So much for the governor’s energy plan

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has called for 70 percent of New York’s energy to come from renewable sources by 2030 (see https://www.nyserda.ny.gov/All-Programs/Programs/Clean-Energy-Standard/Renewable-Portfolio-Standard/RPS-Documents).

The following example shows why replacing a conventional power plant with a large scale solar power plant is not a bright idea.

The closure of two baseload nuclear reactors at Indian Point by 2021 will leave a 2000 megawatt (MWe) hole in New York’s electricity supply (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian–Point–Energy–Center). Governor Cuomo has touted solar power as a benign non-polluting replacement.

To simplify the calculation of what kind of solar power plant would be needed, let’s make the following fantastic assumptions which will simplify this task (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fermi–problem):

1. Daylight lasts 12 hours every day of the year.

2. Solar panels produce 100 percent of their rated output during the day.

3. Solar angle is constant throughout the year.

4. No cloudy weather.

5. Insolation (incident solar energy) in New York is the same as in California.

6. Solar PV panel efficiency remains constant with varying temperature.

The Solar Star power station in California (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar–Star) is rated at 570 MWe and occupies 3,200 acres of land. So it would take seven Solar Star power stations to replace the two nukes at Indian Point, that is, 4000 MWe. A pumped storage facility would be needed to absorb and then release the excess 2000 MWe produced during the day which would provide 2000 MWe all night; this would require the equivalent of two Blenheim-Gilboa class facilites. The solar array would occupy about 21,000 acres of land which is 84 percent of the Sacandaga Lake’s surface area when it is full. Opposition to a power plant with this kind of physical footprint would be inevitable, in my opinion.

In fact, New York has only two operating pumped storage facilities: Blenheim Gilboa (1000 MWe) and the Lewiston Reservoir (240 MWe).

Given the likely and intense opposition by environmentalists to another Blenheim Gilboa type of facility

(see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scenic–Hudson–Preservation–Conference–v.–Federal–Power–Commission)

it’s not likely that another one will be built in the foreseeable future.

The capacity of a solar power plant is not 100 percent but ranges from 10 to 25 percent.

(see http://euanmearns.com/solar-pv-capacity-factors-in-the-us-the-eia-data/); using an average value of 18 percent for New York yields a reliable baseload capacity of only 360 MWe for the aforementioned hypothetical solar power plant.

Finally and given their rather low capacity factors (see https://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/epm–table–grapher.php?t=epmt–6–07–b), large scale wind power is overblown and hydropower doesn’t hold water.

So much for governor’s energy plan.