The Sun’s editorial on Aug. 29 (“Clean energy doesn’t always create synergy“) noted that sources of clean energy, Wind and Nuclear, have their Achilles heel and concluded that we should give pause to those hell-bent on discarding reliable, inexpensive legacy energy. But no mention was made of the drawbacks of the dirty legacy energy sources. The objections to large-scale offshore wind by Nantucket residents is nothing more than NIMBYism. Turbines 15 miles offshore are too close; 30 miles out is better. The New England coast is ideal for offshore wind, like Texas was for oil and is for onshore wind. Nuclear gets some well deserved support as a replacement for gas-fired power plants to make up for the intermittency of wind, but then the Sun cautions about the potential for melt-downs and the thirst for water. But those concerns are based on legacy designs not the most recent designs.
On Sept. 3rd, Robert Pease wrote “Solar is not reliable” an LTE saying Solar, another clean energy source, is unreliable and New England is not suited for Solar. While this region isn’t as good for Solar as it is for Wind, let’s not let perfection be the enemy of the good. Clouds, trees, hills, snow, and shorter winter days, can reduce the amount of sun, but no one ever said that the sun has to be shining on the panels 100% of the time for them to be worthwhile. Just go to EnergySage.com to get an estimate for your rooftop output, which takes into account all those variables, even showing how removing a tree would increase the output. Tell my system, which has generated more than 55,000 kWh of clean electricity in 6.5 years it is not suited.
His description of Chelmsford’s municipal solar panel output (being diminished by weather, season, snow and being very variable) might be troubling, if it were the only source of electricity. Chelmsford has saved money from municipal solar. I have not heard any town officials say it was a bad investment.
Fear of power dumping when solar panels actually generate excessive electricity on those cloudless summer days is unwarranted. Batteries (including millions of batteries in EVs) can save some of the overproduction. Also there are solutions where the excess electricity can create more permanent and high capacity storage. For example, with pumped hydroelectric, electricity is used to pump water up to a reservoir and then later it can be released to generate needed electricity. Electricity can be used to compress air at up to 1,000 pounds per square inch and store it, often in underground caverns. Also flywheels and thermal energy storage are possible.
We still haven’t even mentioned sustainability. Legacy dirty energy sources won’t last much longer. They may be inexpensive now, but if we continue to use them, they will become very expensive. Nothing is more reliable than the sun and the wind and cheaper. We just have to harness them optimally for a grid that has been upgraded to handle them. This is an area our Rep from Lowell, Tom Golden, is keenly interested in. To say “our grid requires reliable, consistent, and controllable power, none of which is provided by solar” is an example of all-or-none thinking and does a real disservice in discouraging residential solar. The more we can add to the grid from our rooftops the better. Wind and Solar complement each other. Nuclear would help in meeting peak demand.
The conclusion should be that Wind, Nuclear, and Solar together and with developments in storage may not only be necessary but also sufficient. We should not give pause to these energy sources of the future.