Myths about Solar Energy
Posted June 13, 2008on:
“Solar energy only works in the daytime, and it can’t provide the reliable power we need.”
Solar thermal power plants can store energy during daylight hours and generate power when it’s needed. The Solar power plants collect the sun’s energy as heat; Ausra is developing thermal energy storage systems which can store enough heat to run the power plant for up to 20 hours during dark or cloudy periods.
“Solar energy is too expensive for mass adoption.”
While PV solar panels are still coming down in cost, they are still well above the costs of utility-scale generation. Solar thermal power plants such as Ausra‘s generate electricity by driving steam turbines with sunshine. Ausra‘s solar concentrators boil water with focused sunlight, and produce electricity at prices directly competitive with gas- and coal-fired electric power.
“We would have to cover too much land with solar power plants.”
Solar is one the most land-efficient sources of clean power we have, using a fraction of the area needed by hydro or wind projects of comparable output. All of America’s needs for electric power – the entire US grid, night and day – can be generated with Ausra‘s current technology using a square parcel of land 92 miles on a side. For comparison, this is less than 1% of America’s deserts, less land than currently in use in the U.S. for coal mines, and a tiny fraction of the land currently in agricultural use.
“Solar is too small to help with climate change.”
Today the electric power industry is growing in the U.S. and worldwide while facing unprecedented changes in the regulatory environment. It has become clear that to preserve a climate similar to today’s, most human emissions of carbon dioxide will need to be eliminated by about 2050. Studies have shown that solar thermal power can, at very reasonable cost, eventually provide the majority of American electric power. To impact global climate change and American dependence on energy imports, renewables will need to replace many of our existing power sources. One coal-fired power plant emits as much CO2 as 1 million cars, so replacing our electricity generation with renewables will have the greatest impact on climate change.