So much for the governor’s energy plan

To the editor:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has called for 70% of New York’s energy to come from renewable sources by 2030 (see https://www.nyserda.ny.gov/All-Programs/Programs/Clean-Energy-Standard/Renewable-Portfolio-Standard/RPS-Documents) and Gov. Cuomo has touted solar power as a benign, non-polluting replacement. The following example shows why a large-scale solar power plant is not a bright idea.

The closure of two baseload nuclear reactors at Indian Point by 2021 will leave a 2000 megawatt (MWe) hole in New York’s electricity supply. (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_Point_Energy_Center.) So to simplify the calculation of what kind of solar power plant would be needed, I made the following fantastic assumptions, which will simplify this task (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fermi_problem):

1. Daylight lasts 12 hours every day of the year.

2. Solar panels produce 100% of their rated output during the day.

3. Solar angle is constant throughout the year.

4. No cloudy weather.

5. Insolation (incident solar energy) in New York is the same as in CA 6. Solar PV panel efficiency remains constant with varying temperature.

The Solar Star power station in California (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_Star) is rated at 570 MWe and occupies 3,200 acres of land. It would take seven Solar Star power stations, about 4,000 MWe, to replace the Indian Point power plants because a pumped storage facility would be needed to store the excess 2,000 MWe produced during the day and release 2,000 MWe all night; this would require the equivalent of two Blenheim-Gilboa-class plants. The solar array would occupy about 22,000 acres of land, which is 88% of the Sacandaga Lake’s surface area when full. Opposition to a power plant with this large a physical footprint would be inevitable, in my opinion.

New york has only two pumped storage facilities: Blenheim-Gilboa (1,000 MWe) and the Lewiston Reservoir (240 MWe). Given the likely opposition by environmentalists to two more Blenheim-Gilboa facilities, I doubt they would ever be built. Over 40 years ago, Con Ed proposed a 2,000 MWe pumped stored facility at Storm King Mountain, and it went nowhere. (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scenic_Hudson_Preservation_Conference_v._Federal_Power_Commission.)

The capacity factor of a solar power plant is not 100% but ranges from 10 to 25% (see http://euanmearns.com/solar-pv-capacity-factors-in-the-us-the-eia-data/); using an average value of 18% for New York yields a reliable baseload capacity of only 360 MWe for the aforementioned hypothetical solar power plant.

Finally, and given their rather low capacity factors (see https://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/epm_table_grapher.php?t=epmt_6_07_b), large-scale wind power is overblown, and hydropower doesn’t hold water.

So much for Cuomo’s energy plan.

Charles F. Heimerdinger



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