How necessary is nuclear power? Renewable energy, including solar, wind and hydroelectric, can provide all but 6% of North Carolina’s electricity, finds a new Duke University study.
“Critics of renewable power point out that solar and wind sources are intermittent. The truth is that solar and wind are complementary in North Carolina,” says study author John Blackburn, a Duke professor emeritus of economics and former university chancellor. He adds:
“Wind speeds are usually higher at night than in the daytime. They also blow faster in winter than summer. Solar generation, on the other hand, takes place in the daytime. Sunlight is only half as strong in winter as in summertime…
“Together, they can generate three-fourths of the state’s electricity. When hydroelectric and other renewable sources are added, the gap to be filled is surprisingly small.”
The study comes as President Obama, in an effort to generate clean energy, is pushing forward with plans to build more commercial nuclear power plants. He’s offered $8.3 billion in loan guarantees for two new reactors in Georgia.
On Monday, Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced $40 million in funding awards for two teams — led by Pittsburgh-based Westinghouse Electric Co. and San Diego-based General Atomics — to design the Next Generation Nuclear Plant. Chu said:
“This investment reflects President Obama’s commitment to building the next generation of nuclear reactors that will create thousands of jobs and supply the clean energy to power our economy. It’s time for America to recapture the lead in the nuclear energy industry and lay the foundation for a stronger, cleaner, and more competitive economic future.”
The Duke study, however, prompted skeptics to raise questions.
It shows there’s no need to build expensive nuclear power reactors, said Jim Warren, executive director of the North Carolina Waste Awareness and Reduction Network, in a press release on its findings.
The study was published last week by the Maryland-based Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, whose executive director, Arjun Makhijani, called it landmark research. He said:
“North Carolina utilities and regulators and those in other states should take this template, refine it, and make a renewable electricity future a reality.”