Letter to the Editor: Good riddance, fossil fuels

A recent letter is an example of using superficial thinking, oversimplified rationalizations and cherry-picked information to present a misleading picture of a complex situation (“Fossil fuels still needed more than attorney general’s lawsuit suggests,” Oct. 9). George Roof’s letter did two things: First, it trashed the state attorney general’s legal actions against some fossil targets, and second, it trashed the present trends and goals in the power industry to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy sources.

I will address only a fraction of the mistakes concerning the second matter.

Roof said that a 2-megawatt windmill costing $4 million and lasting 20 years would not pay for itself. To check that claim, I assumed eight hours of generation per day and each one kilowatt-hour, which is of electricity billed at an average estimate of 10 cents each. Two megawatts – which is 2,000 kilowatts – is a rate, so to get total energy it is multiplied by the time period. 

I get a gross income of $11.6 million over 7,300 days. It sure looks to me like there is plenty of income to pay for the windmill. (The formula looks like this: 2,000 kilowatts X 8 hours per day X 7,300 days X $ 0.10 per kilowatt-hours = $ 11.68 million.)

As a retired scientist, I follow, to a considerable degree, the progress in renewable energy as it appears in the general business media. All over the world there has been, in the most recent decade, a massively greater growth in renewable electricity-generation capacity compared to fossil generation. There have been further reductions in costs of all components and reductions in battery costs. New battery technologies have been discovered. Passive gravity energy-storage methods are in the proof-of-concept stage. Larger proportions of cars on the road every year are electric. And even several battery-powered commercial aircraft are nearly through the flight trials needed before they carry paying passengers. The battery-powered cargo ship Yara-Birkland is under construction in Europe. Eventually, decades from now, and assuming continual technical progress, I expect that most, if not all, heat-generation needs, cooling needs and motion-generation needs will be satisfied with renewable power sources.

The idea that we should be living with dirty, smoky, ashy coal, as well as exhausty-carbony oil, glow-in-the-dark nukes (with toxic radioactive waste that will be around for 50,000 years) is absurd.

It has an overall effect on climate which has an overall effect on humans. For the climate-deniers, I can show you — in less than 10 minutes on the internet — how to get the numbers you need to prove to yourself that if all the ice at the South Pole and on Greenland melted tomorrow, all of Delmarva would be underwater tomorrow.

Arthur E. Sowers