The Unbearable Lightness of Solar Power
To see the absurdities that await us in our energy future, look no further than the front page of today’s business section of the New York Times for the story entitled “The Newest Hybrid Model.”
The article features a dramatic photo of 500 acres of solar panels sitting next to an innocuous looking natural gas plant in Indiantown, Fla., owned by Florida Power & Light. The natural gas plant — which occupies no more than 15 acres — produces 3,800 megawatts of reliable electricity. The gigantic 500-acre solar complex next to it (that’s about three-quarters of a square mile) will produce 75 MW of electricity AT ITS MAXIMUM, i.e., on a hot summer afternoon. (Fortunately, this is the time when electrical demand peaks.)
... building a 1000-MW solar array — the size of an average coal or nuclear plant — would cost $5 billion, putting it right up there with the most expensive reactors and coal plants with carbon capture. But the solar panels only generate electricity one-third of the time. “We’d love to tell you that solar power is as economical as fossil fuels, but the reality is that it is not,” says Lewis Hay II, CEO of Florida Power and Light, which has built the complex.
Such facilities serve only two purposes: 1) To satisfy the whims of state legislatures; and 2) to create pretty pictures for billboard ads and the covers of annual reports. In both they are a triumphant success.