Goodbye Sun, Goodbye Wind: Singing the Blues with Elton
When are you gonna come down
When are you going to land
I should have stayed on the farm
I should have listened to my old man
You know you can't hold me forever
I didn't sign up with you
I'm not a present for your friends to open
This boy's too young to be singing the blues
~ Elton John*
The future looks bright for nuclear energy and hydropower energy in China. At the same time, the wind goes out of the sails of the wind power, and solar power dims. If China’s decision reflects a trend, solar and wind energy proponents will soon be singing the blues. According to the March 12, 2012 Asia Pulse, “China will accelerate the use of new-energy sources such as nuclear energy and put an end to blind expansion in industries such as solar energy and wind power in 2012, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao says in a government report published on March 5.”
Why would China leave the sun and the wind as their primary renewable energy sources? More importantly, should other nations follow their example? In 2011, China’s “(average) operating hours of wind power generating units plunged by 144 hours in 2011 despite an increase of 48.16 per cent in on-grid wind power output.” Yikes. Plunge is a strong verb. It tells us: wind fails. Next we translate the solar slide. Solar disappointed by a large margin. “China’s (average) operating hours of solar power generating units also declined in spite of the tripling of installed capacity of solar PV power.” (emphasis added). We do not need to argue the claims of “green” alternative energies when they cannot deliver the output. Output is what the Chinese looked at, and output is why China is moving on ... beyond the yellow brick road.
China compared the wind and solar declines unfavorably to the severe decline in 2011 hyrdropower. In 2011, “the average operating hours of hydropower generating facilities decreased 376 hours to 3,028 hours.” The reason for the decline in hydro operation was the 2011 drought, the worst in 20 years. Overall, all non-fossil energy sources declined by a total of .3 percent in 2011, to 8.3 percent of total energy consumption. By 2015, China hopes to increase non-fossil energy to 11.4 percent. While a 3 percent increase may not sound like much, 3 percent on a China scale in only four years means an ambitious energy development plan. It will require further research to find out expected dates of nuclear construction, to determine how fast that will impact these goals.
Unlike what we witnessed in other countries who left solar or wind, China will not simply close shop immediately on sun and wind power stations. They will shift their focus and develop new energy elsewhere. Asia Pulse mentions China’s desire to increase quickly in the exploration and development of shale gas. By increasing the share of new energy, mainly nuclear, and renewable energy, mainly hyropower, China will be closer to the goal of meeting their total energy consumption needs.
Anytime a superpower makes significant headway on its energy needs, the world should wake up and put on its Air Jordans**. The world must move and move quickly. If and when China achieves energy independence, they will propel themselves into an international position of strength. In many humanitarian ways, that is good news. But only as long as freedom loving nations simultaneously maintain a safe and strategically sound balance of power. One of the best things the West can do to secure its freedom is to improve its sources of safe, secure, domestically produced energy.
Interesting to note in Premier Wen Jiaboa’s government report is the lack of any numerical figures or goals on the nuclear energy side of the equation. The goals for hyrdropower are quantified, but not the goals for the nuclear side. While long term development plans are often vague, this announcement relates to China’s fast development plans.
What is very clear in the article is that China wind and solar energies failed. This is worth re-quoting: "The operating hours of wind power generating units plunged by 144 hours in 2011, despite an increase of 48% in on-grid wind power output." And: "The operating hours of solar power generating units also declined, in spite of the tripling of installed capacity of solar PV power."
Perhaps Elton John’s lyrics speak to so-called “green energy” executives everywhere? At least, they do to me:
What do you think you'll do then
I bet that'll shoot down your plane
It'll take you a couple of vodka and tonics
To set you on your feet again
Maybe you'll get a replacement
There's plenty like me to be found
Mongrels who ain't got a penny
Sniffing for tidbits like you on the ground
In the opinion of this 17 year old American, when the Chinese will admit failure, the rest of the world should really pay attention.
So goodbye yellow brick road
Where the dogs of society howl
You can't plant me in your penthouse
I'm going back to my plough
Oh I've finally decided my future lies
Beyond the yellow brick road
*Note to Elton John: I enjoyed your concert and your songwriting immensely. Thank you for coming to Augusta, Georgia, in February 2012.
** I prefer Brooks Adrenaline GTS or the Saucony ProGrid Mirage, but more people are familiar with the Nike name.