In January 2012 the San Onofre nuclear power plant, which provided power to 1.4 million homes in Southern California, was closed for repairs after engineers found hundreds of defective cooling tubes. On June 7, Southern California Edison (SCE) voted to permanently close the plant, leaving California residents concerned over potential blackouts during hot summer months.
Hearings will be held on San Onofre’s shutdown, but SCE stated that since the plant was out of operation, overall carbon emissions have increased. SCE went from having 50 percent of its energy production carbon-free in 2011 to 30 percent in 2012, the year of the initial shutdown. The company had to turn to natural gas to make up for the loss in nuclear energy.
The permanent closure of San Onofre also marked the 2,000-megawatt milestone for utility-scale solar power in California, doubled from 1,000-megawatts last September. Solar power has expanded rapidly in California as a result of high insolation and community support.
As a result of programs such as Governor Schwarzenegger’s Million Solar Roofs initiative and the California Public Utilities Commission’s California Solar Initiative, the state now leads the nation in the total number of homes which have solar panels installed.
While the burning of fossil fuels produces roughly 21.3 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, solar power is emissions-free. Advantages of solar energy include its renewability as a resource, its long-term economic benefits, and its potential to create jobs.
Some, however, say that the disadvantages associated with solar energy are enough to discredit it. These disadvantages include high initial installation costs, relative inefficiency, and–according to Discovery News–the threat it poses to entire ecosystems, as they kill insects that other species rely upon.
Wind energy also seems a strong contender in the race for renewable energy. In 2004, wind energy in California produced 4,258 million kilowatt-hours of electricity, about 1.5 percent of the state’s total electricity — or, according to the California Energy Commision, “more than enough to light a city the size of San Francisco.” Theoretically, there is enough potential wind energy in the U.S. to power the entire country.
Wind energy is also emissions-free, it is non-depletable, and, due to its modular nature, capacity can easily be added as necessary. While the power is currently more expensive than that produced by natural gas-fired plants, the price of wind power is not affected by fuel price increases or supply disruptions.
Additionally, there is currently a federal tax credit for wind generation. However, there are several disadvantages as well, including erosion in desert areas, usage of large tracts of land, disturbance of wildlife habitats, and more than 573,000 avian deaths each year.
Both wind and solar power have considerable advantages, widespread support and great potential to become major sources of power for both the state and the nation. According to a 2010 report, cost-minimized combinations of wind power, solar power and electrochemical storage could power the full electric grid up to 99.9% of the time by the year 2030.
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When solar because super efficient and cost-effective, it'll definitely take off. But as with any energy ordeal, I think it should come from multiple sources. The San Onofre shutdown brings some short-term issues with providing carbon-free energy, hopefully it's not going to be long-term. I tend to be a fan of nuclear energy, but my concerns is always nuclear waste storage.
I still think we should not dismiss nuclear energy. I support finding renewable sources of energy because it seems to be the most economically viable solution in the long-term, but I don't think we should give up on nuclear as an option for one of the alternative sources of energy we look to for sustainable energy.
I dont think we are in a position to get worried about nuclear waste disposal considering our current rates of waste disposal of all our other energy industries....we'll have to author a comprehensive initiative using each strategy (wind, solar, hydro, nuclear, alternative fuel) in sufficiently low enough rates to minimize each unintended consequence.
Just a guesstimate, but... Probably due to the fact that the turbines can drastically change the local wind patterns. When you take air that is not typically spiraling when it moves over an area, and then you add in turbulence and disruptions to those flows, I suspect it has an influence on, and can perhaps change the weather in certain areas. Wind is very much like water.. so you can probably think of it, perhaps like.. when you pour sugar in a glass of tea and it just sits on the bottom.. but if you stir it and develop cyclonic action in the glass, it spreads the sugar out.. This is probably similar to what happens, but again, I'm not a climatologist so yeah.
Hi Charlotte, I have actually seen this ted talk :D but thank you for linking it! (I deal with lifestock regularly, and this talk is very informative to those who don't, and it is very true that livestock do cause a regeneration of plantlife, helping to stop erosion and other situations.) We even have people in our area who's livestocks only purpose is to feed on overgrowth and undergrowth in National Parks to help keep them less wildfire prone. Most people know nothing about the intricacies of the circle of life we have going on.
Though I think Alex was asking about how turbines cause erosion in already established desert areas (as a negative to placing them there), rather than forming deserts from plains..? (though this certainly sounds like a possibility if all of those areas are closed/fenced off to grazing..) But I am not sure, perhaps I misunderstood. Nice comment either way.
interesting theory...i thought it might just be because the turbines physically impede on plant life. Saw a ted talk about how moving herds of livestock churning and fertilizing soil while cleaning dead brush was the only effective strategy against desertification, and if grasslands are covered in turbines I can see desertification following close behind. It's actually a really interesting talk from a scientist with a lot of livestock experience if you have 19 minutes to see it: its the second on this TED playlist: http://www.ted.com/playlists/91/everything_you_thought_was.html