One of the most precious resources we have is the talent and creativity of human minds. One of the reasons that I am not a fan of an “all of the above” approach to energy is that the time and effort invested in less fruitful ways of overcoming our current fossil fuel addiction cannot be invested in nuclear fission – which is arguably the ONLY source of reliable energy capable of replacing coal, oil and gas in many existing applications.
The above video is just a small sample of what worries me about the western world’s continuing fascination with harvesting power from weak, diffuse and unreliable sources of energy. As you listen to the interview, I hope you recognize just how much creativity is being invested in producing offshore wind power plants that MIGHT be able to achieve a capacity factor of 40-50% over a 24 year operating life in the very best locations on earth. The wind industry is full of smart, creative, problem solving engineers who are doing the best job that they know how to do within the constraints provided by their employers and sources of financing.
They are making some progress, but they will never be able to engineer their way into overcoming real and frequent events like high pressure zones that stop the wind from moving for days at a time or low pressure areas that create high winds and waves that may damage the very large and vulnerably placed machinery.
They will also never be able to make it simple or safe to gain access and perform corrective maintenance on a turbine that is on a 150 meter tall tower located 10-20 miles offshore. Despite all of their best efforts, they will also never be able to ensure that they engineer completely reliable machinery because they have no control over a major aspect of equipment reliability – the environment in which the machinery operates. By their very nature, wind turbines have to be fully exposed to the elements.
I would love to be able to attract hundreds of thousands of problem solving people like Christina Aabo of DONG Energy to the nuclear field. The engineering challenges of producing reliable power systems using fission heat are just as interesting, but the final product has so much more value for the human customers.