Thursday, October 29, 2009

Natural Gas and Solar, BFF?

There have been rumblings from various sources over the past year that alternative energy, specifically wind and solar, should join forces with natural gas to each's mutual benefit. I read a short article about a speech Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. made at the Solar Power International Conference yesterday making this same point.

Kennedy suggests the pairing would help both parties, and I agree. Wind and solar need natural gas. No matter how much we spend on these alternative sources, they will always have the problem of intermittency, at least until better batteries or other energy storage mechanisms are perfected. Natural gas is a superior backup fuel to coal because natgas plants can fire up and shut down much more quickly than coal plants, and natgas is a hell of a lot cleaner than coal. The last thing alt-energy providers want to do is depend on dirty coal as a backup.

At the same time, natural gas needs alt-energy’s help because alt-energy is on the upswing in this country. It is much more popular than legacy energy sources, especially in Washington DC. Additionally, natgas has always been in the shadow of oil and coal. Nat gas needs to be independent. It sure does make a lot of sense for natural gas to hang around with the new popular kid at school, especially if the relationship benefits both parties.

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