Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Imagine for a moment that all the wild claims of climate driven future weather disasters will occur as predicted. In this imaginary future climate dystopia, how will wind power cope with super storms? How will solar power cope with hail, tornadoes, cyclones and floods? How will hydro power cope with endless droughts? How will biofuel crops cope with storm damage, droughts and unseasonal heatwaves?
Solar and wind power lose their shine
GARY JOHNS, Brisbane
It is exquisite that we are to place our energy future in renewables, the energy source most prone to the beast that we are trying to slay: climate change.
Non-renewables, by contrast, are least reliant on climate. Come hell or high water, coal, gas and oil can be pumped, refined and burned.
Fossil fuels are our natural store built from eons of climate change. They are our insurance against the effects of climate change.
The climate change gambit has always been a Goldilocks story. The speed and damage of climate change had to be not too hot (or rapid) and not too cold (or slow), it had to be just right. Too rapid or hot and renewables would never work. Too delayed or cool and the world could wait for better technologies. Renewables seemed right only in the just right scenario.
But, what if climate change creates more clouds, calms the wind, stops rivers flowing, or wipes out bio-crops in regions where panels, turbines, hydro and biofuel stock are located?
You would think CSIRO would research the risk. But it has nothing to say.
The US Environmental Protection Agency says no more than that “the impacts of climate change on wind and solar power is still a developing area of research”.
As Gary Johns points out, even assuming that other show stopper problems such as intermittency are solved somehow, renewables can only work if climate changes at a pace which is “just right” – if the global climate does not worsen sufficiently to render them useless.
Nuclear and fossil fuel plants have their vulnerabilities, but nothing like the vulnerability presented by thousands of square miles of fragile infrastructure just waiting for the next superstorm to blow through and smash everything in sight. Or in the case of solar power, the next mild breeze which covers everything with dust.