In particular, wind energy has been cited as a possible way to supplement the supply of electricity and thus allow reductions in the use of Middle Eastern oil. Denmark is rightfully cited as an example of a country that has made the generation of electricity by windmills a top priority, and has been successful in its efforts.
However, there are limits to how much energy can be saved by the use of windmills, no matter how efficient their design nor how extensively they are constructed.
William Tucker has an upcoming book about nuclear power, and his article from the August 18th issue of National Review (the online version requires a subscription) points out some of the drawbacks to the use of windmills as a strategy to cut back on the use of fossil fuels:
Part of the mistaken belief that wind can be a reliable source of electricity comes from a misapprehension of what the “grid” is. The national grid is not a machine for churning out electricity. It is more like a high-wire act — the Flying Wallendas balancing six people on a bicycle 50 feet above the ground.- - - - - - - - -
Electricity must be consumed the moment it is generated; there are no methods for storage on an industrial scale. This means that supply and demand must constantly match within about 5 percent. Otherwise there will be power “dips” or “surges,” which can cause brownouts, ruin electrical equipment, or even bring the whole system crashing down.
Traditionally, maintaining voltage balance has involved two things: (1) matching supply with demand through the normal daytime/nighttime fluctuations, with demand usually peaking around mid-afternoon, and (2) maintaining a “spinning reserve” against sudden losses of power, in case an overloaded transmission line brushes against a tree and shorts out, or a generator unexpectedly shuts down. Utilities generally build “peaking plants” to handle high daytime demand, then carry a “spinning reserve” of 20 percent of output to guard against shutdowns.
Now imagine introducing a power source that is constantly fluctuating. The output of a windmill varies with the cube of wind speed, so it can change greatly from minute to minute. Putting windmills on the grid is a little like the Flying Wallendas’ hiring a new crew member to shake the wire while they are doing their balancing act. Engineers who work on electrical grids have been quietly complaining for years, and over the last decade, grid operators in Denmark, Japan, and Ireland have all refused to accept more wind energy. In fact, Denmark — the world leader in wind generation — stopped building windmills altogether in 2007. After long discussions at numerous symposiums and in professional energy journals, a consensus has emerged that, even with very accurate weather forecasts and other improvements, a grid can at best tolerate a maximum of 20 percent wind energy. Above that, the fluctuations become too difficult to mask.
The upshot of the article is that all the “renewable” alternatives to oil have severe disadvantages, and other fossil fuels are not practically able to make up for the use of petroleum. The obvious solution is, and always has been, nuclear power.
The push by the Green lobby to prevent further construction of nuclear generating plants has served only to harm the environment by keeping industrialized economies, particularly that of the United States, chained to fossil fuels. Their case against nuclear power is based on Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and the problem of waste disposal. The first two are red herrings — Three Mile Island was a negligible failure, and the flawed reactor design like the one that blew up at Chernobyl is not used in the West. The waste problem is solvable, given the political will to do so.
How much more CO2 has been pushed into the atmosphere because of knee-jerk opposition to nuclear power? How much more particulate has clouded the sky because of our postmodern Luddites? How many more coal miners have died deep underground in accidents or a slow death from lung disease? It’s one of life’s little ironies that the activism of environmentalists has contributed directly to the degradation of the environment.
If we’re serious about taking the oil weapon out of the hands of Islamic fanatics, nuclear power is the way to go. All of us should be talking it up, writing letters to the editor, and annoying our elected representatives with repeated communications on the topic.
We don’t have to nuke Mecca to make use of the nuclear option in the Counterjihad.