Why “Green” Energy Will Never Replace Fossil Fuels

Regular readers of this site are well aware of the inherent inferiority of intermittent energy sources like wind and solar. Nevertheless, the states of California and Hawaii have pledged to get all of their electricity from renewable sources (wind and solar), as have numerous cities and counties.

Unfortunately, it can’t be done, at any price. This piece by Steve Goreham at Watts Up With That? is a good short course in the futility of wind and solar:

Wind and solar cannot replace output from traditional coal, natural gas, and nuclear power plants, despite claims to the contrary. Wind and solar are intermittent generators. Wind output varies dramatically from high output to zero, depending upon weather conditions. Solar output is available for only about six hours each day when the sun is overhead and disappears completely on cloudy days or after a snowfall. …

Experience shows that utilities can only count on about 10 percent of the nameplate capacity of a wind or solar facility as an addition to power system capacity. For example, on December 7, 2011, the day of peak winter electricity demand in the United Kingdom, the output of more than 3,000 wind turbines in the UK was less than five percent of rated output. The UK House of Lords recognized the problem a decade ago, stating “The intermittent nature of wind turbines…means they can replace only a little of the capacity of fossil fuel and nuclear power plants if security of supply is to be maintained.”

Advocates of “green” energy are well aware of the problem of intermittency. They hope for fantastically improved, industrial-scale batteries to solve the problem. However, no such technology exists, nor is it on the horizon:

Green energy advocates recognize renewable intermittency and hope that advances in battery technology will save the day. Large-scale commercial batteries, they claim, will be able to store power during high levels of renewable output and then deliver power to the grid when wind and solar output is low.

But batteries are not the answer because of the large seasonal variation in renewable output. For example, wind and solar output in California in December and January is less than half of the output in summer months. Commercial large-scale batteries available today are rated to deliver stored electricity for only two hours or ten hours duration. No batteries exist that can store energy in the summer and then deliver it during the winter when renewable output is very low.

Meanwhile, federal subsidies and state mandates are combining to force huge increases in solar panels and wind turbine farms. These intermittent sources do not allow reliable power plants (coal, natural gas and nuclear) to be retired, so they are simply an expensive add-on that ratepayers and taxpayers combine to finance. The drive for more “green” energy will push electric rates higher and higher, to no productive end, until ratepayers and taxpayers finally rebel and bring this foolish experiment to an end.


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