Friday, August 25, 2006

Public Citizen VA Renewables Report: Fails Reality Check

As many of you already know, Public Citizen was an active participant at the NRC and DEQ meetings for North Anna last week. As part of their anti-nuclear campaign, they released a timely 'fact' sheet in which they outline how renewables can replace nuclear energy and meet Virginia's electrical needs.

According to this document, if Virginia developed every suitable site within 20 miles of existing transmission lines, wind could supply 10 percent of Virginia's electrical needs! Holy cow! Why not? You might be wondering what was considered 'unsuitable' by this study? 'Urban areas, airfields, steep slopes, parks, wetlands, and wildlife refuges.' And, now Public Citizen proposes to fill all of the 'suitable' gaps between these sites with wind turbines, for a whopping 10 percent of our current electrical needs. What they don't seem to account for is DOE's expected 50 percent increase in national electrical demand over the next 20 years. And, that electrical demands in the southeast are expected to outpace most of the nation.

The study goes on to reveal that if we covered every commercial and residential rooftop in Virginia with solar panels, that it could provide about 41 percent of Virginia's electrical needs. If solar panels weren't already ' too costly for grid connected applications ', and there were no toxic waste concerns associated with the production of solar panels, then there would still be that revolutionary problem: Virginia doesn't always face the sun. It still rises and sets every day, and although we use a lot of energy between 10 AM and 2 PM during the hot sunny days in July, we tend to peak at the solar-deficient times of 7 AM and 5 PM during the winter months. But Public Citizen has a solution: They propose adding to the already expensive technology by compressing air for energy storage. Not only are renewables cost prohibitive in their own right, but in order to have electricity when we need it, we'll also be hit with the expense of installing storage mechanisms and providing backup power supplies for when the wind isn't blowing and the sun isn't shining.

There's a far better approach. Nuclear energy has proven itself as a safe, clean, and reliable energy source in Virginia. Together with renewables, nuclear can meet Virginia's current and future demands. It's not necessary to cover the state in windmills and fit every rooftop with solar panels. While I believe these technologies should be used, they simply cannot replace our dependence on fossil fuels AND meet future demands all by themselves. By opposing nuclear, Public Citizen makes themselves part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Technorati tags: , , , , , , ,

3 comments:

Lisa Stiles-Shell said...

Great minds think alike Mike! I was working on a rebuttal to that same “Fact” sheet but you beat me to it. Did you notice that they are assuming a 33% capacity factor for wind? Even the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) doesn’t assume anything that high! I couldn’t find a straight annual average, but using their numbers it seems the average capacity factor for wind farms in the US is about 28%. And the AWEA clearly states that “Under an aggressive growth scenario, perhaps 6% of the nation’s electricity could be supplied by wind power by 2020.” I’m all for the aggressive strategy to develop wind, but obviously even the wind industry’s best experts agree that it will not replace significant amounts of baseload power anytime soon.

Brian Mays said...

All of those who would like to shovel off their roofs in addition to their driveways in the morning when it snows, please raise your hands.

It's funny how that aspect of solar electricity didn't make it into the fact sheet when Public Citizen talks about using all available residential and commercial roof space in Virginia. If you live there, that means your roof too, so get your shovel ready.

Michael Stuart said...

Well put, Brian.

Another thing to consider is those homes which employ passive solar efficiency - like mine will not fare as well.

For those who don't know how this works, here's a brief primer: homes are designed to have many windows facing south to help heat them during the winter, and are situated within a stand of deciduous trees that provide shade to those same windows in the summertime to help alleviate the cooling demands.

By optimizing the landscape for solar, the energy efficiency measures are nullified.

Siesta, anyone?