Farming the Wind Teaches Us About the Future of Energy
Fully Charged/Video screen capture
When I posted an activists' video in defense of Germany's renewable energy growth, Energy Guy wrote elsewhere that it made him want to "puke up on wind and solar", arguing that the variability of output that the video demonstrated that renewables cannot replace fossil fuels.
That's often the way with clean energy—and anything else. The same evidence that some folks see as validation of a concept, others will see as a damning indictment.
Take this latest video from Fully Charged in which Robert Llewellyn talks to a farmer who has installed a small wind turbine (the new season focuses on much more than just electric cars). While the "glass half full" viewing of this video would focus on a relatively small, visually unobtrusive turbine that can generate more than enough electricity for an entire farm, the skeptic would point out the farmer's emphasis on output on a "good day", and note that such variability is a nightmare for our current energy grids.
There is truth to either argument. Renewables can produce serious amounts of energy, and do so with few of the ruinous economic externalities of fossil fuels, but that energy output is of a very different nature to the fuel sources that created our current energy paradigm. Which leaves us with few choices, in which we either:
Adapt our grid to store energy and better match supply with demand.
Accept that no power source is likely to replace the convenient, readily available energy density of coal and oil.
Keep an open mind about natural gas and safe nuclear technologies as part of our energy mix.
As a certain commenter pointed out, I am the "antithesis of an engineer", so I don't have an answer to what combination of the above makes sense. But I do know that our current energy path has us heading toward hell in a hand basket, and that I see clean energy solutions producing way more energy than critics thought was ever possible. I find it hard to believe that we, as a species, can't plan for the fact that the sun doesn't always shine and the wind doesn't always blow. Surely we are smarter than that?