Diversity is answer to energy questions

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

If you think it's been hot here, imagine living in hot, humid India and having no chance of cooling off in air conditioning.

That's the situation in the world's second most populous country, where as many as half of the nation's 1.2 billion people were without power following the largest power failure in 10 years Monday, and even a larger failure the next day.

The blackout left Indians sweating in the humid weather, passengers of at least 300 trains stranded and power companies struggling to restore power to important international businesses such as call centers.

We're thankful we rarely face power outages, but we shouldn't take electricity for granted. Southern California Edison is struggling to return two reactors to service at the San Onofre nuclear power plant after they were found to have been damaged by a design flaw.

Omaha Public Power hopes to have the Fort Calhoun nuclear plant back online in September, but only after it receives the go-ahead from federal regulators. It was shut down in April 2011 for routine maintenance, but a fire, a failure of a key electrical part and the plant's response to the Missouri River flooding have kept it offline for longer than expected.

Japan shut down all 50 working reactors after three were destroyed in last year's Tsunami disaster, but that country has restarted two of them because of the brutal cost of importing energy.

NPPD has been keeping up with summer demand, but even that utility recently asked customers to cut back to put less strain on the system.

Wind-turbine components are a common sight on Nebraska highways, but the cost of the energy produced is still higher than other sources, a situation even more true about solar power, and the lack of an adequate distribution system has hampered development of alternative energy.

A glut of natural gas combined with last year's mild winter made gas so attractive to power companies that some of them converted to gas, even forcing some coal mines to close.

That put power companies in competition with consumers for heating fuel, however, so some sources say we can expect a 2 percent increase in our natural gas bill this winter.

What's the answer?

Wind? Solar? Gas, coal or more oil exploration? Expanded hydro? Conservation through better energy efficiency?

The answer, of course, is a combination of all of the above.

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