It is with perpetual amazement that we should ponder the thought processes and ignorance of a large part of the American population. The object of my ire is citizens who do not know about something near and dear to their interests, the electricity they use in daily life – how it gets to them, its cost and benefits, the truths they need to know and the nonsense they need to forget.
I’m not talking about the little darlings at the local college that want their school to divest ownership in fossil-fuel providers and users. Those boys and girls and their teachers will only come to their senses when the light switch doesn’t work or their room temperature drops below 40. No, I’m complaining about a need for understanding of “renewable energy” and its practicality and appropriate place in our lives. All of this is germane to readers as members of a community that is, proportionally, one of the largest users on the planet.
By way of background, it helps to look at projected electric power generating plants as “U.S. Average Levelized Cost for Plants Entering Service in 2019” in $/MWh, compiled with data from multiple sources: geothermal, 47.9; natural gas advanced combined cycle, 64.4; natural gas conventional combined cycle, 66.3; wind, 80.3; hydro, 84.5; conventional coal, 95.6; nuclear, 96.1; biomass, 102.4; advanced natural gas turbine, 103.8; coal gasification combined cycle (GCC), 115.9; natural gas turbine, 128.4; solar photovoltaic, 130.0; wind off-shore, 204.1; solar thermal, 243.1. To understand this information, it is important to recognize some facts that provide perspective.
- Ultrahigh cost valuation of carbon reduction is needed to justify consideration of renewables.
- No group of related utilities provides even 5% of U.S. electricity markets. The grid infrastructure cannot accept intermittent and variable inputs that are characteristic of most renewables generation; adding renewable sources will degrade the reliability of the power grid.
- Many non-experts do much to ignore costs and avoid critical issues in reports while advocating their position(s), making misinformation rampant. Hidden subsidies and tax credits distort projected costs for renewable-fueled power generation.
- Consumers are protected by public-service commissioners and regulatory bodies, many of whom lack training and expertise. Utilities that pursue “green projects” are usually rewarded by these officials.
- Most renewable proponents overlook or are unaware of hidden environmental effects. What happens to all the lizards and turtles that cannot live in the shade of solar collectors? What about the birds that are devastated by windmill blades? When rivers are dammed to make water reservoirs, where do the people go who lived on what is now the bottom of that lake, and what happens to the fish that no longer can swim upstream?
- Nuclear plants are the only electricity providers that produce virtually no air pollution.
- An effective provider of most renewable sources must contain a storage capability to levelize output to the grid, a factor usually overlooked.
It is essential that the public have an understanding of realities and practicalities for appropriate use of renewable sources of energy. Most folks do not heat water in rooftop solar collector arrays because the roof would collapse under the weight. Furthermore, most people do not connect the truths that burning ethanol, which is made from corn (a biomass), deprives many people of food. Meanwhile, 31% of all human food sold in the U.S. is wasted.
There are certainly good, practical and efficient methods for using renewable sources of energy. Fossil-based fuels currently provide about 85% of all energy used worldwide, and combined nuclear and hydropower provide another 12%. In terms of cost for these generation methods, fossil fuels run $0.10-0.12 per kilowatt-hour ($/KWt); wind 0.08-0.14 $/KWt; solar 0.13-0.24 $/KWt; hydro 0.08 $/KWt; and geothermal 0.05 $/KWt.
All this review says to me is that renewables could be wonderful for the few situations where they are practical, fossil fuels are here to stay, and why don’t some of you people go out there and find a nice geothermal well or two to spruce up our environmental and economic future. If you did, we all wouldn‘t have to listen to so many uninformed eco-nuts.