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Solar and Wind Power Now Cheaper Than Coal Power in the U.S

It’s cheaper to use solar and wind power in the USA, than traditional coal power. Good news for solar and wind power companies, and a vindication for clean energy activists and lobbies.

Solar Panels

It might mean more jobs in the energy sector if production of solar and wind power systems increase, and more electricity generating stations are built.

However there is a catch, it’s also reported that natural gas (a fossil fuel) is a possible replacement for traditional coal power plants, meaning we’re still not quite off of fossil fuels, but this is still a step in the right direction.

“…WASHINGTON — It’s less costly to get electricity from wind turbines and solar panels than coal-fired power plants when climate change costs and other health impacts are factored in, according to a new study published in the Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences…”

“…We find that for most SCC values, it is more economically efficient (from a social cost–benefit perspective) for the new generation to come from any of these cleaner sources rather than conventional coal, and in several instances, the cleanest sources are preferable to conventional natural gas. For existing generation, for five of the six SCC estimates we examined, replacing the average existing coal plant with conventional natural gas, natural gas with carbon capture and storage, or wind increases economic efficiency. At the two highest SCCs, solar photovoltaic and coal with carbon capture and storage are also more efficient than maintaining a typical coal plant…”

There’s a big issue looming here just under the surface, and that is, if natural gas is chosen, and the CO2 from burning the fuel is not released into the atmosphere, then where does it go?

What is Carbon Capture and Storage?

Carbon capture and storage is a more P.C. way of saying that instead of releasing the carbon (CO2) into the atmosphere, they will drill a hole into the ground, pump the CO2 into that hole, and seal it off.

Yes, that’s right. They don’t use it for anything productive, they simply pump it into the ground instead of the air. Not to mention it costs money.

Wikipedia explains Carbon Capture and Storage like this:

“…Carbon capture and storage (CCS) (or carbon capture and sequestration), is the process of capturing waste carbon dioxide(CO2) from large point sources, such as fossil fuel power plants, transporting it to a storage site, and depositing it where it will not enter the atmosphere, normally an underground geological formation…”

Is There Risk of Leakage?

Sure… But it’s a small risk.

“…A major concern with CCS is whether leakage of stored CO2 will compromise CCS as a climate change mitigation option. For well-selected, designed and managed geological storage sites, IPCC estimates that risks are comparable to those associated with current hydrocarbon activity.[37] Although some question this assumption as arbitrary citing a lack of experience in such long term storage.[38][39]CO2 could be trapped for millions of years, and although some leakage occurs upwards through the soil, well selected storage sites are likely to retain over 99% of the injected CO2 over 1000 years.[40] Leakage through the injection pipe is a greater risk…” ~Wikipedia

So What Can We Do With The CO2?

We can use the CO2 as a feedstock for algae. Some species of algae produce large quantities of oil (a kind of veggie oil) which can be used for the production of plastics and biofuels.

The biomass leftover from oil extraction can be used as feedstock for other animals and plants. We can also use algae for vitamin supplements as well.

“…Recycling CO2 may offer a response to the global challenge of significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions from major stationary (industrial) emitters in the near to medium term, but is usually considered a different technological category from CCS.[53] Technologies under development, such as Bio CCS Algal Synthesis,[54] utilises pre-smokestack CO2(such as from a coal-fired power station) as a useful feedstock input to the production of oil-rich algae in solar membranes to produce oil for plastics and transport fuel (including aviation fuel), and nutritious stock-feed for farm animal production.[54] The CO2 and other captured greenhouse gases are injected into the membranes containing waste water and select strains of algae causing, together with sunlight or UV light, an oil rich biomass that doubles in mass every 24 hours.

The Bio CCS Algal Synthesis process is based on earth science photosynthesis: the technology is entirely retrofittable and collocated with the emitter, and the capital outlays may offer a return upon investment due to the high value commodities produced (oil for plastics, fuel and feed)…”

If we’re going to use natural gas, and continue to use coal, while we rebuild on energy infrastructure, it makes sense to capture the CO2 and use it in a productive way instead of just pumping it into the ground and forgetting about it.

The old “Out of sight, out of mind.” mentality needs to stop. Pumping waste chemicals into the ground is no better than pumping it into the atmosphere. It only buries a problem and does not deal with it.

On the bright side, we’re moving forward, and solar and wind technologies are being considered a replacement for fossil fuels.

And that is a good thing.

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SOURCE: Solar and wind power now cheaper than coal power in the U.S. | The Raw Story.

IMAGE SOURCE: Solar Panels

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