If you thought the “green movement” was more about self-righteous politics than clear-headed science, here are two tales that prove the point.
In Arizona a petition is being circulated in an effort to get on the ballot an initiative called the Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona Amendment. This would require 50 percent of the electricity generated in the state to come from renewable sources by 2030.
The petition states: “The Amendment defines renewable energy sources to include solar, wind, small-scale hydropower, and other sources that are replaced rapidly by a natural, ongoing process (excluding nuclear or fossil fuel). Distributed renewable energy sources, like rooftop solar, must comprise at least 10% of utilities’ annual retail sales of electricity by 2030.”
To get on the November ballot petitioners must gather nearly 226,000 signatures by July 5.
If the measure passes it would necessitate the closure of the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station west of Phoenix, which currently provides about 35 percent of the state’s electricity, even though it produces no carbon emissions.
If the state were to achieve the goal of 50 percent of its power coming from mostly solar and wind, both of which are intermittent, there would be no room on the grid for Palo Verde’s power, because reactors can’t be quickly turned off and on — it takes weeks of preparation.
“We would have to shut Palo Verde down during the day every day,” one plant official was quoted as saying by Cronkite News. “But that’s not how nuclear plants really work. Nuclear plants can’t just be shut down and then started up again.”
The most likely source of rapid start-up generation would be natural gas, which produces carbon emissions, especially when frequently idling.
Adding wind and solar to the power grid could increase the carbon dioxide output.
Retired electrical engineer Kent Hawkins wrote in February 2010 that “the introduction of wind power into an electricity system increases the fossil fuel consumption and CO2 emissions beyond levels that would have occurred using efficient gas plants alone as the providers of electricity equivalent to the firmed wind.”
This is because every kilowatt-hour of intermittent electricity introduced into the grid must be backed up by a reliable fossil-fuel generator. When the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine, the demand for electricity remains.
Starting and stopping natural gas-fired generators is inefficient, comparable to operating a car in stop and go traffic instead of steady and efficient on the open highway. Just like the car, the fuel consumption can double, along with the carbon emissions, negating any presumed carbon savings by using solar or wind.
Opponents of the measure say it will drive up power bills in the state. Proponents argue long-term benefits of solar power and reducing nuclear waste offset any immediate cost spike.
Meanwhile, in New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced plans to build $6 billion worth of offshore wind turbines while shutting down the nuclear-powered, emission-free Indian Point Energy Center in Buchanan, N.Y.
Robert Bryce, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, explained in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal that the wind turbines will produce only 60 percent as much power as the nuclear plant being closed.
How will this gap be covered? You guessed it, natural gas.
“The irony here is colossal. Mr. Cuomo, who banned hydraulic fracturing despite the economic boon it has created in neighboring Pennsylvania, and who has repeatedly blocked construction of pipelines, is making New York even more dependent on natural gas, which will increase its carbon emissions,” Bryce writes. “At the same time, he has mandated offshore wind projects that will force New Yorkers to pay more for their electricity, even though the state already has some of the nation’s highest electricity prices.”
This past week NV Energy announced plans to contract to build six new solar power projects at a cost of $2 billion and double the state’s renewable energy capacity, but only if voters reject the Energy Choice Initiative on the November ballot that would end the company’s monopoly in most of the state and allow competition. No mention was made of how this might impact power bills.
In all three states emissions would likely increase, as well as power bills.
Being green is a state of mind. Just never let the facts get in the way.
Thomas Mitchell is a longtime Nevada newspaper columnist. You may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He also blogs at http://4thst8.wordpress.com/.