Recent opinion pieces have suggested Loveland should move to a 100 percent renewable energy supply. I believe this to be just another utopian fantasy.
As energy sources, wind and solar suffer from three basic deficiencies – they are inherently weak, intermittent and expensive. Consider, for example, replacing a typical 1,000 megawatt coal-fired or natural gas-fired power plant, which occupies less than one square mile of land. A comparable wind farm would consist of 3,000-3,500 turbines covering an area of 200-300 square miles, or a solar farm having millions of panels covering an area of approximately 40 square miles. Of course both would include appropriate electrical conversion and transmission equipment, and would require periodic maintenance.
For the wind facility, the power output would be highly variable, providing peak power exceeding 2,000 MW perhaps two to four times each month, and providing less than 500 MW for the majority of the time. Wind output is typically low to nonexistent during frigid high-pressure days of winter and during the hottest days of summer. For a solar facility peak power occurs daily at noon, tapering to zero at sunrise and sunset, except on stormy or cloudy days when virtually no power is produced. For either wind or solar, grid operators can at most count on about 10 percent of rated capacity in periods of peak demand.
Because of intermittency, wind and solar systems cannot replace hydrocarbon or nuclear power stations if continuity of electricity supply is to be maintained. Backup power from storage batteries is not a feasible replacement for natural gas or hydropower backups, because there are times when wind and/or solar power go down for several days consecutively and because of the high cost of utility scale batteries for such service. Regarding cost, U.S. utility bills already have doubled because of renewables, from about 5 to 10 cents per kilowatt-hour, and will probably triple or quadruple again over the next few years if the public persists in eliminating use of fossil fuels.
The example of Europe is pertinent. In June 2000, the EU launched the European Climate Change Programme, which promoted the build-out of wind and solar capacity. Feed-in tariffs established high prices for electricity from wind and solar sources, while mandates established priorities for the renewables over conventional sources. Wind turbines were constructed by the thousands and rooftop solar panels by the millions, costing the various governments more than $1 trillion between 2000 and 2016. Residential electricity prices have soared across Europe, now approaching 40 cents per kilowatt-hour in both Germany and Denmark. Also, large subsidies are now required for both the renewable and the conventional energy sources, as the latter cannot survive to keep the lights on at night or when the wind stops blowing under the current regimen.
Carl Langner is a Loveland resident.
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