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Baumeister: Looking for New Power Sources? Whale Fat Is Still Available

One thing Florida has is a lot of sunshine. Although this shows it setting in Key West on Easter Sunday, it came back in full force the next day to make more Florida electricity. (Photo by Dave Baumeister)
One thing Florida has is a lot of sunshine. Although this shows it setting in Key West on Easter Sunday, it came back in full force the next day to make more Florida electricity. [Photo by Dave Baumeister]
Columnist Dave Baumeister comes back from Florida not with cash for his 2024 Presidential bid but with some sunny observations on cheap and plentiful solar power.

Greetings, Blogophiles!

A few weeks ago, I threw COVID caution to the wind and took a trip to Florida. 

While there, I learned all about Donald Trump’s favorite state’s love affair with renewable energy, so I wanted to talk about power production, renewable energy and capitalism, among other things.

While in Minnesota and Iowa, and now starting in South Dakota, we see many wind turbines, but in Florida, I was noticing many fields of solar panels.

There is a good deal of land down there that seems to be recovered swampland, which can’t be farmed or be built on with large structures, so solar panel fields are good options.

According to their website, Florida Power and Light says they are big into renewable technologies.

Now I imagine that while most DFP readers are big into renewable energy, there are plenty of others thinking that oil and coal are the only ways to effectively produce electricity.

People who think that are very much incorrect.

In a very simplified explanation, coal and oil are burned to produce steam, and that steam turns the electromagnets in generators. The energy created by those electromagnets is captured, and, thus, we have electricity. 

(I learned a few things when I spent two years working in a power plant.)

However, fossil fuels being burned is not the only way to turn giant rotors. Generators can also be turned by wind power, and hydropower.

The big difference here is that power companies don’t have to pay for water and wind, but they do have to continually pay for oil and coal, which are destroyed in the process of producing their electricity.

As far as solar panels go, it may seem silly, but they are converting sunlight into energy to produce electricity, which is, essentially, producing electricity to produce electricity.

But until the technology exists to allow all homes to affordably own their own solar panels and batteries, electric companies are able to use their own solar fields.

After all, they are still getting the power to turn their generators that doesn’t destroy itself, and, as of yet, no one has figured out how to charge for sunlight.

And from what I saw, in Florida, electric bills there are very reasonable compared to what I pay in the Midwest.

Since oil companies, coal companies, and power companies are three completely different types of businesses, I suspect the people who own the power companies are going to do whatever they can to make money for their stockholders. And having cost-free energy sources to turn their turbines is what they are going to go with.

Forget about politics; good, old-fashion capitalism will control the market and whatever products will be purchased.

I imagine the oil and coal companies once made the whalers of New Bedford and Nantucket, Massachusetts feel the same way when their products took the place of melted blubber in providing light.

So, if any of you think you need to take a stand and argue against coal and oil, remember the comparisons I make here.

As long as there are better and cheaper technologies that will allow power companies to make more of a profit, renewable sources of energy will continue to be developed.

And fossil fuels, with their one-time use, will continue to go the way of melted whale fat.


  1. David Bergan 2021-04-24 09:26

    Good article!

    My favorite aspect of solar power is that it can give each home a measure of energy independence. If I can get enough electricity from my own shingles and batteries, I’m not as vulnerable to the grid going down due to disaster or terrorism.

    Kind regards,

  2. David Bergan 2021-04-24 09:32

    e.g. If I had personal energy independence, I wouldn’t have to worry about the power going out in a big storm and my sump pump stopping when I need it most. That happened…

  3. John 2021-04-24 11:20

    Thanks for sharing, Mike. Great oped.
    That (Koch and ALEC) is likely the same source of greedy evil as prompted the Black Hills Energy petition to the SD Public Utilities Commission to make economic entrapment and enslavement of South Dakota solar panel holders.

    Refer to my note (2021-04-24) and links, on: Legislature Repeats Workforce Housing Study, Likely to Ignore Root Cause of Shortage.

  4. V 2021-04-24 13:07

    Very inspiring and uplifting. Thank you

  5. Mark Anderson 2021-04-24 14:56

    Well Cory, you really need to read FPLs history with solar energy. It really isn’t a walk on the beach.

  6. Arlo Blundt 2021-04-24 17:20

    well…for a great history of whaling ad its link to the slave trade read “The Empire of Necessity” by Greg Grandin…about the economy of whale oil, molasses production, rum, and the transportation of slaves by New England Puritans in the 1820’s, 30;s and 40’s …..and what Melville was getting at in writing “Moby Dick”,,,also a fascinating story about seal hunting and slave revolts aboard ships transporting them to the Americas.

  7. jerry 2021-04-25 10:31

    Why is it that every time there is a plan to build a windfarm or solar farm in west river, it suddenly disappears? Hint, the utility company here does not want that. They would rather go for broke paying for the Texas debacle than allow renewable energy here. Minnesota has to pay out over $800 million for the recent Texas storm, no one asks South Dakota how much we consumers are gonna have to pay out for not having enough renewable energy to sustain a major hit in the market. I would wager that South Dakota is close to that Minnesota cost.

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