Keeping It Straight By Bob Moore, Lake Havasu City, AZ Thoughts from a true American on happenings both locally and nationally.
Saturday, June 21, 2014
An Irrational Fear of Progress Based on Falsehoods
The outright fear of alternative energy is palpable as the terribly misinformed repeat - incessantly - the talking points given to them by right wing shouting heads who are paid (by the Koch Brothers through ALEC and other Koch funded nefarious entities) to regurgitate pure nonsense about the value and increasing use of both wind and solar power.
Of course, religion has to enter the picture with the likes of, "God graciously put oil in our land." Educated Americans, who rely on science and not fables, know full well God did not put oil in the ground and my own suspicions run to the belief that if oil is somehow a religious manifestation it would have been placed by Satan. I say that because virtually everything we drill or mine from the Earth has been a bane on our world - resulting in wars, greed and destruction. Not just oil, but gold, silver, diamonds and other so-called "valuables" hidden wealth have all led to killings and wars. Definitive proof that these are not "God-given" things, but the works of a Satan.
What God did create was the wind and the sun, and man has finally evolved to the point he has learned to harness both and turn them into power.
One individual posits, "Do you want windmills in your backyard?" If given the option of windmills over strip mining for coal or fracking in my backyard (or anywhere for that matter), I would choose windmills in a heartbeat. We have seen this comment, "Ever been near one? The noise is deafening." What an uninformed load of trash. In writing articles about wind power, I have stood - many times - beneath those giant towers from Texas to California and the almost gentle "whoosh" they produce is comforting in a white-noise way. And each time I visit a wind farm, I am in awe that these towers and spinning blades are producing power for our nation and the world. And of course, with no actual facts to back up their ridiculous assertion, we see this, "They are completely worthless ..." Comments about windmills killing "millions of birds" are, as usual, overblown, with no concern at all about the billions of birds killed by automobiles, aircraft, windows, buildings, feral and domestic cats, power lines, agricultural poisons and plastic detritus. It is sad to read these comments because they are all pure hyperbolic nonsense designed to lead the uninformed astray.
Windmills have served man dating back to the first century BC in Greece and over the centuries been modified as the principles of aerodynamics were discovered and put to use. Windmills have been used to pump water, grind meal, and power lumber mills. And now we have the technology to harness the wind to power homes and businesses, a natural progression in the use of windmills. And despite their best efforts, and spending millions of dollars, the Koch Brothers are losing their battle - even in their home state of Kansas - against wind power as more and more Americans realize the future of oil and coal is finite.
Texas, never a bastion of progressive thought, has the most wind energy production in the nation. The cost of wind energy has dropped by 43% since 2009 and is now cheaper than coal for new generating capacity. The 2000 projections for world wind power were exceeded by a factor of 7 and now stand at a factor of more than 10 times the original estimate. In our nation over the past five years nearly one-third of all new power generation has come from wind power with a five-fold increase in construction and power.
In a similar vein to wind power, people speak out about solar power with such statements as, "solar plants kill everything in their sight" and "The whole idea of using solar to replace coal and natural gas is crazy," and this gem, "Relying totally on solar, you will need a garage full of locomotive batteries ... they have enough stored energy to burn down your house."
Of course all of that is just more hyperbole based on no actual evidence whatsoever. Let's consider the "locomotive battery" nonsense. Locomotives make use of a 64-volt electrical system with power supplied by 2400 pounds of batteries. I have many friends who have solar power systems in their homes and none of them have a "garage full of locomotive batteries." Most of them use deep-cycle marine batteries for storage and one home uses a series of standard car batteries. As to the batteries having "enough stored energy to burn down your house," that is true, but the same can be said for virtually any battery powered product from a flashlight to a laptop computer. And I will be forthright in saying I have not been able to find any reports of batteries used in a solar power system causing a house fire. However, I did find this from 13 August 2012, "A 9 volt battery in a messy junk drawer has been blamed for a recent house fire in Amherst, New Hampshire."
One thing ignored by the solar naysayers is that enough raw energy reaches the Earth from the sun in one hour to meet the energy needs of the entire world for one year.
The idea that solar will totally replace coal and natural gas fired power plants is an overreach, however the growth of solar use around the world and here at home has surprised many of us. The cost of converting the sun to power has become much cheaper, far more rapidly than even the most optimistic predicted. Right now the cost of electricity from PV (photovoltaic) solar cells is equal to the cost of powering electric grids with fossil fuels in at least 79 countries. It has been estimated by 2020, 80 percent of the world's people will be using power from PV sources.
Germany, the industrial giant of Europe, now generates 37 percent of the nation's power from wind and solar sources and on one day this year the nation developed 74 percent of its power needs from wind and solar. By 2020, it is predicted 50 percent of Germany's power will be from alternative sources.
Third world nations are embracing PV solar at an astounding rate, with Bangladesh installing an estimated two rooftop PV systems an hour and both East and West Africa are seeing a major increase in the use of PV solar that will create explosive growth in the region.
The dramatic surge in solar power is amazing when considering some scoffed at the projection the world would be seeing one gigawatt of new solar production a year by 2010. That figure was exceeded 17 times over and in 2013 it was exceeded, again, by a factor of 39 and this year is on track to exceed that benchmark by 55 times. China has announced that by 2017 they will produce 70 gigawatts of PV power.
The advances have been staggering in spite of the Koch Brothers and their misinformation war on the truth and could be likened to the cell phone. In 1980, AT&T predicted a world cellular phone market of 900,000 by the year 2000. They were wrong. In 2000, there were 109 million active cell phones and now, less than a decade and half later, there are more than 6.8 billion active cell phones in the world.
So when you read ridiculous comments denigrating wind and solar power, remember, you are reading the words of the disgruntled who refuse to believe in a positive future free from the constraints of oil and coal to produce power. These sad individuals do nothing more than parrot the words - without ever researching the facts - of those who profit most from the status quo.