Daily Bread for 2.1.23: Solar Over Ethanol for Wisconsin

Good morning.

Wednesday in Whitewater will be mostly sunny with a high of 24. Sunrise is 7:08 AM and sunset 5:08 PM for 10h 00m 09s of daytime. The moon is a waxing gibbous with 84.51% of its visible disk illuminated.

 On this day in 1964, The Beatles have their first number one hit in the United States with “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”

Joe Schulz reports Study recommends converting some of Wisconsin’s corn-based ethanol land into solar farms (‘Researchers say solar would boost Wisconsin’s energy output more than ethanol’):

Converting less than one-third of the roughly 1 million acres Wisconsin uses to grow corn for ethanol into solar farms would boost the state’s energy production and help reduce carbon emissions, according to a new report from Clean Wisconsin, an environmental advocacy nonprofit.

Clean Wisconsin looked at both the gross energy production and the energy “inputs” required for solar and ethanol production.

It found that 88 percent of the energy generated by solar goes to society and 12 percent is offset by production requirements. For ethanol, only 20 percent of the energy goes to society and 80 percent is offset by production.

“Corn needs to be grown, harvested and processed into ethanol, all of which require energetic inputs. Likewise, solar panels need to be manufactured and installed,” said Paul Mathewson, science program director for Clean Wisconsin. “When accounting for inputs, the net energy production of solar is over 100 times that of corn ethanol.”

Mathewson said growing corn for ethanol also has a negative environmental impact on the state’s waterways because corn requires chemical inputs like pesticides and nitrogen fertilizer.

“Agriculture contributes to about 90 percent of the nitrate contamination problems,” he said. “And corn needs a lot of nitrogen fertilizer to grow at the scale and at the intensity that we grow in Wisconsin.”


“With just a fraction of what we’re using already to grow corn ethanol for energy, we can produce enough homegrown energy (with) solar panels that would power our state’s clean energy economy,” said Chelsea Chandler, Clean Wisconsin’s climate, energy and air program director. “And we’d be improving our water quality, our air and our soil health at the same time.”

The debate over energy production will not soon end, but it’s useful ponder our options. In the meantime, America is moving toward what we still call alternative energy sources, but they won’t always be alternatives to the dominant fossil-fuel-burning economy.

In the same way, automobiles were once alternatives to horses, yet no one thinks of cars that way now. 

What’s Up: February 2023 Skywatching:

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