Ranking renewable energy options

Energy & Sustainability
Ranking renewable energy options

The “first quantitative, scientific evaluation of the proposed, major, energy-related solutions” came out this month. Via Worldchanging:

Here is how Jacobson ranks the renewables, from best to worst:

1. Wind power
2. concentrated solar power (CSP)
3. geothermal power
4. tidal power
5. solar photovoltaics (PV)
6. wave power
7. hydroelectric power
8. a tie between nuclear power and coal with carbon capture and sequestration (CCS)


How would this ranking change for DIY-ability? In other words, if you assume no link to any electric grid, which power sources look best and in what order?
For argument’s sake, assume you’re in a magical location on the coast with consistently strong winds and lots of sunlight:)

14 thoughts on “Ranking renewable energy options

  1. Phlamingo says:

    The danger of a list like this is that there are no details about the assumptions the author made in his rankings, his priorities and values, etc.

    The full report may well detail the assumptions, but the full report won’t be available to many people. Some will look at this list and take it as gospel, rather than as an interesting starting point for a rational discussion.


  2. Paul D says:

    Actually the study ranks alternative energy sources, not renewable energy sources as your list states.

  3. MechanicalMan says:

    If you’re on a magical place on the shore with a stream suitable for hydroelectric, and plenty of consistent wind and sun… why are you worried about power? sounds like a paradise beach party…

    On the serious side, good points by Phlamingo^^^

  4. Trevyn says:

    In terms of feasibility for DIYers, I would include only solar (PV and hot water), wind, and hydro, and put them in this order:

    1. Wind
    2. Solar hot water
    3. Hydro
    4. Solar PV
    5. Solar hot water or PV with concentrator

    I put wind first (ie easiest) because I’ve seen tons of information about making wind generators from scratch with some strong magnets, bearings, wire, and a surplus alternator or motor.

    Both solar options usually require buying pre-made modules (and the PV modules require complicated manufacturing processes), which I think reduces their “DIY-ness”.

    I’ve also seen information about building micro-hydro generators from scratch, but it comes after solar hot water because it requires access to a creek or river.

    Solar with concentrator comes last because commercially available solar modules aren’t usually designed with that in mind and the manufacturer specifically warns against it, making it difficult to implement.

    I think it’s important not to ignore solar hot water systems in discussion like this because they can significantly decrease use of electricity and fossil fuels for water and space heating, and they pay back in 5-10 years (rather than 25+ for PV).

  5. Tom says:

    Interesting – I took a personal rank, with the question “which one would I be most able to build, with the most accessible resources”. Oddly, my ranking matched the one given.
    On a more pragmatic basis, Geothermal will help with heating & cooling needs – and as such is one of my faves, however would need to combine with some solar or wind to meet the electic needs.

  6. Anonymous says:

    this image is in Akihabara

  7. dmagyar says:


    If you follow the linkthrough, the source actually links to the full article with citations, directly at the Journal for the RSC website. Not saying that the information in it matches what you’re looking for, but… it’s freely available to everyone.

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Luke Iseman

Luke Iseman makes stuff, some of which works. He invites you to drive a bike for a living (dirtnailpedicab.com), stop killing your garden (growerbot.com), and live in an off-grid shipping container (boxouse.com).

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