Guest editorial: Solar, wind, batteries and EVs — not nuclear — are the climate solutions
This is in response to a Park Record guest editorial from Dave Marston on Jan. 3, “The ‘energy gap’ nobody wants to tussle with.” Marston advocates for small modular nuclear power to complement solar and wind power. Small modular nuclear power (SMNP) does have a place in our energy future and should be safer than older nuke facilities. However, SMNP requires many years of development and is much more costly to implement and will not be ready at scale to mitigate the climate crisis. Plus the U.S. taxpayer will be on the hook as the insurer of last resort as with all nuclear power plants.
Only solar, wind and batteries can provide the scale and low cost to mitigate the climate crisis. New solar power is now cheaper than the operating cost of existing fossil plants. Batteries are currently the most costly part of solar, wind and batteries but are declining rapidly with the huge scale-up in progress due to EV growth. The Tesla mega pack factory in Lathrop, California is ramping up production to 40 gigawatt hours per year. Each mega pack can store 3.9 megawatt hours of energy. Currently solar and wind in the U.S. are about 20% of electrical demand, so a long way from reaching the 80% level where there would be potential grid issues. Also, if we build out solar, wind and batteries to scale there won’t be any grid issues.
Tony Seba and his team at Stanford University have done a detailed analysis of existing solar and wind generation for several regions in the U.S. and show that a solar-wind-and-batteries system that overbuilds on solar and wind results in a least cost system that can power 100% of the entire U.S. and have a bonus of huge amounts of very low cost “superpower.”
Up to now excess solar and wind power have been viewed as a problem. Seba points out that we need to put that excess near-zero-cost superpower to use in large scale applications like desalination, clean electro-refining of metals, powering data centers and charging EVs. Seba found that near-zero-cost superpower can be available in California for 93%, in Texas for 93% and in New England for 64% of the time while still proving 100% of base power. Here is a link to a video of Seba’s work: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fsnkPLkf1ao
Electric Vehicles are a critical part of the solution to the climate crisis. Moving to EVs is the only way to get off our oil addiction and to clean the air in our cities. EV adoption is accelerating to exponential rates. In California, EVs were 18% of new car purchases in 2022 with Tesla having 70% market share. Tesla is reducing the prices by up to 20%, which will further accelerate the EV adoption rate, along with many other EV makers.
The impediments to rapid adoption of clean energy are hampered by the fossil fuel industry spreading misinformation and the utility companies’ bureaucracy and their monopoly status. The fossil fuel companies are terrified of the accelerating move to clean energy and EVs. They still have on their books fossil reserves many times over the amount that must never be excavated if the world is to survive the climate crisis. We need to move rapidly to a solar, wind, battery and EV energy solution in the next 10 years that will mitigate the crisis and provide huge health benefits from a much cleaner environment. It would also eliminate billions in military funds needed to protect our no longer needed oil interests around the world.
Although the views above are my own, I am a member of the Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL) and encourage all who are concerned about the Climate Crisis to join and support their work. CCL advocates on a nonpartisan basis for climate action including adoption of a carbon fee and dividend process. That would put a price on all carbon fuels at the source and refund the funds collected to all in the country equally. Thus high carbon users would pay a bit more and low carbon users would receive a financial bonus.
I am grateful that leaders such as Congressman John Curtis are thinking outside the political box and working on real and bipartisan climate solutions.
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