• Written by Jamie Py

At the tail end of the big heat wave and my return from vacation, I started writing the second part of the electrification article (Part I was in the May magazine) and thought I would look at the ISO-New England handy demand app that charts electricity costs, demand, and types of fuels used for electricity in the region. Given that the Maine Legislature this session has decided that fossil fuels need to go and that everything will be run by electric – solar and wind – Let’s take a look at where we are today as far as sources of electricity needed to run things.

The date is July 22, 2019, time 11:38am. The ISO New England demand for the region on this date and time is currently 19,802 Megawatts. The question is: How much of that demand is being provided by the climate saving solar and wind? Out of the 19,802 MW of current demand, only 110 MW are being produced by wind and solar. Now this is an overcast and somewhat windless day, but even if the wind was perfect and sun at its peak, the most (total capability) that can be produced by wind and solar is about 7% of the 19,802MW. If demand spikes – as it does in longer hot stretches and brutal cold snaps to 25,000MW, can solar and wind assist? No, they have a maximum capacity of 1,422 MW. So even at their best, perfect for the application of solar and wind, those renewables cannot keep the lights on nor our homes and businesses cold or warm.

Where will we get the electricity for the new mandated goal of 100,000 heat pumps and electric cars? According to the environmental lobby, only solar and wind fit the no CO2 emissions theology of the climate cult. Hydro damages ecosystems, nuclear has been out since the China syndrome and burning wood is highly suspect since we are actually burning trees and producing CO2. So that leaves us with only solar and wind. Without a 100-fold technology revolution in batteries and massive storage, these two old technologies will never substitute for the energy derived from oil, gas and coal. Oil, coal and gas possess the three most important characteristics of modern energy – they are dense, portable and dispatchable. Solar and wind are not.

So, the solution is to build more solar and wind? Has anyone asked about the cost of that? Well, yes, and costs are staggering because not only are windmills and solar panels still expensive, the upgrades needed to the grid for the intermittent pulses of wind and solar will require massive investments in every part of the grid. If we don’t spend that money (you will pay through your utility bills) think about all of those who lost power during this recent heat spell because of overload to the existing grid. And finally, does anyone really like the view of wind turbines on pristine mountaintops? The sound of the thumping or the red blinking lights? Or, perhaps one could imagine that the replacement of acres and acres of previously productive farms with the steel and glass solar panels are reminiscent of a modern cubist Picasso sculpture.

So, did wind and solar keep us cool this summer? Will solar and wind keep us warm this winter? In the new era of the “truth is what I say it is” and “facts are only a social construct,” the belief in solar and wind is aspirational and relies on magical thinking.

I recommend for a good read on these issues:

The “New Energy Economy”: An Exercise in Magical Thinking

Mark P. Mills

March 26, 2019

Energy & Environment Technology / Infrastructure