By Russell Ray, Chief Editor
To what extent should the world rely on power supplies produced from renewable resources?
It is one of the great debates of our time, perhaps the greatest debate of any time. The answer depends on a range of variables: The state of our technology; the condition of our ecosystems; the cost of generation; the status of our economies; and the risk we’re willing to take for the sake of a cleaner environment.
Our position is this: Global investment in renewable power should be based on strategies for achieving balance between environmental concerns, economic concerns and reliability concerns.
As we see it, the scale is leaning appreciably to one side or the other, depending on the region of the world you’re in. The imbalance is a byproduct of misguided policies, unreasonable mandates and hard-line interest groups.
In the U.S., the transition to renewable power is moving too quickly. Without storage, renewable power is still intermittent and too costly. Meanwhile, the opportunity to add new generation fueled with low-priced coal has essentially been eliminated, despite proven technologies that convert coal into electricity much more efficiently. What’s more, cleaner-burning natural gas, which will largely be used to replace the nation’s lost coal capacity, is now under fire for the way it is produced and may be subject to restrictions that could limit its use in power generation.
Consumers and power professionals everywhere are concerned. Their frustration and skepticism were plainly evident in the feedback we received on a simple news brief we recently published about the Energy Information Administration’s projection for renewable power. In that report, the agency projected renewables would overtake coal to become the leading source of power generation worldwide by 2040.
The news brief was entitled “Report: Renewables Will Be No. 1 in Global Power Generation in 24 years.” As we do with many news briefs, we posted the item on Power Engineering‘s Facebook page. The FB post quickly generated more than 300 comments. Here’s a sample of how some of our 17,699 FB followers responded:
- No they won’t.
- And there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?
- I don’t think soo!
- Bull. It will take longer than that.
- No, they won’t! And any engineer who thinks this is possible needs to revisit some fundamentals.
- It better not take that long!
- And ur electric bill will be near double.
- On a perfect sunny day with a gentle breeze
- Just like the climate change predictions that have not come true, this one is also doomed to failure.
- Yup, and most will be homeless paying for it.
- Only thing existing that is efficient is nuclear yet no one wants it. They’d rather have inefficient wind and solar. Every major solar farm rides on subsides and many are bankrupt. We have an abundance of clean natural gas but how dare we use that!
- We can’t afford to wait, though.
- And nobody except Bill Gates will be able to afford electricity.
- I don’t believe this at all!!
- Are we taking bets? This is nonsense. Anyone want to put money on it?
- Maybe 50 to 75 years
- Never. Too costly and unreliable.
- I heard the same tripe from the colossal jewels of ignorance in the eighties. About 30 years ago.
- Hmmm that seems an astronomical goal really. Guess we’ll be going back to the dark ages to achieve it.
- Wrong. Try again! If I was a betting man, I’d say 19% and that’s a stretch!
- Only if the governments of the world forces it.
- This is what they call an extrapolation. You fit a curve to a set of data points and keep on going and going.
- It is impossible to accurately predict when the cross over will be. While it will be sometime in the next 50 years, maybe 30, whether it is 10 or 25 is impossible to know, until the year before it happens.
- Wind turbines have a life expectancy of 20 years. In 20 years, we will be replacing wind turbines, not building new ones. Solar panels have a 30-year life expectancy. The U.S., for example, currently has 48,000 wind turbines in place. How many can you build before the annual replacement of end-of-life turbines becomes economically prohibitive?
Discussions around big issues like this have moved to social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. We think these online comments from our FB followers accurately illustrate the sharp divide over the role renewable power should play in meeting the world’s generation needs. What do you think? Contact me at [email protected] Follow me on Twitter @RussellRay1.