One major issue with many supposedly "green" energy sources is reliability, and another is maintenance. Both issues are highlighted in a strikingly honest report in today's New York Times by Kate Galbraith. Credit where it is due. Some of the problems reported:
...in regions where homeowners have long rolled their eyes at shoveling driveways, add another cold-weather chore: cleaning off the solar panels. "At least I can get to them with a long pole and a squeegee," said Alan Stankevitz, a homeowner in southeast Minnesota.
So after a big snowstorm, your electricity supply is reduced or terminated, if you are depending on solar. Be careful when washing those panels - wouldn't want to damage them. They're expensive
In January 2007, a bus stalled in the middle of the night on Interstate 70 in the Colorado mountains. The culprit was a 20 percent biodiesel blend that congealed in the freezing weather, according to John Jones, the transit director for the bus line, Summit Stage.
Luckily, nobody was killed. The company is not using biofuels during cold months any more.
Winter may pose even bigger safety hazards in the vicinity of wind turbines. Some observers say the machines can hurl chunks of ice as they rotate.
"It's like you throw a plate out there and that plate breaks," said Ralph Brokaw, a cattle rancher in southeast Wyoming who has 69 wind turbines on his property. When his turbines ice up, he stays out of the way.
Impaled by an icicle headed your way at high velocity. Nice. Oh, and once again, cold weather can reduce the power production, though winds are generally higher in winter than in the summer months. Hope you don't have electric heat. Hope your gas or oil furnace will turn on without electricity, too.
Operators of the electrical grid do not worry much about the seasonal swings, because the percentage of production from renewable energy is still so low - around 1 percent of the country's power comes from wind, and less from solar panels. ...
But as renewable energy becomes a bigger part of the nation's power mix, the seasonable variability could become more of a problem. Already, power developers are learning that they must make careful plans to avoid the worst impacts of ice and snow.
Keep in mind the unreliability and hazards of alternative power the next time Obama sings the praises of green energy and tells us how wonderful it will be when he shuts down coal powered facilities.