Solar power vs. coal – the baseload electricity debate
“Solar power can’t provide baseload power like coal can, nyah nyah!”
I don’t know how many times I’ve read/heard that sort of thing over the last couple of years as an excuse for continuing to use fossil fuels such as coal.
So what is baseload power?
It’s the amount of electricity needed to meet minimum demands within a given area.
And why do some of the naysayers say solar can’t provide it?
Essentially, because the sun doesn’t shine all the time and there’s no way to store sunshine.
a) It doesn’t need to be a cloudless day in order to generate electricity from a solar panel based system. There are also other forms of solar power, such as solar thermal.
b) Storage mediums such as huge molten salt batteries have been developed to the point of commercial viability and could be scaled up/rolled out quickly if so much money wasn’t going to damned coal!
c) We don’t need to think big all the time as in massive solar farms. In any town there’s a sea of suitable unused roof space that could be used to generate power close to where it will be consumed. This means less line loss, this means less reliance on large solar farms. There are many other advantages in distributed power generation also, such as security – a distributed power generation system is a much harder target to take out.
Something else that really riles me – CCS – Carbon Capture and Sequestration – is a long way off from being commercially viable. It’s still questionable in terms of safety and effectiveness.
Solar power is already here, tried and tested. The energy storage mediums, such as salt batteries, are already here. This has all been achieved through crumbs of funding compared to what the fossil fuel industry has received.
The technology is not an issue – it’s one of political will and investment. With political will and government support comes investment.
It’s not an end-user cost issue either – even electricity from “clean” coal is going to cost a bucket load more, and those costs will be passed on to the consumer.
The era of cheap energy is over and it’s best we all get used to it. Energy efficiency is the low hanging fruit of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and baseload power needs – it’s not going to hurt us to not having our houses lit up like Xmas trees. Increased electricity costs might finally see us realizing that.
Something I read elsewhere (apologies to the site, can’t remember which one it was) makes another very interesting point about the whole baseload power debate. An article pointed out that the infrastructure for coal didn’t magically appear. Coal doesn’t mysteriously turn from a black/brown lump into electricity. Without the trains, without the coal mine machinery, without the plants, there is no baseload supply. That infrastructure had to be created, which cost a whole bundle of cash. The coal industry was and is heavily subsidised – still – after a hundred years or so!
Imagine if all that cash was fairly rapidly rerouted. Imagine how fast we could see clean, renewable energy taking its place. Look at the innovations already occurring in battery development since the US started throwing some reasonable cash at its greatest passion – cars.
It’s time that coal fired power generation was delivered a death sentence, before our use of the stuff delivers a death sentence for many more of us.
It’s time that those who supposedly represent our best interests stopped feeding at the coal black trough; because it’s not just questionable alliances, shady deals, cash and kickbacks they’ve got their snouts in, it’s the blood of all those who will die in the future as a result of climate change – spurred on by the burning of coal.
The clock is ticking.
Solar power – power to, for and by the people!
Green Living Tips.com
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