Wind and Solar Can’t Replace Coal and Gas

A letter to the editor from the WSJ (h/t Steve C):

Another truth that climateers can’t handle (“Climateers Can’t Handle the Truth” by Holman Jenkins Jr., Business World, Dec. 28) is that wind and solar can replace coal and natural gas for electricity generation. America’s economy demands full-time electricity. Wind and solar only generate part-time electricity. It’s a long, expensive and land-sacrificing road to full-time wind and solar electricity.

After the billions already spent and substantial subsidies that continue, wind and solar generated only 25,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity in 2015, or about 6% of U.S. demand. Coal and natural gas generated 306,000 MW, or about 66% of U.S. demand. Increasing 25,000 to 306,000 will take decades, billions or perhaps trillions of dollars and sacrifice land area equivalent to the size of the states of Indiana or Kentucky.

But the job of meeting full-time demand on this road is only half done. Wind turbines only generate electricity about half the time. The sun only shines about half the time. So wind and solar must generate at least twice as much electricity when the wind blows and the sun shines. The additional 306,000 MW of electricity must be time-shifted—stored and then withdrawn—to meet later demand when wind isn’t blowing and sun isn’t shining.

Utility-scale storage for hundreds of thousands of megawatts doesn’t exist and must be invented. Thus the road gets longer in time and still more expensive. After facing this truth, climateers need to come up with a better answer to full-time electricity than wind farms and solar parks.

George F. Steeg

Potomac Falls, Va.