By Vijay Jayaraj
Recently, California experienced one of its largest blackouts. The state’s energy system operator declared a stage 3 emergency, one that has not been issued in two decades.
The mainstream media blamed it on forest fires, but Governor Gavin Newsom admitted that the failure of renewable energy systems was the primary reason behind the blackout.
Both Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris have expressed support for the Green New Deal, which is pro-renewable and anti-fossil fuels. A Biden presidency is likely to implement renewable energy policy at a rate that that could be far more aggressive than California’s.
In his recently unveiled $2 Trillion Clean Energy Plan, Biden says that he will “move ambitiously to generate clean, American-made electricity to achieve a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035.”
In other words, he intends to put $2 trillion of irreversible funding into making the American power sector completely devoid of coal, oil, and natural gas, from which America currently generates more than 62 percent of all its electricity.
Would Biden’s plan usher in a California-like situation in the rest of the country?
The answer to that question is yes. Even if Biden implements a proportion of what he has promised, there will be a considerable impact on energy security on a national level.
Here is why.
Inherently Intermittent and No Adequate Storage
Gov. Newsom described the California blackout as a result of “gaps in reliability” of renewables, a problem he says will persist during the state’s ambitious transition from fossil to renewables.
Regardless of the size of the wind or solar farm—or, rather factory—intermittency in electricity generation will always be a big problem. Storage capacities, such as batteries, are not advanced enough to store and provide backup to renewables on a large scale.
It is estimated that California would need $19 billion worth of additional battery storage to prevent blackouts of such magnitude in the future. Not only is that expensive, it will take a significant amount of time to procure. More worryingly, renewables fail on days when they are most needed.
The additional storage required in California alone is three times the storage capacity expected to be built globally—not just in California!—in 2020. This means that California is expected to encounter more blackouts in the future. Even if they do manage to procure this much storage, it is still a very expensive exercise for paltry returns.
The gaps in reliability—caused by the intermittency of wind and solar and the lack of storage—will create energy chaos in rest of the states if the federal government lays siege to the fossil fuel resources and forcefully makes all the states transition to renewables.
Of course, these gaps could be met by powering the grid with fossil energy. But the Biden plan is all about abolishing fossil fuels, and there would be no question of backup from them.
Soon, many citizens may have to experience a California-like blackout in their own homes. The extent of damage—frequency and duration of blackouts—will depend on how much of the promised plans the Biden-led government actually carries out.
Even if consumers manage to receive power, it is likely to be more expensive than power from grids that are connected to fossil fuel sources. Renewables are infamous for their role in increasing electricity rates.
Far from Clean: Renewables Are Bloody and Toxic
The worst part of it all is that the people would have to suffer for a lost cause. Renewables are not going to save the planet, and they are not clean. In fact, renewables are among the biggest killers of birds in the world.
Wind turbines in the United States kill some an estimated “140,000 to 500,000 birds per year,” according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which says that under Department of Energy mandate America is likely to have six times as many turbines by 2030, resulting in a proportionate increase in bird kills. They are also known to be the nemesis of some key endangered species. They kill so many that countries have allotted “bird kill quotas” for wind operators.
Both wind and solar are also toxic. The mining of rare earth elements used in them involves processes with toxic waste that has killed people and turned lakes toxic. The recycle value of wind and solar is not great either. As wind blades near end-of-life, they are dumped under the soil and cannot be recycled.
So why should American consumers pay higher electricity bills for a power source that is unreliable, bloody, toxic, and non-recyclable? They should not.
When politicians call renewables clean, remember the blood on the wind blades, the toxic byproducts, the mass dumping in landfills, and their proven inefficiency and inability to provide affordable electricity.
Vijay Jayaraj (M.Sc., Environmental Science, University of East Anglia, England), is a Research Contributor for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.