9:45 AM EDT, June 4, 2013
In a recent letter to the editor, Charles Campbell rehashes tired talking points and cherry picks data to attack proven renewable energy sources like wind and solar power ("Nuclear is greenest," May 28).
The old-school reliability concerns Mr. Campbell raises are most often voiced by fossil fuel companies — not the grid operators responsible for keeping the lights on. The "comprehensive study of U.S. wind power" that Mr. Campbell references is, in reality, based on data from four days in Colorado that was commissioned by the Independent Petroleum Association of the Mountain States.
In fact, wind farms and solar arrays are highly efficient at delivering power to the grid with gradual variation according to day-ahead forecasting. The "percent of design capacity" numbers Mr. Campbell cites don't keep grid operators up at night. But the threat of a single massive source of power — like a nuclear reactor — going offline due to an accident certainly does.
Emergency shutdowns at reactors happen with alarming frequency, including as recently as May 3rd at Calvert Cliffs in Maryland.
In the long-run, fuel-free energy sources can always out-compete fossil fuel and nuclear plants that require lengthy fuel extraction and supply chains. Renewable resources face only construction and routine maintenance costs — costs that have decreased precipitously in recent years.
In most parts of the country, wind energy is already far cheaper than nuclear reactors and other traditional sources. That's why wind power was the most installed energy source in 2012. Solar power installations accounted for all of the new energy capacity added to our nation's electric grid in March.
When it comes to clean, reliable and cost-effective power, renewable energy has consistently out-paced nuclear energy as the superior option.
The writer is chief policy analyst of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.
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