By William Newell

Imagine you’re in a car traveling down I-5 at 60 mph. The car has been modified with solar panels to supplement the car’s gas engine. Suddenly, as you’re driving down the highway, the sun disappears behind the clouds. In order to maintain your current speed, one of two things needs to happen: Another “idling” engine needs to kick in, or the main gas engine needs to “rev” up.

This hypothetical situation is similar to how the electrical grid works. The electric grid, just like the car, needs back-up generators and large high-capacity generators to make up for the times when wind and solar power fail. Often it’s natural gas or coal plants which fill the gaps. These power plants either continually operate without producing electricity as “spinning reserve,” or they operate less efficiently because they are “revved” up and down constantly.

Now, you can probably see the major drawback to subsidizing intermittent energy sources. It is because they rarely create enough sustained electricity to maintain grid stability; and power plants must “spin” or “rev” up and down, meaning little emissions savings are actually achieved.

If our government leaders continue to preach about saving the environment and reducing emissions, they may want to look under the hood to see if their plan will really work.

William Newell is a research associate at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization. He is a graduate of Willamette University.


No comments yet.

Leave a Reply


Listen Download Mp3
Categories: Publications

Other Publications by

More On These Topics

This Thanksgiving, Are You Part of the One Percent?

Steve Buckstein | November 25, 2015
You may not have learned this in school, but prior to the 1623 Thanksgiving celebration in the Plymouth colony it had the equivalent of a ...  read more

Freedom in Film and Fiction: A Cascade Series

Kathryn Hickok | November 24, 2015
Since 2013, “Freedom in Film and Fiction” has been an occasional series of book and film reviews housed on Cascade’s blog Cascade Insider. We’re moving ...  read more

Educational Savings Accounts: The “Smartphones” of Parental Choice

Kathryn Hickok | November 18, 2015
Yesterday the Senate Interim Education Committee of the Oregon Legislature held an informational hearing on Educational Savings Accounts, or ESAs. The focus of the hearing ...  read more