Which alternate energy sources make most sense?


14 Feb 2016   Lethbridge Herald

I thank Mr. Schaupmeyer for his cost assessment of the application of wind turbines to our future energy needs, with back-up energy facilities and without coal-sourced electricity ( Jan. 28). I also thank Mr. Voutsinos for his considerations when gas turbines are the main back-up to wind turbines (Feb. 6). The contributions relate to the following recent events:

1. On Nov. 20, 2015, the Alberta Climate Change Advisory Panel submitted its recommendations to the Minister of Environment;

2. Two days later Alberta government announced the phaseout of coal burning electricity plants in 15 years;

3. On Dec. 12, 2015, most countries of 195 agreed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions (Paris agreement). The present technology of burning coal is a major source of greenhouse gases and needs to be phased out globally. Which energy source(s) do we choose as the best replacement for coal plants? These plants supply some 55 per cent of our electricity. With respect to intermittent energy from wind, the back-up energy may be sourced from the following:

1. Thousands of wind turbines in many locations in Alberta; or

2. Natural gas turbines with greenhouse gas emissions; or

3. Nuclear power with unresolved waste issue; 4. Combination of the above. The following alternate sources of back-up energy do not apply in Alberta: 1. Hydro (not enough); 2. Biomass (not enough, costly, and misuse of organic matter);

3. Geothermal (remote locations and too costly);

4. Solar (not enough for 3-4 months of the year and too costly, as yet).

Which combination of energy sources makes the most economic and environmental sense? Which combination is sustainable?

Future electrical energy secured without cheap coal will be expensive. Unsubsidized prices for electricity will control consumption, a form of demand management to reduce emissions.

The German government is convening a “round table” of key players — including unions, energy firms and environmentalists — to develop a schedule for the exit of its 40 coal-burning power plants by 2040. This schedule is to be completed in 2016.

Klaus Jericho