An article in the Los Angeles Times points out a problem that few proponents of green energy have considered: the existing power grid was not designed to deal with the fluctuations and unpredictability of green energy power sources.
As it is, the power grid is an extraordinarily complex and fragile system. An array of highly-trained engineers work alongside a complex of supercomputers to make sure that the power generated by plants is distributed without interruptions to the individuals and businesses that use it. In the current system, the power is generated in predictable amounts and at predictable times.
The major variables in the current power grid are on the user side. A user might use more power from one day to the next. He flips switches on and off at unscheduled times. The existing power grid is designed to make power available consistently for whenever an inconsistent user might need it. But green energy challenges that paradigm. More and more, the sources of green energy are even more unpredictable than the users’ demand:
Green energy is the least predictable kind. Nobody can say for certain when the wind will blow or the sun will shine. A field of solar panels might be cranking out huge amounts of energy one minute and a tiny amount the next if a thick cloud arrives.
Green energy experts are looking into ways of making green energy more feasible for the current grid. One of the most obvious ways has to do with storage. If the inconsistent variations of green energy were stored before they were distributed to the grid, the storage facilities could make sure that power was still available predictably.
One way or the other, it will cost a lot of money to reformat the grid for green energy. Most people consider the power grid to be part of the infrastructure of our economy (like the road system), and as such, most people think it is the civil government’s job to make it work well. Because of this, green energy fanatics want to place the burden of energy transformation on the shoulders of the civil government. But unforeseen difficulties with the power grid could make the transition to green energy prohibitively expensive. Does that mean it shouldn’t be done? I don’t think so.
I think the real solution here, and one of the most promising aspects of green energy, is the possibility of decentralizing the grid. If local users were encouraged to offset their energy usage with personal or local green energy collectors and electric storage facilities, many problems with the current grid would be solved. For one, if the sun stopped shining or the wind stopped blowing, local users would be the only ones affected. As it is, the centralized grid makes local outages a general problem.
Conservatives have traditionally been adversaries of the intrusive political apparatus that surrounds green energy. I think we need to rethink our strategies. Green energy could free our power infrastructure from centralization and re-introduce a level of local autonomy and self-sufficiency that has been greatly lacking in our society for many years. The problem with green energy just highlights the problems with centralized power. Green energy requires nuances of reaction that centralized systems cannot properly address. In the same way that local energy could fix these deficiencies, local government has the capacity to react to local situations in a more robust way. Increasing the funding to centralized systems to make them even more complex and far-reaching is not the solution to our problem. We need to utilize this opportunity to flank our opponents. Give them the green revolution the local way. It might be more of a revolution than they’re bargaining for.