Forgoing the Nuclear Option
A Florida utility, Duke Energy Florida, has decided to use funds from the building of nuclear power plants towards establishing a larger solar energy footprint in the Sunshine State. Nuclear energy generation sits in a unique place among other greenhouse gas-free power sources.
While nuclear power plants do produce clean energy, they also produce dangerous waste that we do not have the proper infrastructure to handle. Also, the plants themselves do pose a significant risk in the event of a disaster. A recent report by the EPA, which seeks to boost the dying coal and nuclear markets, places blame on their decline in natural gas and renewable energy sources. However, it does not seem that the energy market shares this goal.
Duke Energy Florida has decided to stop working on building a nuclear power plant to service western Florida. Instead, they are investing $6 billion to install 700MW of solar capacity to service the region.
Cleaning Up the Grid
The formerly planned nuclear plant was set to deliver 2.2 GW of energy, so, unfortunately, the proposed solar project will not meet this energy goal. Even so, the Tampa Bay Times believes that this decision is a signal that Duke "is effectively giving up its long-held belief that nuclear power is a key component to its Florida future and, instead, making a dramatic shift toward more solar power." Duke has set a goal to raise their solar power generation in Florida to about 8 percent of its 8,500-megawatt capacity.
Solar power can go a long way to make regional grids cleaner, yet, given various current limitations, it is impossible for every region to be solely powered by solar energy. A concerted effort is needed to employ the entire spectrum to renewable energy to ensure our freedom from fossil fuels, without having to rely upon nuclear energy.