The Folly of Alternative Energy

Oil, coal, natural gas, hydro, and nuclear, are all owned by specific powerful industries and have extremely high barriers to entry.
So is wind and solar. Brightsource is in bed with huge power companies to do their deal. GE is big into wind and solar. Solyndra was in bed with the Obama administration.

Most people haven’t a clue how their energy is produced and delivered. Plug your hybrid into a wall and you’ll save the planet because “you aren’t using gas.”

Good for you. Isn’t bliss wonderful? But if ignorance is bliss, isn’t bliss ignorant?

Nobody realizes the effort spent by your power company to moderate and control the demand, load and supply, 24/7/365 (366 this year). There are folks who work throughout the night just to make sure you stay comfortable.

You flip on your light switch at 6:00 a.m. and lights go on. 1,000 of your fellow city dwellers snap theirs on at the same time and the Power company doesn’t simply sit there and snap on another generator. Nor do they leave that generator humming away all night waiting, either.

No, the grid is demanding. It doesn’t like stress. It wants to be fed when it wants to be fed – but not too much and not too little. And it likes to be fed only with a specific type of energy or it gets cranky. And when it gets cranky, entire regions go dark for days because things tend to cascade when they fail.

Solar – Steam generation works great…during daytime, but not so much during cloudy days. However, nobody wants that 5-square-mile facility anywhere near anything “NIMBY” (Not In My Back Yard) has been superseded by “BANANA” (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything).

Photovoltaics (PV) do not produce the type of power the grid can handle. They installed PVs on almost every other telephone pole in central New Jersey to offset streetlight usage and whole neighborhoods crabbed how ugly they were. But, better yet, even the best PVs only are 10% or so efficient and that degrades each year by dust and dirt.

Wind is nice, but only while the wind blows. A lot of issues with light wind versus gales. (i.e., too little or too much.) Neighbors near one installation complained about the constant noise (whoosh-whoosh-whoosh) the big blades make. The biggest complainers to an offshore wind field planned near Martha’s Vineyard were? Yep, the Kennedys and the Kerrys. The biggest complainers to another in the middle of the Mohave Desert was the Sierra Club.

Wave action? Ditto. And you have to figure out how to work around boat, ship, beach usage, and still get the power ashore, all within one of the most hostile environments on earth.

Additionally, all those green sources cost as much, or more, to create as a ordinary coal, gas, or oil fired facility. They have all the same environmental impacts studies and NIMBY/BANANA fights. But, in the end, they produce a better, more efficient, more consistent, more usable energy that the market demands.

You wanna save the planet? Unplug. But every time you get unplugged, you complain. For example, Tropical Storm Irene came through and the Northeast lost power for a fortnight and civilization started to breakdown. Ridgefield CT is a liberal bastion–tree hugger central. During the aftermath of Irene, the Ridgefield police had to guard the power company’s repair crew staging area because citizens were aggressively demanding crews to come fix their power. That story was featured on NBC’s Nightly News.

A few months later a Nor’Easter came through, dropped a few inches of snow on the still-leafed out trees and the Northeast went another week or so without.

Yeah. Go Ahead. Unplug.

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