Tuesday, July 26, 2011

In Defense Of Renewable Energy

I read the following a while back (my mom sent me a clipping from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat...thanks, Mom; thanks Press Democrat).

I thought the authors did a fine job of refuting the specious arguments of a bloviating blowhard who published a book on the topic, "Power Hungry: The Myths of ‘Green' Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future."

I don't know how such lying liars (or obliviously, blissfully ignorant posers) get away with slathering the landscape with so much misinformation, but Mr. Bryce published an article in a similar vein -- slamming renewables -- in the New York Times, and the Press Democrat reprinted it on June 12, 2011: "When wind and solar power don't add up." The following is a response, by Messrs. Geoff Syphers and Carl Mears (bios below) to that article:
GUEST OPINION: Arguments against wind, solar power don't add up
Santa Rosa Press Democrat, June 18, 2011

Published: Saturday, June 18, 2011 at 7:45 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, June 17, 2011 at 4:46 p.m.
Robert Bryce's conclusions about solar and wind in his attack on California's renewable energy standards are dead wrong (“When wind and solar power don't add up,” Sunday Forum, June 12).

First, his assumption that solar power requires large centralized systems located in far away deserts is false. In fact, installing solar panels on homes, businesses and parking lots close to where the electricity is consumed is preferable to remote big systems. Huge benefits accrue by avoiding the costs and negative land impacts from new swaths of transmission lines,and the energy line losses that occur when transmitting electricity long distances.

According to a National Renewable Energy Laboratory report issued last year, California could meet 52 percent of its energy needs through solar photovoltaic systems installed on roofs. This amount far exceeds the total percentage mandated by the state to be generated from all renewable sources combined.

Second, Bryce's notion that using land for wind power somehow renders it unsuitable for other uses is laughable. Land under wind turbines is routinely used for agriculture. Leasing privately owned farmland to wind turbine operators increases owners' income and thus helps protect family farms from bankruptcy.

Third, the argument that wind power is more harmful to the environment than natural gas because wind power requires too much steel is simply ridiculous. Roughly 37 times more steel is needed to build pipelines that deliver natural gas to generators than to build the windmills that produce an equivalent amount of electricity.

But the worst of natural gas is not the resources needed for pipelines. Spills, well drilling, habitat destruction and greenhouse gas produced by combusting natural gas are far worse than wind power, and much more costly to our health and the bottom line.

Wind turbines recover their full life-cycle energy inputs within the first seven months of operation. In contrast, natural gas power plants require continuous input of fossil fuel, causing negative impacts in perpetuity.

The Sonoma County Water Agency along with the Climate Protection Campaign, Regional Climate Protection Authority, Los Alamos National Laboratory and Local Power, Inc. are in the midst of a three-year research project whose aim is designing a system that will meet 67 percent of Sonoma County's electricity demand from new local renewable sources.

Hand in hand with this research project, the Sonoma County Water Agency is conducting a feasibility study to determine if community choice aggregation, also known as Sonoma Clean Power, is viable here. Community choice would put decision-making for our source of power for electricity under local determination. It would introduce competition where currently a monopoly exists.

Both study efforts by the Water Agency align with Gov. Jerry Brown's goal of producing 12,000 megawatts of new, locally based renewable power throughout California.

According to Bryce's logic, California should turn its back on renewable energy and stick with natural gas and nuclear power. Something here definitely doesn't add up, but a simple analysis shows that it is Bryce's arguments, not California's bright prospects for renewable energy like solar and wind.

Geof Syphers is a consultant for designing green buildings and is chief sustainability officer for Codding Enterprises. Carl Mears, a Cotati resident, is a contributing author to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and a member of the board of the Climate Protection Campaign. He is currently on sabbatical in Cordoba, Argentina.

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