In the current debate about solar & wind energy, I find myself somewhere between the progressives and the conservatives. Admittedly, I don’t know too much about wind and solar power. My views have been influenced by the fact that I’ve lived in Germany for decades, but prior to moving here I’ve lived in several sunny areas: Florida, Texas, Arizona, Nevada, and South Carolina.
Unlike some progressives, I don’t see wind and solar as a viable source of primary power, but I also don’t agree with conservative critics who ridicule the idea of solar energy. Solar panels can be an ideal supplemental power source, especially in places like Florida, Arizona, Nevada and Texas where air conditioning is ubiquitous -- in those states it is viewed as a necessity by most people.
In such locations solar energy is particularly practical because air conditioning uses a lot of electricity. During hot sunny days there is a surge in the demand for electricity, and this corresponds to the production of solar energy. Thus this auxiliary solar power source helps power plants meet peak demand without the necessity of increasing production capacity.
Unfortunately, despite the advantages, solar power is not nearly as widespread in these sunny states as it is in Germany. Even though there is considerably less sunshine in Germany, solar power here has been promoted by the government and subsidized by the consumer for decades. Also the government has forced the shutdown of nuclear power plants.
Unlike the American South, in Germany few homes have central air conditioning. As a result they don't use as much electricity during hot summer days. Ironically, in summer during peak solar power production it sometimes occurs that the German power grid is actually forced to send excess electricity to other nations' power grids. Those nations not only get the electricity free, but the Germans are compelled to pay them to take it. At other times, Germany is forced to buy nuclear generated electricity from France and other nations when they can’t produce enough themselves. Consumers are forced to pay higher utility bills.
Recently I watched a Fox News segment that ridiculed citizens of a Californian community as being hypocritical for rejecting a solar farm because they felt it would destroy the character of the local landscape. I completely understand these people and agree with them -- these big solar farms are a waste of land and an eyesore.
Here in Germany, you will see many private homes, garages, barns and commercial building with solar panels. I personally don’t have a problem with that. But you will also see beautiful views ruined by a field of solar panels -- personally I find this abhorrent and unnecessary.
The solution seems obvious to me, it is a win-win situation. In addition to rooftops, parking lots are an ideal location for solar farms. Not only does it utilize otherwise wasted space, but it also provides shade for parked cars, and can also be more aesthetically pleasing than a simple parking lot.
Wind mills are a more complex topic, but basically, for the most part I would like to see considerably smaller versions relegated to roof tops and highways.
So when it come solar power, color me purple.
unless otherwise noted, photos by Pixabay.com