When Green Goals collide

Today’s New York Times writes about ‘The Newest Hybrid Model” power plant in south Florida.  It begs at least one question:  what about all those poor otters & wild hogs?! Next time someone wants to build one of these things I hope they find a snail darter, desert tortoise or spotted owl.  William Tucker, in The Unbearable Lightness of Solar Power at The Corner, writes:

…The question seems to be whether it is the solar collectors that are saving the environment from natural gas or the natural gas that is saving the environment from being blanketed with hundreds of acres of solar collectors.

Many solar arrays are now installing natural-gas plants for backup when the sun doesn’t shine.  This one will dispense altogether with the fiction that solar can stand on its own and has a 500-acre solar array tacking on an additional 2 percent generating capacity onto a stand-alone gas plant.

…At $476 million, it also means that building a 1000-MW solar array — the size of an average coal or nuclear plant — would cost $5 billion, putting it right up there with the most expensive reactors and coal plants with carbon capture. But the solar panels only generate electricity one-third of the time. “We’d love to tell you that solar power is as economical as fossil fuels, but the reality is that it is not,” says Lewis Hay II, CEO of Florida Power and Light, which has built the complex.  “It’s not a level playing field for renewable versus fossils right now.”

The Unbearable Lightness of Solar Power [William Tucker]

To see the absurdities that await us in our energy future, look no further than the front page of today’s business section of the New York Times for the story entitled “The Newest Hybrid Model.”

The article features a dramatic photo of 500 acres of solar panels sitting next to an innocuous looking natural gas plant in Indiantown, Fla., owned by Florida Power & Light. The natural gas plant — which occupies no more than 15 acres — produces 3,800 megawatts of reliable electricity. The gigantic 500-acre solar complex next to it (that’s about three-quarters of a square mile) will produce 75 MW of electricity AT ITS MAXIMUM, i.e., on a hot summer afternoon.  (Fortunately, this is the time when electrical demand peaks.)

What is the purpose of all this? The Times explains:

The solar array . . is an experiment in whether conventional power generation can be married with renewable power in a way that lowers costs and spares the environment.

The solar array certainly isn’t going to lower the costs of natural gas. The question seems to be whether it is the solar collectors that are saving the environment from natural gas or the natural gas that is saving the environment from being blanketed with hundreds of acres of solar collectors.

While other solar projects already use small gas-fired turbines to provide backup power for cloudy days or at night, this is the first time that a conventional plant is being retrofitted with the latest solar technology on such and industrial scale.

Translation: Many solar arrays are now installing natural-gas plants for backup when the sun doesn’t shine.  This one will dispense altogether with the fiction that solar can stand on its own and has a 500-acre solar array tacking on an additional 2 percent generating capacity onto a stand-alone gas plant. For some reason, this is supposed to be a big advance.

At a cost of $476 million, the solar project . . . will be second-biggest [in the world] after the 310-megawatt Solar Electric Generating System in the Mojave Desert in California . . . built in the 1980s.

At $476 million, it also means that building a 1000-MW solar array — the size of an average coal or nuclear plant — would cost $5 billion, putting it right up there with the most expensive reactors and coal plants with carbon capture. But the solar panels only generate electricity one-third of the time. “We’d love to tell you that solar power is as economical as fossil fuels, but the reality is that it is not,” says Lewis Hay II, CEO of Florida Power and Light, which has built the complex.  “It’s not a level playing field for renewable versus fossils right now.”  Indeed.

Why would anyone build such a monstrosity? The reason is simple. State legislatures have decided, in their wisdom, that “renewable energy” is the future. (In fact, there is no such thing as renewable energy — that’s the Second Law of Thermodynamics.) Therefore, the legislatures are marching us in that direction.

Such facilities serve only two purposes: 1) To satisfy the whims of state legislatures; and 2) to create pretty pictures for billboard ads and the covers of annual reports. In both they are a triumphant success.

— William Tucker is author of Terrestrial Energy: How Nuclear Power Will Lead the Green Revolution and End America’s Long Energy Odyssey.

03/05 04:30 PM Share

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Environmentalism, Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s