Why is solar better than fossil fuels?

This question is asked routinely of a wide assortment of people ranging from every day citizens to politicians.  And I have a “brick and mortar” angle that is often overlooked as a reason to go solar.  Simply put:  The nationwide electric grid is getting aged and vulnerable which calls for a momentous move toward solar energy where you’re generating it at the point of use.  Joining in this chorus is none other than our own United States military that has committed to a plan to develop an energy portfolio that includes 25% renewable energy which is “the latest milestone in a multi-year endeavor to find ways to make the military more energy efficient,” said Katherine Hammack, the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment.  And what are the reasons for this shift toward solar?

 

Historically, Central Power Plants have been an integral part of the traditional Transmission and Distribution (T&D) Grid and have been located close to natural resources and far from populated load centers. In turn, these Central Power Plants supply power to the T&D Grid which distributes bulk power to and from load centers – and continuing on to consumers.  However, the concept of Central Power Plants was developed almost a century ago when transporting fuel and integrating generating technologies into populated areas was far more costly than the cost of developing pine tree poles and strings of wire in order to move electricity.  These economies of scale began to fail in the late 1960s and, by the start of the 21st century, CPP’s could no longer deliver competitively priced cheap and reliable electricity to more remote customers through the T&D Grid.  At the same time, the CPP system grew far more efficient but was not able to translate these gains due to the problematic nature of the T&D Grid.  Therefore, it comes as no surprise that nearly all power failures originate in the T&D Grid and this has become the main driver of customers’ power costs and power quality problems.   This situation has become more acute due to the growth of the use of digital equipment because it is dependent on extremely reliable electricity.  Thus, the equipment upon which we use every day is becoming increasingly vulnerable and sometimes unable to function with precision performance.

 

The reason that solar is a better power source is that it can be sited next to the end-user thus eliminating any additional significant load to the T&D Grid and its infrastructure.  But there is also another reason that is important to remember and that is the fact that our fossil fuel reserves are being rapidly depleted.  The bottom line is that we are going to run out of fossil fuels for energy and we must prepare for the new age of energy production.

 

By the year 2020, world energy consumption is projected to have increased by 50 percent.  If the global consumption of renewable energy sources remains constant, the world’s available fossil fuel reserves will be consumed in 104 years or early in the 22nd century (Source: US Department of Energy).

 

See You Next Time!  Dr. Stripling

Areas of probably power system collapse