The Problem with Solar and Wind Energy

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The Problem with Solar and Wind Energy

Touted as the next big thing for energy, solar and wind are given exalted status – first in the news and now in our minds. But lets have a look at some of the issues and make sure they are as good as we think they are…

Intermittent

I live in Wales so I can tell you first hand that it’s not always peak conditions for solar power… I can’t tell you the same about the wind however because those turbines look like they are always turning. APPARENTLY the wind isn’t always trying to knock people over in other parts of the world…

So whats the problem with these sources being intermittent? Our demand is constant. Unfortunately, we don’t desire power only when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing. Luckily in the year 1800 our mate Alessandro Volta improved on his mate’s electric frog idea and invented the voltaic pile. This was the first ‘true’ battery. Other chemicals such as lithium have been added in the 20th century and we now have batteries in every portable electronic device. Cheers Alessandro.

What does this mean for renewable energy? Because we can now store power through batteries, if you get enough of them (or perhaps just one big enough) you can store the energy generated on the sunny/windy days for when you need it. Now your problem is a centralized infrastructure which has to store the power for millions of homes. If everyone generated their own power then each household could cater for their own storage needs, but that’s a topic for another post.

Expensive

A big argument people have against renewable energy is how expensive personal systems are. New technology is always expensive at the first stage of the cycle. Furthermore, with countries like China investing huge amounts into the renewable markets, capacity will shoot up and innovations will come think and fast. As demand increases so will the supply, creating equilibrium in the price. “For the second year in a row, renewable energy accounted for more than half the new power generation capacity added worldwide.” (FT, 2017)

Unsightly

This is one that I hear regularly and it always astounds me. Talking to an academic about the turbines on the hills near where I live he said “Bloody nuisance, can’t get away from the things.” I could’t believe it – when I see a wind turbine it fills me with hope that we are progressing towards a green society that doesn’t smash our surroundings to pieces. I also think the way they smoothly rotate is mesmerizing. I could be biased because I write for a blog like this but i’ll let you decide for yourselves. Take a look at the two pictures below and tell me which one you would rather see.

Big ugly concrete cooling towers.

Cooling towers. Big. Concrete. Ugly. Would you prefer this or a wind turbine?

Wind turbines. Ugly or therapeutic?

Wind turbines. Ugly or therapeutic?

Wind Turbine Noise Pollution.

This one relates directly to wind farms. I love turbines but this is something that needs to be addressed. A couple of lines from an article in the telegraph sums up the issue:

“This is not about saying no wind farms anywhere, this is about saying lets have wind farms in the right place with the right regulations,” she said. [‘She’ is Jane Davis, a resident affected by the noise.]

Dick Bowdler, an acoustic consultant, used to advise the Government on wind farm noise. However he resigned because he felt concerns about noise from wind farms were not being followed up.

“I have no doubt that there are some people who are seriously affected by wind farm noise,” he said. (Find the full article here)

Jane’s Case.

First lets examine Jane’s case. You have lived somewhere for years then they build a wind farm within earshot of your house. Endless wooshing is now the soundtrack to your life. I have lived next to motorways and under the Heathrow flight-path. I can tell you, not nice. Sure you can get used to it slightly but that feels more like your body trying to keep you sane.

Right thing, wrong place. What Jane said about having wind farms in the right place is great. Here in England we are an island. How about more offshore wind farms? Out at sea the regulations allow for bigger turbines too, so more power can be generated from one unit. {An offshore wind farm generates it’s own set of issues such as construction and energy transfer.}

Bad regulation. 

The acoustic consultant leaving or not is arbitrary. What we have to be careful of is the proper integration of new technologies. We need people to be on the team when it comes to climate change and one way to guarantee the opposite is to badly manage the transition. Noise complaints are an opportunity for great publicity. Who wouldn’t want to see the big corporation (with their planet-muncher reputation) helping the little guy?

 

Here’s a summary:

This post talks about wind and solar energy and although there are other forms out there that are making waves (tidal energy pun) solar and wind are at the forefront right now.

  • Intermittent – more storage is needed.
  • Expensive – the price is coming down.
  • Unsightly – better than chimneys.
  • Noisy – better management could eradicate this.
Check out THIS post on Sea-level rise.
Or THIS post on vertical farming.

 

By | 2017-11-06T16:09:46+00:00 November 6th, 2017|Renewable Energy, Solar Energy, Sustainability, Wind Energy|0 Comments

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