At the North American International Auto Show yesterday, Ford sponsored a discussion with Stewart Brand, author of the Whole Earth Catalog. In his discussion, he highlighted the dramatic shift in population from rural areas to urban areas in developed nations thus increasing overall energy usage.
Stewart noted that in addition to the intermittency problem associated with wind and solar, each of these forms of renewable energy takes a significant amount of land. To get one gigawatt of power from wind, it takes approximately 250 square miles of landscape. To get one gigawatt of power from solar, it takes 50 square miles of landscape. Don’t forget the fact that you need to build power lines to connect all that power to the grid (see Sunrise Power Link)
Stewart, as of late, has become a believer in either developing clean coal technology or taxing the hell out of it in order to make it a less attractive form of energy. However, it was the discussion on nuclear that raised eyebrows. Stewart stressed that increasing nuclear energy development should be at the top of our list in weaning ourselves off of fossil fuels. He recognized that environmentalists have, over the last thirty years, helped increase regulation on nuclear power plants. However, as Stewart noted, all these regulations will hamper growth in nuclear power in the US while other nations, including China, forge ahead in implementing advanced nuclear technology.
Now the question becomes, if large solar and wind projects are unattractive for any number of reasons, can the Federal government enact new policies to fast track approval of nuclear plants? While there are a number of nuclear power plants being proposed, they will likely come online by 2018 at the earliest.
The other question that is raised by Stewart’s support of nuclear power is whether it should qualify as a renewable energy source for purposes of a renewable portfolio standard/renewable energy standard?
Ford Motor Company paid for my travel and accommodations at the 2-day Driving Green Technology event, I was not compensated in any other manner for my time. My opinions here are my own.