If building a reliable, affordable grid was a public relations stunt, New Yorkers wouldn’t need to worry. In “N.Y.’s energy for change,” Nov. 28, Basil Seggos, state Department of Environmental Conservation commissioner, and Doreen Harris, state Energy Research and Development Authority president and CEO, play a game of smoke and mirrors.
In their commentary, they lay out fairy-tale plans – colossal solar and wind buildout – to satisfy New York’s growing electricity demand with sources that generate nothing most of the time.
NYSERDA proposes 66,000 megawatts of solar. NYSERDA would cover 500 square miles of upstate farms and forests with glass, copper and steel. The capacity factor of solar in New York is just 14 percent, and solar generates little November through March. That solution won’t seem clever when heat pumps shift peak load to winter.
The grid operator, NYISO, projects we’d need a million acres of onshore wind turbines: 35,000 megawatts. Maybe Seggos and Harris haven’t noticed that New York doesn’t have unforested, non-agricultural land to surrender to industry. Rural communities are already battling former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s accelerated siting law, which ignores public opinion, local regulations and skirts environmental review. NYSERDA wants twice the offshore wind currently planned despite analyses showing that wind power degrades 4.5 percent annually.
Even if all this buildout happens, NYSERDA acknowledges we’d need “firm” generation capacity equal to, perhaps greater than, New York’s current fleet of fossil-fuel power plants to keep lights on when there’s no wind or sun, when batteries are depleted. Without carbon-free nuclear, gas will provide that dispatchable energy.
It’s time for Seggos and Harris to acknowledge that a reliable, decarbonized grid will require nuclear power.
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