As noted before, if electric utilities were to take responsibility for their impact upon climate change, then the future grid would look quite different. It requires a shift away from coal. Unfortunately, some electric utilities continue to promote nuclear power to meet electric power demand with lower carbon sources.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) says that the cap on carbon is toast. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is likely to advance an energy bill modeled on the one that passed through Sen. Jeff Bingaman’s (D-N.M.) Energy Committee last year. Guess the Senate has as much of a problem placing a cap that works as BP has had.
Via Climate Progress the New York Times provides an example of why this is another example of “Your Risk, Their Profit”: “A nuclear reactor where a hidden leak caused near-catastrophic corrosion in 2002 has experienced a second bout of the same problem.”
And speaking of New York City, kitty, NY Times blogger John Collins Rudolph fails to consider NYC in his sanguine observation about increasing wind power in Western states.*
Wind energy has plenty going for it: it is clean, unlimited in supply and the most economical source of renewable power. Its clearest drawback is unreliability: sometimes the wind just does not blow.
But that intermittency – long considered a major shortcoming – may have little impact on the potential for wind to power much of the electric grid in the western United States, according to a new study by the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab.
The study, released in late May, found that the power grid for five western states – Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Wyoming – could operate on as much as 30 percent wind and 5 percent solar without the construction of extensive new infrastructure.
“If key changes can be made to standard operating procedures, our research shows that large amounts of wind and solar can be incorporated onto the grid without a lot of backup generation,” Dr. Debra Lew, project manager for the study, said in a statement.
Wind power proponents have long faced skepticism that renewables could ever displace conventional power sources in a meaningful way, with critics asserting that large coal or nuclear plants would always need to stand ready to provide backup power whenever the wind ceased to blow or clouds blocked the sun.
The authors of the N.R.E.L. study tackled this supposition head on and found it largely baseless. It concluded that in the West, the broad distribution of wind turbines and solar generation would essentially smooth out the supply of renewable power.
“When you coordinate the operations between utilities across a large geographic area, you decrease the effect of the variability of wind and solar energy sources, mitigating the unpredictability of Mother Nature,” Dr. Lew said.
The study should provide a boost to wind producers. The industry has been struggling recently due to a convergence of challenges, like the first overall drop in electricity demand in the United States in 50 years, and plummeting natural gas prices due to major gas field discoveries. Federal subsidies for wind production, granted in 2009, remain in limbo for 2010.
The unknown fate of federal climate and energy legislation recently introduced in the Senate has also fed a mood of uncertainty.
Still, the outlook for wind power is far from grim. The industry installed 9.8 gigawatts of capacity in 2009, a record, and is on pace to install at least 6 gigawatts in 2010. And a recent industry study has projected $330 billion in new wind investment between 2010 and 2025.
Artists’ rendering of Cape Wind, via NY Times
“European nations already have thousands of offshore turbines generating hundreds of megawatts of power, and one study has shown that the United States could meet every last kilowatt of its power demands if offshore wind was properly utilized.”