The government’s solution to California’s power crisis is to buy the power lines and to subsidize the cost of power at the expense of the taxpayers, and maybe buy the power plants. The state managed to ruin the power system, and now its solution is socialism and regulation with a vengeance.
The real solution can be found with the private power utilities. Let the utilities do what is required to provide the power to a growing state. Get the state bureaucracy out of the loop and stop the interference of the environmentalists. Better management is the answer, not bumbling state government.
We lack adequate power because the environmentalists have opposed good engineering with unfounded environmental impacts and fears, and the politicians kowtow to their demands. Because of environmentalists, the costs for power-line and power-plant development have risen to a point where no utilities want to operate in California. They find it easier to buy power from adjacent states where the politicians who hold environmental nonsense in check are more reasonable than those in California.
By using good engineering design, realistic planning and good management we can avoid the problems of the past. Each power source has a shortcoming of one kind or another. The engineering question should be “which is the least offensive of the five major power sources: nuclear, gas, hydro, wind or solar?”
At the top of the good power sources is nuclear power. There are 434 nuclear plants operating in the world, and only one has failed. In California there are three nuclear plants, two of which are in use. California uses 45,000 megawatts an hour, so about 20 nuclear plants with the necessary transmission lines could supply all the power the state needs. Nuclear plants need to be big to be cost-effective, and that is why there are so few. The impact on the environment is minimal, but the forces of ignorance spread fear and oppose nuclear power.
The gas-fired plants cause air pollution and use an irreplaceable source of energy that can vary in price. Yet the plants are easier to build in various sizes and can produce large quantities of power. Gas plants are located all over the state, but environmentalists oppose their development and expansion.
Hydroelectric power is the oldest form of electrical power generation, and it is nonpolluting and efficient. But, it is unlikely that any new reservoirs and dams will be built due to the lack of suitable locations. The existing plants can be improved with new generators and more storage capacity. But environmentalists oppose all new projects for nonsensical reasons like restoring the original fish numbers that existed 100 years ago. Hydroelectric plants are not as flexible as gas-powered plants or as powerful as nuclear plants, and are usually located a long way from the users, so long transmissions lines are needed. However, they are reliable, clean and a great asset to the state.
Wind power is a great, clean, renewable source of power, but it only generates when there is some wind, and usually the generators are a long way from the users. Thousands of wind towers are needed to generate comparable power to the nuclear or gas plants. Environmentalists oppose them because of their danger to birds and their effect on the scenic views.
Solar has been touted by the environmentalist community as a clean and renewable source of power, but it too is limited by time of day and weather conditions. Even so, a photoelectric grid would have to cover about 15,000 acres to generate enough power to compete with the nuclear or gas plants. Solar-thermal converters are also good sources of power, and smaller in size, but they have the same problems as the photoelectric plants.
Any practical power system needs to be a 24-hour-a-day producer. We cannot shut down the grid when the sun goes down or the wind stops. Auxiliary systems like solar and wind can surely help in reducing the amount of fuel the major power plants must use during the day, but we must have a full-on robust system designed to take the peak loads reliability. Solar and wind cannot be relied on to do that.
In the long run the best approach is the powerful nuclear plants. The fuel uranium is much easier to control, can be recycled, and when depleted can be safely stored. There is no air exhaust and the price of material is closely controlled.
Good engineering and management must decide the best approach, not the environmentalists. Otherwise we can expect more brownouts and higher energy costs in the future.
Justin M. Ruhge is a Goleta resident and president of Concerned Taxpayers, Inc.