Debunking the Solar Energy Myth

Published November 1, 2002

The Solar Fraud: Why Solar Energy Won’t Run the World
by Howard C. Hayden, PhD
Vales Lake Publishing, paperback, 224 pages

Howard Hayden, Professor Emeritus of Physics at the University of Connecticut, is the Mr. Wizard of alternative energy. Be it in the form of wind, hydropower, biomass, direct solar by photovoltaic cells, or solar collectors transmitting heat to a turbine, he explains the physics with joyful enthusiasm, but also objective reality.

Physics, we are often told, is dry enough to be a fire hazard. Physics underlies absolutely everything about solar energy. One would suppose, therefore, that solar energy must be boring beyond belief. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Solar energy inspires passion, enthusiasm, and devotion, but unfortunately the litany of unrealistic, rosy predictions of a solar future constitute a fraud not founded on the unshakable physics that determines the sun’s capacity to supply our energy. It involves lying with statistics and attempting to manipulate the public into accepting what could only become a world of brownouts.

Hayden explains that Our Daily Bread would not exist if we did not use energy to till the soil, grind the grain, move the flour to bakeries, and bake the bread. Energy drives the economy, but he says it is a serious error to imagine it’s simply a matter of profits. We would need energy to transport goods even if there were no profit-minded corporations. We use energy to build not only our homes, but also everything in our homes. Energy drives society, and solar energy does indeed play a role.

The Solar Niche

There have always been water pumps in remote locations, operated by wind energy. Now there are photovoltaic cells operating other pumps where conventional electricity is not available. Scientists and engineers almost universally recognize that solar energy is extremely useful in such niche applications. They also recognize that solar energy—using all conceivable technologies—will not be adequate to run an industrialized world.

On June 29, 1979, President Jimmy Carter called for a “national commitment to solar energy,” with the goal of producing 20 percent of the nation’s energy from various solar sources by the year 2000. It did not come to pass. All the solar heat collection systems built in the United States since 1974 account for less than 0.02 percent of our energy consumption.

Moreover, the number of hydroelectric generating stations increased during this time—from 3,275 in 1980 to 3,362 in 1995—but hydro’s share of our electric energy consumption fell, from 12.1 percent to 9.8 percent. Combined photovoltaics, wind power, wood burning, and waste burning accounted for merely 1.6 percent of the electricity used in the U.S. in 1998.

Hayden describes the large solar industry in the United States made of honest business people selling wind turbines, photovoltaic arrays, deep discharge storage batteries, solar heat collectors, wood stoves, and many other devices to enable people to collect solar energy in one form or another. They are meant for places where conventional energy is not available and for people passionate enough to own solar regardless of the cost.

None of these business people will ever tell you that solar can power the world. The people who do—including the likes of Ralph Nader, Denis Hayes (Earth Day founder), the World Watch Institute (Lester Brown), the Union of Concerned Scientists, or Environmental Defense, to name but a few—have an entirely different agenda uncomplicated by physics. They simply desire to destroy our industrialized society.

Hayden explains the limited capability of every solar-related energy source by relating how the laws of physics impose certain inescapable shortcomings. Along the way he precisely quotes the many well-known energy charlatans making statements that defy the laws of nature.

  • When it comes to wind, Hayden shows wind farms can generate electrical power at the rate of about 1.2 watts (W) per square meter (m2) for most sites, and up to 4 W/m2 in rare sites where the wind always comes from one direction. The goal is to generate enough energy to replicate a 1,000 megawatts power plant operating around the clock. To do that in California, for example, would require a wind farm one mile wide stretching all the way from Los Angeles to San Francisco.
  • To produce as much energy as a conventional 1,000 megawatt power plant using solar would require a 127 square mile field of solar mirrors collecting enough heat to turn a turbine. Now that would have quite an environmental impact!

For decades, there have been delirious proclamations that the world would soon run on solar energy. Those statements have always sounded too good to be true and, sure enough, they have always been false.

Solar Fraud will arm you with the basic knowledge to understand all the physics of energy utilization. Energy use creates the power to run society, as well as the statistics that track man’s lack of progress when attempting to overturn the laws of nature through the use of impractical energy sources.

Additionally, Hayden’s collection of quotes from the purveyors of the solar fraud, when set side-by-side with the physical facts, will convince you that society is not being victimized by well-meaning, wrongheaded people. Instead, the purveyors of the solar energy fraud are intent on bringing industrial society to its knees by stifling society’s true, nearly inexhaustible sources of energy.

Dr. Jay Lehr is Science Director for The Heartland Institute.

For more information

Howard C. Hayden’s The Solar Fraud: Why Solar Energy Won’t Run the World is available in paperback for $24.95 from Amazon. com. Point your Web browser to