Wyoming is experiencing a heat wave at the moment. Temperatures are in the 90’s and humidity is less than 10% most days. Air conditioners run day and night, since night time temperatures remain in the 60’s at their lowest and it’s often over 80 degrees at sunset. Please note that this is not a sign of global warming–it has been this hot in the past and will be in the future. It’s called “weather”. If ever there was a time when help was needed with more electricity, this is one such time.
Back to “every little bit helps”. For most of the heat wave, winds have been under 10 mph. If the turbines turn at all, they produce probably enough electricity to charge iPhones, or maybe run one air conditioner. Yesterday, there were 30 mph winds all day. This would create close to the capacity for the turbines. So yesterday, the turbines “helped”. Or did they? Coal fired power plants cannot ramp down at the drop of a hat. The plants that were making enough electricity to power the air conditioners on Monday were making that much on Tuesday, or very close to it. On the other hand, natural gas plants (which Wyoming has none of but neighboring states do and we all “share” electricity) can ramp down somewhat. Yesterday, there may have been some reduction for a few hours. Lastly, hydro plants can ramp up and down fairly easily. Wyoming does have hydro plants that could have been ramped back yesterday.
What value was there to ramping down a hydroelectric plant and using wind instead? Hydroelectric production is just as renewable as wind, and far more reliable. It was considered renewable until there were no subsidies from the government for it, when both hydro and geothermal were no longer called “renewable”. Both share the undesirable traits of reliability and lack eligibility for federal monies. Geothermal was protested in the past, especially in Hawaii where protested chained themselves to equipment. It really made no sense then but with the push for wind and solar, it became clear the goal was not “renewable” but rather intermittent and weak power.
The most glaring problem of “every little bit helps” is the complete and utter falseness of the statement. Had one tried bailing water with a teacup on the Titanic, it would have ranked as an irrational, panic reaction. The action was useless. Taking something closer to our hearts and minds now, if someone making $5000 per month loses their job, if neighbors chip in $150 per month (that’s the 3% wind contributes nationwide), does that really make any difference? Major lifestyle changes are going to be required. Often, a little bit hurts, because it allows people to believe something is being accomplished when harm is actually being done. Wind power is like that. Billions of dollars go into building environmentally damaging turbines that return so little electricity so unreliably they could never power modern society. Millions and millions of acres of land damaged for turbines, mining, manufacturing….That “little bit” hurts and it hurts a lot. Plus, if we really were running out of fossil fuels, spending time and money on unreliable wind and solar would be as irresponsible as taking your last $1000 and going to Vegas to “win big” instead of finding a job and working through your money problems (yes, people do that too but it’s still irresponsible). Actually, it’s more like taking $1000 of your neighborhood’s money and going to Vegas, since wind and solar don’t actually pay for themselves.
“Every little bit” does not help. Wind and solar do not help. They just give some folks that endorphin high you get when gambling that $1000 away in Las Vegas. You know the one right before you lose everything? Watch out for the “lose everything” that’s coming with unreliable, expensive power. Helping people feel like they are “saving the planet” with that “little bit” is dishonest and harmful. Stop now before the fall at the end of the gamble gets farther and farther down and the landing more and more painful.
If you are still clinging to that “every little bit helps” idea, please, feel free to sit in your home without air conditioning in the 98 degree heat and throw in your little bit to save the planet. The rest of us will be using our air conditioners while looking for reliable energy to power these appliances for years into the future. We won’t settle for the “little bit” wind turbines produce.