Greetings and Salutations…
I was just in a thread on Facebook, discussing power generation and what the future may bring. One of the folks there brought up fossil fuels, which generated my following thoughts:
The Original Post was this comment: We still need fossil fuel because wind and solar are not going to be enough to heat and use electricity that our population increases will be able to have
My reply was as follows:
Your comments have some validity. As Ms. ProfittCornell pointed out, this IS a massive change. It will likely take years, but the sooner we get to it, and the more effort we put into it, the greater the chance that we, as a race, will survive.
As for the capacity of Wind and Solar to generate electricity…
1) NO place in America, with the possible exception of Hawaii, has the ability to generate all the power it needs. That is why we have a national power grid. The areas generating excess power transmit it through the grid to areas that need it.
2) Depending on the locations, Wind power can be very effective…and constant. For example along high ridges and mountains, and in the passes, there is, typically, a constant wind.
3) It is true that issues such as clouds reduce the output of solar panels. The amount reduced depends on the cloud cover. In general, if one can see shadows in the vicinity of the solar array, it is generating SOME power.
4) We have many ways of storing energy these days that can smooth out the fluctuations in energy production. For a couple of examples: huge banks of batteries which are charged when power demand is low, and discharged when the demand increases past the ability of the panels to generate it.
There are a number of hydroelectric facilities in America where, when power is at its lowest usage level, the water used for generation is pumped up hill to huge storage lakes. When the demand for electricity increases, this water can be released through turbines to generate the excess power needed.
[Dealing with energy issues] has [got] to be a multiple target approach, too. As a significant issue, we have to decrease our dependence on fossil fuels. This process has started and is progressing. The evolution of the automobile away from a purely mechanical device, with MORE horsepower than anyone needs to a computer on wheels, that can produce the precise amount of power needed was one step. A second step was the creation of the hybrid automobiles, using both a large battery and electric motor, in conjunction with a much smaller internal combustion engine. Finally, we are seeing the growth of viable totally electric automobiles. While still rather expensive, I am sure that they will, in time, be the vast majority of vehicles on the road. They are cheaper to run, easier to fix (fewer moving parts to fail) and relatively clean.
The next factor is building construction. Many houses today are built to insulation standards that would have been considered a joke 20 years ago. My house, which we built around 2010, has some walls that are, effectively R70. The more traditional construction is is, at a minimum, R30. These much more efficient insulation standards, combined with increased efficiency in dealing with air leakage cuts heating and cooling demands WAY down. In addition, the appliances in today’s houses are many times more efficient than those of 20 years ago. As an example of how well high insulation standards work… In the part of the house that is MOST efficient…the crew got it closed in, but no power, by around the first of December. The next week we had a pretty tough could snap, with temperatures hovering in the -10 F area for a solid week, along with some massive snows. When I was finally able to get to the job site again, I walked into the enclosed section to find a bottle of water sitting on a makeshift sawhorse. The amazing thing was that the bottle of water was very cold, but it was NOT frozen. The insulation factor was so good that just the amount of sunlight coming through the windows had kept the temperature in the high 30s, low 40s.
Finally, there is a slow change in the attitudes towards landscaping. Many people are moving from the “billiard table” look in their lawns to a more natural ecology, with misc decorative plants and flowers, and in some cases, vegetables and such. In addition, there is a strong trend back to planting more trees on one’s property. In Tennessee, the Ecological Council has a goal of planting several million native trees across the state to help rebuild the forests that used to dominate the landscape. These changes are important because they not only help cleanse the air of pollutants, and produce oxygen, but, they provide shade to help keep the area cooler…again…cutting power requirements. The issue of climate change shows that the warming trends we have seen since the industrial revolution started will continue, and cause massive, heat related issues…drought, forest fires, famine and the like. SO anything we can do to combat this is vital.
Now, one more little thing. I know that I have mentioned in this essay both the dangers of heat related to climate change, AND, the story about the killing cold we experienced a few years ago. These are not contradictory. The issue with climate change is that it pumps more energy into the Earths ecosystem. This ends up in the form of heat…and is the energy source that drives the winds, the storms, and the ocean currents. One thing this energy does is that it causes weather conditions to be more extreme, with wider swings that a more moderate temperature would cause.
In conclusion, I believe that we are called to be good stewards of the Earth. Not only are there comments about this in the religious texts of a wide variety of beliefs – Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Indigenous People, etc, but it should be a rational argument for any person. Good Stewards care for and protect the world around them..be it their dwelling, the land they own, or the entire world. Why? If for no other reasons, crapping on it and destroying it is a fool’s errand. It ends up being a net loss for the steward. Alas, we, as a species, seem to have lost sight of this reality, and as such, may have doomed ourselves to oblivion. When I run into the attitude “Well, I have MINE, so why should I worry?” My reply is often “Perhaps you do…but do you want your grandchildren to die in the burning sunlight, starving to death?” We may still have a chance of survival, and if we each take up the task and work towards improving the world, we may succeed. However, if we do nothing, we are guaranteed to disappear from the face of the Earth.
God Help Us All
Be safe, wear your mask, get vaccinated, social distance, wash your hands.
Bee Man Dave.