Renewable power claims are misleading. Wind power is only available when the wind is blowing, and solar power is only available when the sun is shining. And wave power when there are waves. In the meantime the California statewide power supply must be designed to handle all the power demanded all the time.
California uses the largest amount of power in the U.S. Presently, the peak power used in California is 50 billion watt-hours.
The promise of 200 million watt-hours from wind power or solar is a drop in the bucket in comparison. In addition the power needs of the state are growing at about 0.5 billion watt-hours a year. Wind power and solar power, when operating, are way too puny to even begin to meet the needs of the state.
And let’s not be misled by such euphemisms as “conservation.” It can also help, but it is not the solution by itself. It, too, is just too puny a solution.
The nuclear power plant at Diablo Canyon safely produces 2 billion watt-hours of power every hour of the day, rain or shine, day or night, wind or no wind. That is enough power for 2 million homes or 10 percent of the state’s power needs.
What the state needs is more gas and nuclear-fired power plants to continue to meet our growing power needs. Twenty-five nuclear plants would provide all our power needs for 50 years, day and night.
In a very small way, solar, wind, and conservation can reduce the amount of fossil fuels, but they are in no way a substitute for our power needs, nor a solution in themselves. They just contribute too little power, and they can have a great impact on the environment. Let’s not forget the enormous amount of power and materials that are needed to manufacture wind turbines and solar power panels. Nuclear also needs power to manufacture uranium from the earth, but the power it produces far exceeds that of the renewable sources.
In any case the power grid must be designed to meet our peak power needs of 50 billion watt-hours. Even if alternate power could meet those power levels, it would be for only half of the time. The other half of the time we would still need fossil or nuclear sources for our power.
Let’s stop promoting something that is not practical for our power needs.
Nuclear plants would provide all of the state power and take up a land footprint of 20 acres each instead of the thousands of acres of land needed for alternative power sources. Nuclear plants can be located near the power users so long-distance power lines are not needed as they are to bring power from remote renewable solar and wind sources. Nuclear generators can be built in many different sizes and located where needed for the user. Our present water shortages could be alleviated by reverse osmosis desal plants powered by small nuclear power plants such as are used on Navy submarines or aircraft carriers
Justin M. Ruhge is a retired aerospace programs manager with degrees in physics, engineering, and nuclear studies.