Several editorials and letters to the editor foolishly claim lately that transition to so-called “clean” energy renewables is viable within the next two or three decades. I find hallucinatory that such conviction is expressed with such little apparent knowledge of science, engineering, and of the enormity of the electrical grid.
Invariably, such poorly-informed scribes use the words “clean” and “renewable” as if such sources existed or could be developed without using massive amounts of hydrocarbons (coal, oil, and natural gas) and nuclear power, the only new source of power developed in the past century. For example, such folly ignores the fact that one 2-megawatt windmill with its tower and base requires mining 300 tons of iron ore and burning 170 tons of coal to produce 200 tons of steel all of which is transported by oil or natural gas. Consequently, mining, production, and transport, plus new transmission lines, require more energy than what a windmill will produce in its expected lifetime.
As to solar power, in spite of electric power company propaganda, every state that has bought into additional solar blight (like Florida) has suffered electricity rate increases.
While a windmill or a solar panel might add some energy to the grid when the wind decides to blow, or the sun decides to shine, wind and solar add no capacity to the grid since electricity produced in not dispatchable; in other words, one can never count on wind to blow or the sun to shine, on demand. Wind and solar decide on their own when to start or stop producing electricity. Therefore, they have to be backed up by dependable, fast-acting, non-intermittent sources, typically natural gas, causing the public to pay for electricity production twice: first for extremely expensive, low-value electricity from sunshine and breezes, then from reliable hydroelectric, hydrocarbon, or nuclear sources.
Of course electric power companies, as regulated utilities, earn a handsome profit on wind and solar boondoggles regardless of cost. And, to add insult to injury, emergency alerts last month in Texas were the result of that state’s infatuation with unreliable so-called renewable energy. It turns out that on hot days in Texas, home to our country’s largest number of global warming scarecrows, there is often little wind.
Clearly the aforementioned innumerate scribes would do well to take science courses while refreshing their abilities to use arithmetic.
M.S. Medeiros Jr.