Wednesday, May 30, 2012

German solar power

As I've mentioned before, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) has a very good and free science magazine. The most recent edition points out that Germany just set a national record by producing 20 gigawatts of electricity via solar (photovoltaic) power: click here to read the article. This is the equivalent production of 20 nuclear power plants working at full capacity, and represents, for a weekday, about 1/3 of the country's needs; on weekends, with businesses closed, the fraction would be about 1/2. Germany also has other renewable sources of power such as windmills. After the Japanese nuclear disaster, the Germans decided to abandon atomic power plants and try to convert to solar and other renewables; the country also generates power from fossil fuels, but hopes, eventually, to phase these out along with nuclear plants.

We could do the same in the U.S.: we have a lot of land for solar and wind power and more natural resources in general. What we don't have is the will and the independence from large corporate interests. While Germany pays some of the highest rates for its power -- especially renewable power -- one can't argue that its economy is doing any worse than ours -- far from it. Like other European countries it has invested heavily in rail transit and in green technology. While they are burdened with a conservative government at the moment, their conservatives are not beholden to lunatics like many of our crazy TeaScreamers and birthers -- and they actually believe in science. They also have actual opposition parties: real socialists, for example (horrors!), who have actually governed with very positive results.

There are many things one might not like about European countries -- Germany in particular -- but they have shown that economic progress can be made in an ecologically sound way. Most of them have far more equitable distribution of wealth than we have, and all of them have better education, stronger social safety nets, and more upward mobility  -- a condition we like to call "The American Dream" -- than we do. We can do at least as well as they have in those areas where they excel provided we have the humility and desire to do so.

1 comment:

  1. Sr. Blogmeister, whereas I like the idea that the people, of the various states of Germany, have embraced solar and wind power so effectively,

    I nevertheless can't feel comfortable with the centralized approach to utilities of any kind. All centralization is fascism, and utilities must be supplied either on the family level, or the hamlet level, if mass society is to be avoided.