It’s all about the grid – and NIMBYs and subsidies. It’s increasingly clear renewable energy cannot replace carbon-based and nuclear power.
Our electrical grid requires supply and demand always be perfectly in balance. Renewable energy makes that much harder to do because its power production fluctuates and cannot be predicted in advance. Coal and nuclear power plants provide all-important baseline power, that is, they produce power 24/7 regardless of weather or time of day. It is misguided to shut them down due to environmental or safety concerns until solid replacements are up and running.
In addition, huge subsidies for renewable are distorting prices and it’s unclear whether there is even enough suitable area to install the ginormous wind and solar plants needed to bring the US to even 10% total renewable energy. And that’s assuming they could be installed, given NIMBY opposition (which is sometimes quite justified.) I just don’t think it’s a good idea to pave the Mojave Desert in California with solar plants, something some renewable boosters think would just be a wonderful idea, a view shared by investments banks and big money who see the possibilities of captive customers paying steep prices.
Managing the uninterrupted transfer of electrical power from myriad sources wherever and whenever it is needed is a hugely complicated challenge. It’s one thing when the principal supply sources use gas, heat or hydraulically-driven turbines which provide constant, unfluctuating outputs that can be adjusted and counted upon independent of weather or season.
But circumstances become increasingly complex as more and more intermittent sources are added to the power supply mix. Difficulties arise as segments of the grid become overloaded or underserved by the renewables, requiring the conventional-source turbines which balance the grid to meet base demand loads be repeatedly throttled down and up. This reduces turbine operating efficiencies.