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Old 08-20-20, 10:14 AM   #6
jeff5may
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Ok, so any electric power grid is going to need to employ a portfolio of sources. Not only due to economic factors, but for security and reliability. The "renewable" sources should be a part of that portfolio as long as the public is behind them.

However, the only clean energy source that's highly reliable is nuclear power. Geothermal and hydroelectric come in next, and solar panels and windmills lag behind badly. As for security, they're all pretty hard targets except hydroelectric dams. Nuclear power is a political lightning rod, and as far as public support, it doesn't get much; I guess you could call that a security risk.

Economics all depends on the author of the paper. Data can be skewed and math can be weighted to support pretty much any viewpoint. Solar panels can go up fast, and start production quickly. Building a dam or a reactor plant takes more time and money upfront. After the power starts flowing, nuclear and hydroelectric are both pretty profitable, not so much with solar and wind. Even with the frivolous litigation and lobby against nuclear by the green machine at every turn, it still manages to profit and expand production capacity globally. Solar and wind are relatively new rollouts, so they still have the test of reality and economics without heavy subsidies to contend with in the future.

Solar PV in general gets worse economically as the array size increases. At the retail price levels, on a home or store rooftop, the economics are the best. Cheap to commission, starts paying bills quickly. As the size increases to the power utility level, and lower spot commodity prices enter the equation, the profitability erodes away. The grid providers are left with a hard choice: overbuild capacity to fill the void of darkness, or rely on a more reliable and controllable backup energy source. At present, the power utilities are leaning hard on natural gas to fill the void of darkness.

The raw materials required are a small piece of the pie, so to speak. As the author of the article points out, it would take vast quantities of raw materials to build out this enormous capacity. The other factor I worry about more is the landscape. Who wants to look to the horizon and see a wind farm every 20 miles? These are not inconspicuous little things, they're massive. Plus they sit around doing nothing A LOT. We don't need to build out a hundred million windmills to make our energy. Let them build a "mere" million, and employ other sources to fill out the portfolio.
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