Five U.S. Electricity Myths Debunked

images (9)Myth 1: Wind and Solar Will Displace Coal

Myth #2: Fossil Fuels Get More “Subsidies” Than Renewables

Myth #3: Americans Will be Using Less Electricity

Myth #4: Only Renewable Energy Systems are Evolving

Myth #5: Europe is the Example to Follow

Myth 1: Wind and Solar Will Displace Coal

Although growing in importance, wind and solar power are not expected to displace coal in the years ahead because they are only available “when the sun shines” and “when the wind blows.” The EIA’s National Energy Modeling System doesn’t forecast a wind and solar “explosion” as some want to claim because technical and physical limitations make them less reliable and more expensive. EIA-cited low capacity factors for wind (35%) and solar (23%), which often fall below 10%, are a constraining factor in our consumer-based society, where reliable electricity is needed on demand. Wind power, for instance, is best late at night when demand is lowest. Perhaps the best thing we can do for renewables is to move the focus away from deployment at all costs and center on more R&D to store electricity at utility-scale. Without greater storage options, wind and solar will remain much more “supplemental” than “alternative.” Carnegie Mellon’s Electricity Industry Center warns of a public backlash from higher costs if we try to install renewables too quickly: many Renewable Portfolio Standards are now being pulled back. Even our best costs estimates for renewables are often incomplete because they omit the requirement for new transmission and backup generation (“spinning reserve”) that comes from more reliable fossil fuels. It must also be noted here that wind and solar energy are not “new,” as many like to claim, but are among the oldest sources. The windmill goes back at least 3,000 years to ancient Persia (today’s Iran), and the ancient Egyptians utilized solar energy to heat their homes.

read more: Forbes, 2014/12/28, Jude Clemente

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