A soirée is an evening event, meaning that most soirées held in non-polar latitudes take place at a time when solar photovoltaic devices are not experiencing very many photon interactions and hence are generating very little if any electricity. So if you are throwing a soirée and need electricity, it’s wise to make sure the event is not exclusively solar powered. Fortunately the electricity grid is everywhere, and is powered by energy sources that keep running regardless of the sun’s position in the sky or the presence of cloud cover. So you never need to worry. Even if your soirée has a theme, and that theme is solar energy.
And why would you not need to worry about that? Because very few people know and fewer care about the sources that actually power the electricity grid. The grid is ubiquitous and taken for granted: you plug in an electric device and it runs. End of story.
I attended an event yesterday called Solar Soirée, which urged prospective attendees to “Be a part of Ottawa’s clean energy transition!” It started at seven p.m., and was an indoor event in a venue complete with electric lights, TVs for viewing presentations, microphones for post-presentation Q &A, etc. So, needless to say, Solar Soirée was not solar powered.
Solar Soirée featured two speakers from Europe, both firmly associated with the mainstream environmental movement. One of them, from Belgium, talked about how his renewable energy coop has signed up umpteen members and sells them electricity from solar panels, wind turbines, and small hydro installations.
I was not surprised to find that the dearth of solar photons during Solar Soirée was a matter of small concern to the other attendees with whom I spoke. In every conversation I led off with “do you support solar energy?” Invariably the answer was yes, to which I would respond “at this hour?” I thought it was funny, but nobody else did. Nor did they like my quip that the phrase Solar Soirée is an oxymoron.
The kicker in the Belgian speaker’s talk came when he described his cooperative’s encouragement of members to burn wood pellets for space heating. Why would these consumers of renewable energy need to burn a very heavy-emitting carbonaceous fuel? I mean, isn’t the whole idea of renewables to get us all off carbonaceous fuels? The speaker left that unanswered but the answer is obvious: “renewables” cannot provide enough electricity to run electric space heaters.
I found that a remarkable public admission at an event promoting solar power.
Even better, the speaker said that wood pellets are encouraged for cooperative members who don’t have natural gas hookups.
Both speakers were effusive in their praise for energy policies in “Europe,” and the Belgian was loudly and proudly anti-nuclear. A French man or woman in the audience might have been offput by such a German-centric conception of Europe. Isn’t France also in Europe? Isn’t France one of Europe’s leading states?
I say this because France runs mostly on nuclear power. As I mentioned in late March, France’s Train Grande Vitesse, the amazing high speed train, runs on nuclear electricity, thereby making train travel incredibly clean. Nuclear is also very cheap, which is why France encourages electrification of as much activity as possible, including space heating.
I also found it ironic that the event took place in Ontario. At the time of the event, most of the electricity running the Solar Soirée was coming from Ontario nuclear plants. During the event, gas-fired electricity generators in Ontario dumped around 1,200 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), the principal man-made greenhouse gas, into our air.
Well it turns out that the speaker from Belgium, who I must assume was pushing solar power because it emits no CO2, supports the dumping of those 1,200 metric tons of CO2. As an anti-nuke, he would rather Ontario’s power come mostly from gas plants instead of nuclear, which emits no CO2.
Had Ontario’s nuclear plants been replaced with gas plants, as the allegedly green Belgian speaker would prefer, we would have dumped 6,856 metric tons of CO2 in the hour of Solar Soirée. They would continue dumping that amount, each and every hour, long after he had departed in his kerosene powered airplane to go back to Belgium and his wood pellets.
We don’t need that kind of advice.