Two sides of renewable energy
Wind and solar energy, in particular, are touted as the energy sources of the future. But entrepreneurs have tried to harness both for centuries. Their limited utility and obstacles, documented since the 1800s, explain why wind and solar make up just a tiny portion of our energy supply today despite a quarter-century of highly preferential taxpayer and ratepayer subsidy.
The problem concerns the vicissitudes of weather, which makes wind and solar inherently unreliable and unsuitable for today’s energy-intensive economy.
Wind turbines produce at maximum capacity during a range of wind speeds — typically 50 to 90 kilometers per hour. At slower speeds, electrical output falls dramatically. If wind speeds fall by half, production decreases by a factor of eight.
Therefore, turbines scarcely produce at capacity. In fact, the annual output of a turbine averages just 20% to 30% of capacity. And about 10% to 15% of the time, turbines produce virtually no power at all.
Solar energy is equally dependent on weather — it doesn’t work at night without a storage device, and even during the day, cloud coverage can make the technology stall.
A general solar panel will produce 100 to 120 watts of energy per square meter. That’s during periods of direct sunlight, which is about five hours per day.
For the amount of energy that solar and wind produce, their start-up and ongoing operating costs are exorbitant.
Wind farms, for example, can only be built in a limited number of remote places. They are generally found in wide open, rural areas or offshore, where long-distance transmission adds costs for consumers.
In many regions, attractive areas have already been exploited, leaving only less favorable sites that require significant investment in transmission and additional infrastructure, including new substations and access roads.
Wind power facilities, depending on the ruggedness of location and other factors, cost between $2 million and $6 million per Megawatt of capacity.
The starting rate for power from the Cape Wind project, America’s first offshore wind project with 130 wind turbines, is set at 18.7 cents per kilowatt — almost double the average U.S. retail rate for electricity, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).
Alternative energy sources fail the cost, reliability, and scalability tests, says the founder of the Institute for Energy Research, Robert Bradley.
On the Cape Wind project we can see for example few pros and cons of construction of such alternative energy facility.
As mentioned, biggest disadvantage of project in the star is of course price which is estimated to $1 – $2 billion. Among others are possibilities to disrupt marine life and endanger birds in Cape Cod; probably alter or even ruin certain seaside spots.
Considering such huge price and other obstacles for wind farm in Cape Cod one may take in consideration fact that those wind turbines could provide three-quarters of the power to more than 200,000 residents and could already start generating power in 2012. It will also create green jobs in the area with no chance of the wind turbines polluting the water. The closest turbine to the shore would be 8 kilometers offshore so it won’t disrupt local people fishing or sightseeing.
With the example above, obviously there is almost no one project regarding green energy and current issues with fossil fuels that can be considered to have only advantages for us and future generations. However, we must insist to new technologies and new fuel sources, to be prepared for years that will come when fossil fuels and some other resources like water, food or wood will significantly deplete.
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