Over the past few years, I seem to have developed something of a specialty in tracking the costs of trying to run an electrical grid using more and more power sourced from the intermittent renewables, wind and solar. I started looking into this subject because it appeared to me to be obviously a huge issue that must be addressed if one is going to attempt to replace fossil fuels with these renewables; but hardly anyone else seemed to be paying attention to this. On the side of the climate crusaders, you just get one unbelievably naive piece after another. For example, here is one of my favorites from the New York Times of February 6, 2018, “Why a Big Utility Is Embracing Wind and Solar,” by Justin Gillis and Hal Harvey, taking the position that a utility “will be able to build and operate the new [wind and solar] plants for less money than it would have to pay just to keep running its old, coal-burning power plants.” So, just knock down the old coal plants and put up some new, cheaper wind turbines and solar panels! Your electricity will come from clean and green sources, and the planet will be saved. What could be easier?
The missing piece is that the wind and sun provide power only intermittently, and cannot on their own keep a grid for millions of people up and running and functioning continuously. They need either some kind of 100% backup which is idle much of the time but ready to go at all times, or alternatively storage for what could be many days — or even a month or more — of power. Does that add a little or a lot to the costs? How would you know? Believe me, Gillis and Harvey — and many others of their ilk — do not and will not address this issue.
For some background on this subject, here are a few of my previous pieces:
How Self-Delusional Can We Be On The Cost Of Electricity From “Renewables,” February 10, 2018.
I return to this subject today because a Minnesota-based think tank called the Center of the American Experiment (CAE) is just out with a big Report . . . .Read More