A miracle of nature
As I write this (5 a.m. on Sunday, June 8), the wind is calm and the sun is just appearing on the horizon. Thousands of area solar panels and wind turbines remain dormant. Yet, traffic signals have displayed their alternating lights throughout the quiet night.
Hospitals are in continuous operation, as are the systems which purify and deliver our clean water. Electrically powered elevators serve occupants of high rise office and apartment buildings. Industrial machinery, which requires consistent power at a steady voltage, continues to hum. One reason that all this is happening is because down river at Prairie Island nuclear, four very big turbines turn 60 times/second. They drive generators which provide several billion low cost kwh per year, night and day, wind or calm, rain or shine. Reactor No. 2 at Prairie Island recently ran continuously for 22 months between scheduled stops for fuel change.
There is a role for variable renewable energy sources in our electric energy supply. But the electric grid system has no extra storage. Varying demand must be instantly met by dependable dispatchable supply.
Electricity is a miracle of nature. We don't really know what it is, but we have learned how to produce and control it for our benefit. Nuclear power is based on the energy released when matter is converted directly to energy, a process that produces a million times more energy than conventional burning of that matter. It is difficult to imagine a carbonless future without it.