installation where it's been done. Here's your biggest problem: The government says NO: