We routinely see stories about the wonders of “green” energy and about how the green industries are the answer to jobs and to reviving Nevada’s painfully horrible economy.
However, without massive government subsidies none of the alternative energy sources are ready for prime time. None of them would be commercially viable and none of them could our most reliable and abundant source, coal.
This story about wind energy in Texas illustrates this perfectly.
Texas has 10,135 megawatts of installed wind-generation capacity. That’s nearly three times as much as any other state. But during three sweltering days last week, when the state set new records for electricity demand, the state’s vast herd of turbines proved incapable of producing any serious amount of power.
The wind-energy lobby has been masterly at garnering huge subsidies and mandates by claiming that its product is a “green” alternative to conventional electricity. But the hype has obscured a dirty little secret: When power demand is highest, wind energy’s output is generally low. The reverse is also true: Wind-energy production is usually highest during the middle of the night, when electricity use is lowest.
The incurable intermittency and extreme variability of wind energy requires utilities and grid operators to continue relying on conventional sources of generation like coal, natural gas, and nuclear fuel. Nevertheless, 29 states, plus the District of Columbia, now have renewable-energy mandates. Those expensive mandates cannot be met with solar energy, which, despite enormous growth in recent years, still remains a tiny player in the renewable sector. If policymakers want to meet those mandates, landowners and citizens will have to learn to live with sprawling forests of noisy, 45-story-tall wind turbines.