Texas is increasingly at risk of winter blackouts
It has been nearly three years since Winter Storm Uri caused more than 24 million Texans to suffer through four days of rolling power outages due to inadequate electricity supplies. …
Today, I’ll be participating in a hearing on the benefits of nuclear power in the Minnesota Senate Energy and Utilities Finance Committee. You can tune into the hearing by clicking the video below when the hearing starts at 3 p.m.
I’ll be discussing why nuclear power is superior to wind and solar in four main ways: national security, reliability, affordability, and environmental outcomes.
Nuclear power offers superior national security benefits because they are reliable assets that store 18 months of fuel on-site. This fuel can be mined in the United States or imported from friendly countries like Canada or Australia to offset the imports the U.S. currently gets from Russia.
The vast majority of the world’s solar panels are produced in China. Many of the components are made by enslaved Muslim Uyghurs who work in factories powered by coal. Additionally, many of the metals used in solar panels, wind turbines, and battery storage facilities are mined or refined in China, according to the International Energy Agency.
We do not want to become beholden to China for our energy in the same way Western Europe has become beholden to Russia.
Nuclear plants offer superior reliability to wind and solar. In 2019, Minnesota nuclear plants generated 97.2 percent of their potential output, whereas wind turbines averaged just 32.6 percent, and solar panels averaged only 17.3 percent.
In other words, nuclear power is a perfect pour while wind and solar are mostly foam.
What’s more important than average electricity generation is the fact that nuclear shows up to work when it is needed most, but the wind does not.
Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration show that Minnesota’s small fleet (1,657 megawatts) of nuclear power plants produced more electricity than the entire wind fleet (22,000 megawatts) in a 15-state region for several hours during February of 2021.
Put another way, for some hours in February, wind produced only 57 percent of the output of Minnesota’s nuclear fleet, despite the fact that there is 13 times more wind capacity on the regional grid than Minnesota’s nuclear fleet.
Wind and solar advocates often argue that battery storage will provide the needed solution for the unreliable nature of wind and solar. However, an analysis from Wood Mackenzie finds that there will be just 740,000 megawatts of battery storage capacity globally by 2030, which is about one percent of Minnesota’s annual consumption.
In other words, there won’t be enough battery storage globally in 2030 to power Minnesota for four days.
Data from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission show Minnesota’s nuclear plants are some of the lowest-cost power producers in the state. These plants are far more affordable than new wind and solar when the full costs of these sources are accounted for.
Nuclear is also a much better value than wind and solar. Wind turbines and solar panels only produce one-third and one-fifth of the electricity generated by nuclear on a per-megawatt of installed capacity basis. This means we would need to build three times as many wind turbines and five times as many solar panels to get the same amount of energy as a nuclear plant.
Furthermore, nuclear plants last for up to 80 years, whereas wind turbines last for 20 years and solar panels for 25 years. This means wind and solar would need to be rebuilt multiple times over an 80-year timeframe, causing them to be much more expensive than a new nuclear plant.
Sunlight and breezes may be “free,” but it is expensive to generate electricity with wind turbines and solar panels.
Nuclear also produces superior environmental outcomes. The graph below shows wind generation versus natural gas generation during February of 2021. As you can see, natural gas generation increases as wind generation falls.
This means that the grid, as a whole, is emitting more carbon dioxide using a combination of wind and natural gas than it would if we had a nuclear-powered grid, which, as we saw above, produced steady, reliable power during this month.
Nuclear should have unanimous support because it is a common-sense way to provide the secure, reliable, and affordable energy conservatives prize while also delivering the superior reductions in greenhouse gas emissions prized by liberals.
This is why American Experiment has argued that Minnesota should seek to replace existing coal plants with new nuclear facilities when the coal plants have reached the end of their useful lives. Building new nuclear plants would provide an offramp for emissions while maximizing reliability and affordability.
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The legislature appropriates more money, the unions grab it for salaries, the school board cuts middle school band, and everyone blames the legislature for underfunding. Rinse and repeat.