It is amazing how quickly the technological and political landscape can change over a period of only four years. At this point during the 2008 presidential campaign, then-candidate Barack Obama was touting a promising future that featured scads of new jobs in the green energy business. The United States would be able to solve two problems with one bold stroke. It didn’t quite pan out that way. The Solyndra website leads off with its promise of “Clean and Economical Solar Power from Your Large Rooftop,” only to note that the bankrupt firm has suspended operations in order to evaluate its reorganization options.
This brutal reality reflects one insuperable difficulty with these renewable energy sources. Today, as in 2008, no one has found a way to store them except at a prohibitive cost. Unlike the much maligned fossil fuels, wind and solar power must be used when they are created, whether needed or not. Both wind and solar power sources are highly variable, so that, all too often, they are in greatest supply when they are least needed. In the absence of a seismic technological breakthrough, they are doomed to remain boutique sources of energy that cannot be counted on to power the economy going forward....continue reading my weekly column at Defining Ideas.