Yes the Sun will continue releasing energy for billions of years that we can use in solar panels, however, just because solar utilizes visible light does not make it infinite. We need to measure our resources based on sustainability instead of renewability, and we need to consider ALL materials that go into manufacturing these sources when we determine sustainability. Yes Solar generates electricity from the sun, which we define to be inexhaustible, but the materials such as lithium, gallium, indium, cadmium, silicon, tellurium, copper, silver etc are not infinite resources. All of these materials are finite and in fact non-renewable. If we run out of cadmium we cannot make CdTe solar panels anymore even though the sun may still exist.
As you may have noticed I do not support renewability, because the way we use this term is extremely misleading in comparing energy sources. One interesting question I have continuously made is what effect raising prices on petrochemicals has on wind. Wind energy is a renewable resource, because we say the wind is renewable (which doesn’t really make any sense when you actually define terms). What bugs me is people fail to recognize that wind turbines extensively require petrochemicals and coal for carbon fiber and fiberglass blades, steel frames, and concrete foundations. If we run out of fossil fuels- you cannot have wind energy anymore based on current technology. In fact if we actually ran out of fossil fuels we likely could not produce any energy.
“Renewables” will likely continue to grow, but there are so major challenges that need to be addressed before they overtake fossil fuel production. The greatest of which is likely to be storage. Not even looking at economics of full scale storage for intermittent sources, there is a considerable problem for large countries in creating enough storage for at least 2TW of capacity. The USA is put in an even greater risk, due to our lack of large bodies of water with high volumetric discharge, unlike other countries like China. Relying on battery storage is an issue not because of efficiency or cost, but because we literally do not have enough resources to manufacture enough batteries to store the entire US grid based on current technology. Id like you to consider the following sources that were calculated by someone who actually supports renewables:
Lastly, I want to explain why I do not support “renewables”:
There is no current method nor do we attempt to quantify renewability. Have you ever consider this to be odd? We compare energy sources if they are renewable or not, but our evidence in determining renewability is entirely subjective. We do not associate a value to renewability, nor do we compare renewable sources as being on their renewability. How much more renewable is solar than wind or biomass? There is no answer, because there is no way to currently calculate this term. If there is no current way to calculate value in a comparative term, why are we using it as a comparison? What statistical evidence do we have that this a good comparison?
I am a nuclear supporter, and as a nuclear supporter it is extremely difficult for me to understand renewables relationship with nuclear. Solar, wind, hydro, and biomass are only possible due to the energy emitted by the sun that comes into contact with the earth. Where does this energy come from? 100% of all energy emitted from sun is the resultant of nuclear fusion reactions. Yet nuclear fusion is non-renewable and solar is renewable? I’m not doubting that nuclear is non-renewable- that makes sense, given that is a fusion reaction in the sun duetrium and tritium undergo fusion to produce helium and release energy, and at no time is the sun replenishing the hydrogen isotopes. It makes sense that it is non-renewable. However, what makes entirely no sense is by some miracle that released non-renewable energy somehow becomes renewable when it is absorbed by solar panels, or plants or water but only if run through a small turbine. That is ridiculous… The universal reality is there is no such thing as renewable energy.
When I bring up point #2 the common explanation is that renewable source replenish themselves within a human timeline or there is so much energy that their existence does not significantly reduce the energy resource. There are problems with both of these. For " renewable source replenish themselves within a human timeline" this is not a true statement. At no time does a solar panel produce visible light wavelengths nor does a wind turbine produce wind nor does a hydroelectric plant produce water. Furthermore to suggest that your source is replenishing the resource suggests that you are producing 100% of that source back into the environment. This is fallacy, because to do so would violate the 1st law of thermodynamics and create a perpetual motion machine. The energy you receive from solar is not 100% of the energy that was converted by the panel. An amount of the energy was lost during conversion, and transmission and during storage, so at no time are you ever replenishing all of the energy.
For “there is so much energy that their existence does not significantly reduce the energy resource” this completely alters the definition of renewable. Instead of being about replenishing, now the term is entirely classified by the amount of supply. All it takes to be renewable now is enough supply and therefore the amount of resources that is used does not diminish enough of the resource. Why is this significant? Well by changing the definition to this instead of replenishing now there are some sources that can no longer be renewable and there are some sources that can no be considered to be renewables. For example biomass may largely no longer be renewable because the amount of crops or algae to meet consumption greatly reduces the amount of supply making it a significant decrease and no longer renewable. On the other hand nuclear fusion and nuclear fission can now be classified as renewable, because fusion requires hydrogen and there is enough hydrogen on earth to generate energy for millions of years. Nuclear fission is also renewable based on total fissile material including all uranium, thorium and plutonium on both land and ocean resulting in resources for thousands of years.