No country has ever powered itself entirely with wind and solar. No country ever will. The image above is not the crazed doodlings of a maniac, it’s the combined output of every wind turbine connected to Australia’s Eastern Grid last month thanks to Aneroid Energy. Note the numerous occasions when output plummets by 2-3,000MW in minutes, […]
Can Wind and Solar Provide Reliable, Consistent Power or is it a Utopian dream?
Is it possible for wind and solar power to be reliable and consistent? Let’s look at the facts.
Wind power needs a narrow range of wind speeds. Too slow and no power is generated. Too fast and turbines could be damaged, so they must be shut down. Output is intermittent and variable.
Each wind turbine needs several hundred pounds of rare earth elements for super magnets needed to generate electricity.
Cables from each turbine are needed to connect all of them to the grid, unlike thermal, hydro and nuclear plants where the energy is generated in one location.
Wind power requires vast areas to be cleared, to provide the level of output needed for any one area. Wind farms disrupt the ecology of the environment, and produce annoying or harmful low and infra sound.
A wind turbine can last 15 to 20 years with regular maintenance by trained technicians.
Wind turbines create a vacuum behind their blades that pull birds and bats in to be killed by the blades. The insect population, normally kept in check by birds and bats, would necessarily increase as would crop damage and diseases carried by insects.
Solar power needs full sun to deliver optimum output. Clouds, rain, fog, dust and night block sunlight. Photovoltaic solar cells need to be aimed directly at the sun, so tracking mechanisms are needed for optimum output. Without tracking, less power is generated. Output is intermittent and variable.
The sun yields up to 1 Kilowatt or power per meter. Solar cells yield 15 to 30% output when directly aimed at the sun, but power output declines with angle away from vertical. At higher latitudes maximum output can never be reached because the sun is never directly overhead. As cells age, they lose about 1% per year of capacity.
Rare earth elements are needed for high output solar cells. Heat reduces output so cooling may be required.
Cables from each solar panel are needed to connect all of them to the grid, unlike thermal, hydro and nuclear plants where the energy is generated in one location.
Solar power requires vast areas to be cleared and covered by solar arrays, to provide the level of output needed for any one area. Solar arrays disrupt the ecology of the environment.
Solar panels last 10 to 20 years with regular cleaning of surfaces and maintenance of tracking and cooling systems by trained technicians.
Both solar and wind power have inconsistent, intermittant output that requires backup power in the form of fossil fuel thermal, geothermal, hydroelectric or nuclear plants. None of these sources can be switched on and off quickly on demand, and balancing output for consistency would be almost impossible. It would be necessary to run backup power plants constantly on standby, which is less efficient than running them consistently at optimum power.
Combined Wind and Solar
The sun is always shining somewhere in the world, so average output can be fairly consistent and constant.
The wind is always blowing at optimum speeds somewhere in the world, so average output can be fairly consistent and constant.
But for any one location or even one region, neither solar nor wind power are consistent and constant. The only way solar and wind could come close to providing constant, reliable power is by linking wind and solar plants all over the world into one huge distributed worldwide grid that would even out power levels.
This system would require many billions of miles of electrical transmission cables but would suffer from significant power losses over distance, even at very high voltages, and require constant maintenance. It is doubtful that such a system could actually share a worldwide grid due to transmission loses.
Such a grid, if possible, would require one worldwide government to regulate and run the system. All national and political barriers would have to be eliminated. We are talking about a communist/socialist top down Utopia, which requires iron fisted control of every aspect of life from the top.
A worldwide, distributed power grid is an unrealistic Communist/socialist Utopian dream that can never be accomplished in the real world.
Since constant and consistent power can never be accomplished with Solar and Wind systems, these systems should be abandoned except for solar panels for very local uses on single homes or as a supplement for single businesses.
The cleanest and greenest sources of reliable electrical power are hydroelectric, geothermal and nuclear. These systems can supply almost all of the power needed for a developing world. On the road to developing these sources in areas lacking infrastructure, it will be necessary to employ fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas until capacity is built up. Natural gas is the cleanest of these three. Without having to back up the intermittency of solar or wind, power plants can be run at optimum efficiency to minimize fuel consumption and maximize power output.