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The Forum > Article Comments > Solar and wind power simply donít work - not here, not anywhere > Comments

Solar and wind power simply donít work - not here, not anywhere : Comments

By Keith DeLacy, published 23/6/2016

On the basis of evidence everywhere we could easily double the price of electricity and get nowhere near the 50 per cent target.

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The obvious conclusion that can be drawn from the article is that Australia has no alternative to going nuclear. We have the resources, all we lack is the political willpower.
David
Posted by VK3AUU, Thursday, 23 June 2016 9:43:49 AM
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It is good that a prominent public figure has weighed in on this crucial topic. However I am concerned that opponents of his opinions will simply dismiss his arguments by citing his association with the coal industry (thatís what counts in this public debate, not science or engineering) and, more problematically, by simply declaring that the success of renewables is assured through future technology advances, cost reductions, and so on. Itís the blue sky arguments that are so hard to refute Ė because they concern an unprovable future.

The best approach is, I believe, to tackle the fundamentals. There are four pillars to the faith in the future of renewables. Technology advances are simply bound to occur and will beat the problems of weak and intermittent solar and wind energy. Batteries to store electricity are getting better and cheaper. Energy productivity and efficiency will keep increasing indefinitely to meet the wishes of energy conservationists. And the evolving concerns about the real energy returns from the energy invested in renewable systems are completely unwarranted. These are complex and technical issues. Why would the public need to understand them? Perhaps in other times they would not. But today the electorate determines energy policy, not the people who understand energy. Energy is a beauty contest and voters are the judges. Voters love renewable energy. Sadly, love is blind.

Make no mistake. Future energy is a battleground between renewables and nuclear energy. There are huge economic risks stemming from uncritical acceptance of claims made for the future of renewables. The electorate needs to believe that whatever their concerns about nuclear energy they can be alleviated by the kinds of technological innovation they currently support and expect for renewables.
Posted by Tombee, Thursday, 23 June 2016 10:15:01 AM
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I think this article is a great example of the how to use words and half truths to appear like you've got a valid argument...Well done Keith!
Posted by Cobber the hound, Thursday, 23 June 2016 10:18:33 AM
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Well done Keith. You are brave enough to be very clear about the shortfalls of renewable energy - a popular religion among "clean" energy advocates. Expect plenty of hate mail!

As a student and author of energy books, I fully understand your article. Unfortunately many in the renewable energy camp have little understanding of the technical and practical issues with both solar and wind. As Monty Python once said "you can't tell em!".

They will embrace nuclear power one day - after they have tried everything else.
Posted by Martin N, Thursday, 23 June 2016 10:41:47 AM
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Wind and solar do work here, and as I'm writing this they're providing 12% of Australia's electricity supply. See http://www.nem-watch.info/widgets/RenewEconomy/

The clam that "every kilowatt has to be backed up by conventional power" is false. The biggest demand peaks are on hot sunny days, when solar output is high. Excluding those, the biggest demand peaks are on cold windy days. If we exclude these too, the peak requirement is much lower.

And even where we have two capital spends for the same output, that doesn't necessarily make it inefficient, let alone a dud. Most of the backup infrastructure already exists and was paid for long ago. And most of the exceptions involve open cycle gas turbines, so the backup infrastructure cost is very low. The cost saving due to reduced fuel requirements is substantial.

China is investing very heavily in solar power. The fact that back in 2014 they were building one new coalfired power plant every week (and closing three old coalfired power plants every week) is irrelevant. They've moved on!

But Keith is right about one thing: feedin tariffs are a very inefficient way to fund wind and solar energy. We should instead use concessional loans. Make the CEFC an order of magnitude bigger, and make the objective to break even rather than to make a commercial rate of return. The result will be cheaper electricity for everyone.
Posted by Aidan, Thursday, 23 June 2016 10:49:31 AM
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Ain't that the truth! The best example of the stupidity of wind is in South Australia, where we have the most windmills and the dearest power in the world: just jacked up again by another $800 a year. Labor government, of course, but the other mob have gone loony as well.
Posted by ttbn, Thursday, 23 June 2016 11:27:26 AM
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