Argument: Solar power cannot produce enough energy to replace coal

Issue Report: Solar energy


Georgia Congressman John Linder (R – Duluth) in an op-ed column published in the June 17th Gwinnett Daily Post. – “While it’s great politics to support wind, solar, geothermal and biomass, it’s terrible policy […] We simply cannot replace our fossil fuel use with renewable energy.”

Dave Anderton. “Sun, wind replace coal?”. Deseret News (Salt Lake City). 23 Nov 2006 – LOS ANGELES — Southern California is gambling its future power needs on its constant sunshine, wind and the ability of engineers to effectively harness those and other alternative energy sources.

Officials in Anaheim, Burbank, Glendale, Pasadena and Riverside notified the South Jordan-based Intermountain Power Agency this week that they would not be renewing their contracts for cheap, coal- fired power.

Those contracts expire in 2027. That leaves the cities two decades to secure the alternative energy sources they’ll need — from wind farms to desert solar power.

“It’s a huge change,” said Mayor Todd Campbell of Burbank. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power had already given notice to the Utah-based power agency.

The five California cities collectively purchase 75 percent of the electricity currently generated by IPA.

Reed Searle, general manager of Intermountain Power Agency Inc., said the decision by the California cities to not renew their contracts does not cause any significant concern.

“There certainly is enough sunshine and wind,” Searle said. “The problem is land mass. To replace our coal facilities, for example, with solar it would take up more acres than the state of Utah has available. It can make a substantial impact, but you can’t replace coal.”

Searle went on to say that the decision puts more pressure on IPA to find new ways to reduce carbon emissions.

“We believe that technology will come along,” Searle said. “The technology is probably there. It’s a matter of cost.”

Simon Grose. “False dawn of solar power”. Cosmos Online. 25 Oct. 2006 – Wind and solar power are enormously appealing as planet-friendly sources of energy – but those who think we can completely rely on them in the future are dreaming.

…[Hypothetically] Australia is playing England in a cricket final at the Sydney Olympic Stadium. It is a night match, beginning at 6 pm and finishing around 2 am, a timing shift from earlier years in response to high daytime temperatures that have become commonplace since 2013, the hottest year on record. With players struggling in 40°C-plus afternoons and spectators opting to watch from their air-conditioned homes, the shift to night matches has revived the annual tournament.

But as the solar generators sleep and the wind farms lie fallow, where will the power come from to flood the arena with light? What will power the trains to take spectators to and from the ground?

What will power the trains in all our eastern cities, the trams in Melbourne and the trolley-buses in Brisbane, to take our workers home through the sweltering dusk? What will power the system of lights and switches that keep those public transport systems functioning? What will power all the traffic lights and street lights that make our roads safe? Where will the energy come from to keep essential data systems alive – like the databases of banks and financial institutions, welfare agencies like Centrelink, and our defence and police systems? Where will the power come from to keep our airports functioning, to pump our water and sewage around, to sustain our hospitals and power our mobile phone networks? What will drive the lifts that so many people need to get to their high-rise apartments?

So many essential things rely on electricity. So do many other things we take for granted. Keeping food and drink cold in refrigerators in our homes and shops. Air-conditioning our homes and offices. Running the television studios and their broadcasting networks to transmit their signals across the continent. Running the printing presses that hum through the night to produce our newspapers, the aluminium smelters that require huge power inputs to keep their processes running non-stop, and the dairy processing factories and bakeries that work through the night to provide fresh food for the morning.

The list goes on. What is clear is that we need electricity at night. Solar generators cannot provide that while wind farms may run overnight and during the day but cannot be relied upon. And there is no technology in sight that would enable power from these renewable sources to be stored during the day and efficiently transmitted overnight to meet baseload demand.
The mundane reality is that the power required to run eastern Australia on a hot night in 2017 will come from fossil-fuelled power stations. That will still be the case even if we spend A$10 billion on renewable generation – or even A$20 billion – over the next decade.

And even though we could get some reliable power levels from renewable sources during the day, we will have to build new fossil-fuelled power stations at the same time to keep up with Australia’s growing demand for electricity. Those power stations will need to keep their fires burning 24/7 because they cannot be turned on and off quickly. So our fossil-fuel emissions will actually increase, despite the massive investment in renewable energy that the prime minister could initiate in 2007.

Howard C. Hayden. “The Solar Fraud: Why Solar Energy Won’t Run the World.” (Books). 2005