Monday, October 31, 2005

Solar power holds more promise than nuclear

The State | 10/31/2005 | Solar power holds more promise than nuclear

A couple of articles recently have called attention to the benefits of hydrogen as a clean fuel and as the basis of an industry that can boost the economy of South Carolina.

That’s good, but unfortunately the same articles are looking to hydrogen as the savior of a moribund nuclear industry.

Nuclear power is moribund for good reason. It is inherently dirty, bringing radioactivity into our world where it must be dealt with safely for periods of time two or three times longer than the entire duration of human civilization so far. Methods to ensure a level of nuclear safety that inspires confidence have not worked out yet.

Consequently the cost of nuclear energy, including all the burdens that the industry sloughs off on society, is too high, and the industry flounders. Tying nuclear energy to hydrogen, a clean fuel, does nothing to redeem nuclear energy from its fatal flaw.

Further, tying hydrogen to large-scale, highly centralized energy infrastructure is a mistake. Hydrogen can be produced and used locally, using small-scale and diversified technologies. There is no economy of scale associated with hydrogen production, storage and utilization.

The amount of solar energy falling on our state is many times our need. It can be captured on rooftops, parking lots and agricultural shelters scattered over the land and converted to hydrogen on the spot, where it can be stored for use as needed.

Making that vision economically viable should be the goal of our research. Consider the benefits of an industry that creates entrepreneurial opportunities for small businesses and employs lots of people locally in high-quality jobs.

Consider the benefit of everybody being in the energy business, saving or making money as operator of a mini-utility.

Consider the benefit of energy that is immune to power outages and independent of foreign sources.

Consider an energy infrastructure that can start with one small installation at a single location and be built, one small piece at a time, until it covers the land.



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