To the editor:
There’s a ton of reservations and big bugaboos many Americans share about the increasing influx of renewable energy sources — principally solar, wind, water and geothermal — across our nation. We’ve become an electricity starved world for many good reasons, as our population numbers expand and our power needs for our homes and businesses continue upward.
Concurrently we are faced with the problems of balancing our present-day needs with the necessity of slowing down/eliminating the greenhouse gases and climate affecting results of our older, more established modes of electricity generation (coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear).
Without question, solar heat and wind are the reigning champions in electricity production, on both pure cost basis as well as ease of use, over hydroelectricity and to a lesser degree geothermal energy. Those two in particular represent the present and future wave of the world’s energy prospects.
For the first time last year renewables outpaced coal burning for America’s electricity production (22% of total). It’s estimated by the Energy Information Administration that this sustainable output will go up 2% this year.
And the whole planet is involved with this surge, despite the array of protesters and deniers of the importance of this radical change from the sources that we’ve used for nearly 200 years.
Solar and wind renewables are far cheaper than the fossil fuels we’ve depended on since the Industrial Revolution. From 2010-17 the cost of solar panels dropped a whopping 75%, while wind turbines fell by more than half.
Many new homes and corporate structures are employing roof panels routinely now (like, happily, my timeshare resort down the Cape). And once the panels are up, the savings begin as they just sit there absorbing the sun’s rays on both sunny and cloudy days.
Fortunately for us, on many levels, the sun isn’t going anywhere soon.
And costs have continued to drop significantly from 2018 to present, as power companies have discovered the comparative savings windfall that results from panel implementation over the past decade, which fortunately coincides with the air pollution, acid rain and the myriad of human health concerns caused for decades by coal and oil burning.
Wind turbines are currently delivering electricity at a cost of about 3 cents per kilowatt hour, as opposed to the 12 to 13 cents for coal-and-oil produced home and business-powering electricity.
And solar panels, including their original production costs, come in at 8 cents per kWh. There are almost 60,000 wind turbines happily rotating away in the United States, with Texas ironically leading the way with 13,000 (along with over 80,000 used for pumping water and other uses). This is one area that Texans can point to as being proudly progressive.
And new floating solar panel projects are gaining popularity, with potentially millions of acres of “unused” water abutting wastewater treatment plants and hydroelectric dam reservoirs. Japan gets credit for the first implantation of “floating solar” in 2006, and it’s now the world’s leader in that regard.
America’s premier installation was built in Canoe Brook, New Jersey back in 2011. You’ll be reading more and more about this exciting, burgeoning industry going forward, and it’s estimated that in time nearly 10% of America’s electric needs will be provided for by this comparatively new technology.
Even on the more cataclysmic level of potential terrorism, a topic sadly more important now than ever, sustainable projects have a huge added bonus. Imagine one of our nuclear power plants being hit by an enemy missile or planted bomb. It’s a horrible thought to ponder with meltdowns, explosions and potential fallout spreading in the aftermath for who knows how far.
But a missile hitting a “windmill” or a solar plant would obviously deliver massive damage to the structure but no far-ranging destruction, radioactive or otherwise.
Despite the naysayers’ myth about the forthcoming sustainable projects spelling the death knell for workers in the non-renewable energy industries, the manufacturing, engineering and technical professional positions being produced by sustainable energy enterprises are comparable and exchangeable with those in coal and oil.
It t most definitely isn’t apples and oranges, despite all the disingenuous hue and cry from President Donald Trump and the coal-loving Republican politicians in Washington.
William F. Klessens