Speed

Amory Lovins, in an open letter to Obama at Huffington Post:

These technologies scale faster than any other. No form of traditional generation — coal, gas, or nuclear — scales nearly as fast as efficiency, solar, and wind. Gigawatts of solar and wind can be added in months — not the years to decades required for traditional power plants. Cloudy Germany installed three gigawatts of solar in the month of December 2011 alone. That is 1.6 times more than was installed in the entire U.S. Germany’s scale-up has cut its solar-system costs to half of ours.

I agree on the substance. Speed is one of the advantages of wind and solar.

But I would put it in a slightly different way. Wind and solar can be deployed much faster than coal and nuclear.

As to scaling, nuclear and coal scale rather bad. While there are small nuclear reactors running submarines, you won’t find any to put into your garage or on your roof. In contrast, gas actually scales rather good. See the Zuhausekraftwerk (home power plant) project by Volkswagen and Lichtblick I have blogged about before, which wants to put many small gas generators in German basements and control them centrally.

So while I agree with Lovins on speed, I think the issue is not speed of scaling, but speed of deployment.

Published by kflenz

Professor at Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo. Author of Lenz Blog (since 2003, lenzblog.com).

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