Here’s a fact you won’t see mentioned in the public policy debate over “alternative” energy:
There exists no alternative energy source, no combination of alternative energy sources, and no system of combinations of alternative energy sources that can fully replace a single, coal fired electric plant built with 1930s era technology.
Yet many want to make this group of functionally useless technologies the primary energy sources for our entire civilization.
Most discussions of alternative energy talk only about the cost and reliability of the electricity when it leaves the grounds of the alternative-energy installation. This is called the Point of Generation (POG). However, energy is useless unless you have it where you need it, when you need it. It does no good to have plenty of power in Arizona when your work and home are in Michigan. It does no good to have a roaring fire in July when you’re freezing in January. Therefore, the only real factors that count are the cost and reliability at the Point of Consumption (POC).
All current and forecast alternative energy sources fail miserably at POC. When you look at all the hurdles, redundancies and hypothetical/theoretical technologies you have to invoke to make alternative energy reliable at POC, you see they can’t even come close to matching the 80-year-old coal plant.
An obsolete coal plant using 80-year-old technology can provide power where and when you need it. It can be positioned almost anywhere from the equator to the tundra. (It will even work aboard ships.) It can be positioned immediately adjacent to the point of consumption. It works around the clock and in all types of weather. It can easily store weeks or months of coal reserves in a big pile outside. 99% of its offline time is scheduled and it is trivial to build in redundancy to compensate for both scheduled and unscheduled offline time. For the last 80 years, this type of technology has chugged out the electricity all over the world without pause.
“Alternative” energy sources have none of these attributes. They can only be built in specific locations, and those locations are wholly unrelated to the points of consumption. They can only operate under specific weather/environmental conditions, so they cannot fulfill the when of the point of consumption need.
They operate on nature’s schedule not ours. If we could easily operate on mother nature’s schedule, we wouldn’t need the energy in the first place, because we primarily use the energy to alter natural environmental conditions to keep ourselves alive.
“Alternative” energy is really Weather-Dependent Energy and it has all of the hazards posed by being exposed to the vagaries of weather. Wind turbines only generate power in certain locations, within certain wind speed ranges and only when the wind blows in the specified speed range. Solar panels only generates significant power in certain locations, in certain latitudes, in certain environmental conditions (deserts mostly). It only generates significant power in the daytime, only during certain hours in the day, and random weather conditions like thunderstorms, ice storms or sandstorms can knock it offline completely. (Even hydroelectric power is weather dependent and can be seriously crippled by drought or flood.) ...
Read the rest here, along with the comments.
[Via Maxed Out Mama]