How should the U.S. handle vulnerability to oil and gas spikes in the world market?
The answer is easy and obvious, explains Francis Menton in the Manhattan Contrarian. Just read almost anything from the American media/academia/environmentalist/Democratic Party society:
Just build more wind turbines and solar arrays until you have enough. These facilities will count as “domestic” electricity generation, and therefore will quickly lead to “energy independence.” What could be easier?
“No amount of incremental wind and solar power can ever provide energy independence,” argues Mr. Menton.
Electricity gets consumed the instant it is generated. Electricity is consumed all the time, and therefore must be generated all the time. Indeed, some of the peak times for electricity consumption occur on winter evenings, when the sun has set, temperatures are very cold, the wind is often completely calm, and the need for energy for light, heat, cooking and more are high. During such times, a combined wind and solar generation system produces zero power. It doesn’t matter if you build a thousand wind turbines and solar panels, or a million, or a billion or a trillion. The output will still be zero.
And calm winter nights are just the most intense piece of the problem. A fully wind/solar generation system, with seemingly plenty of “capacity” to meet peak electricity demand, will also regularly and dramatically underproduce at random critical times throughout a year: for example, on heavily overcast and cold winter days; or on calm and hot summer evenings, when the sun has just set and air conditioning demand is high.
To propose energy independence based on wind and solar without fossil fuels, you must, repeat must, address storage. How much is needed? How much would that cost? What loss of energy will be incurred on the turnaround between charge and discharge? Is the cost feasible? How long must the energy be stored between generation and consumption? Do batteries or other storage devices exist that can store energy for such a period without most or all of it draining away? Has there ever been a demonstration of the feasibility of a fossil-fuel-free system based only on wind, solar and storage?
Obvious but Unmentionable in Polite Society
As Mr. Mention explains, a wind and solar generation system will either be:
- dependent on fossil fuel backup
- dependent on storage for backup
If it is taken as given that the whole idea is to move away from fossil fuel backup, then everything comes down to storage. A fossil-fuel-free system based on wind and solar generation is completely useless without sufficient storage to cover all times of insufficient simultaneous generation.
Does advocating more wind and solar facilities as the solution to dependence of Russian gas supplies work? For a good look at the feasibility and cost of a wind/solar generation system without fossil fuel backup, read Mr. Menton’s prior Manhattan Contrarian posts from February 1 here, and January 22 here.
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