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Port: The inconvenient truth is that renewables are making our power grids less reliable

A generator company is raking in profits because America's power grids, increasingly beholden to renewable energy sources like wind and solar, can't keep the lights on.

wind farm
This 2008 photo shows wind farm equipment on agricultural land at the Edgeley/Kulm wind farm. The Edgeley/Kulm wind farm is operated by NextEra Energy, which is planning a new wind energy project in the area. Keith Norman / The Sun

MINOT, N.D. — We're not supposed to talk about it.

There are so many political activists and pundits, corporate executives and politicians, invested in ram-rodding intermittent energy sources like wind and solar down our throats with massive subsidies and punitive regulatory policies for traditional baseload energy like coal and nuclear that speaking this truth will earn you no small amount of opprobrium.

If you're critical of Otter Tail Power's decision to sell out of the Coyote Station coal plant, for instance, you're just some science-denying rube.

But truths, particularly ignored ones, have a way of making themselves known whether we like it or not.

The truth is that the politically driven push to renewable energy, which is based more on wishful thinking than any rigorous consideration of economic and technological realities, is making our electrical grid less reliable.

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Don't believe me?

PHOTO: Coyote Station coal-fired power plant near Beulah, ND
Coyote Station is a 420mw coal-fired power station near Beulah, North Dakota. (Photo provided by the Lignite Energy Council)

Consider this data point from author and researcher Robert Bryce's column in the Wall Street Journal today : "Generac Power Systems, a company that produces home generators and other equipment, announced in July record sales of $920 million during the second quarter, a 68% jump over last year."

Why are Generac's profits up? The company recently told its investors that power outage severity is “increasing significantly," with what the Energy Department describes as “major electric disturbances and unusual occurrences” increasing 13-fold from 2000 to 2020.

It's no coincidence that wind and solar power generation have grown 5,533% and 18,336% during that same time window.

Renewable energy proponents sneer at efforts to develop carbon-capture technology so that coal plants and other carbon-heavy industries can be improved for new generations of operation. Yet, they refuse to acknowledge the palpable reliability issues inherent to sources like wind and solar.

Bryce points out that the North American Electric Reliability Corp., in a recent report, identified “changing resource mix” as the most pressing challenge to the goal of reliable power. According to that group, America's capacity for power generation “is increasingly characterized as one that is sensitive to extreme, widespread, and long duration temperatures as well as wind and solar droughts.”

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If you're unconvinced, let's consider the words of a more local source. John Weeda is the director of the North Dakota Transmission Authority , which operates under the auspices of the state's Industrial Commission.

John Weeda

During a recent meeting of the commission, Weeda said that regional grid operators are worried about reliability.

The folks at the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (or MISO) are so worried about reliability they breathed a "sigh of relief," to quote Weeda, when a deal came through to keep operating Coal Creek Station , North Dakota's largest coal-fired power plant.

Originally Great River Energy , the company which is selling the facility, had planned to replace its power generation with wind turbines. The plan now is for the company to continue buying coal power from the new owners of the plant , perhaps a tacit admission that intermittent wind energy cannot truly replace a baseload energy source like a coal or nuclear plant.

The point is not to cultivate fidelity to a certain type of power, be it coal or nuclear, solar or wind.

The point is that our decisions about where we get our power should be rooted in reality and not ideological fantasies.

Through their lobbyists and paid advertising and bought-off pundits, the proponents of renewable energy tell us that concerns about grid reliability are a canard.

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Remember that the wizards of smart told us everything was fine in the housing markets, too, as bankers invested heavily in mortgages made to people who more than likely couldn't pay them back.

Suddenly, the bubble popped, and everything wasn't fine.

The resulting economic calamity was terrible to live through but couldn't hold a candle to what our lives would be like if we lost the power grid reliability we take for granted.

To comment on this article, visit www.sayanythingblog.com

Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at rport@forumcomm.com .

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a columnist and podcast host for the Forum News Service. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com.
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