Transition to green energy needs to be an evolution, not a revolution

To borrow, loosely, from the song sung by the lead character in the play “Annie,” the sun will come out today. At least that’s what was promised in all the forecasts issued Friday by reputable weather-watching organizations. If those forecasts prove to be true, Robeson County residents will greet the bright object shining in the daytime sky — something they’ve seen too little of in the past weeks — with something akin to hysterical joy.

Sadly, that joy will be tempered by the sight of standing water on ground too sodden to absorb any more rain and by the knowledge that water is overflowing the banks of the Lumber River. The joy of sunshine will clash with concern over how far floodwaters will reach beyond the river as the rain that has fallen across North Carolina almost daily during two weeks of wet, chill weather flows south and east toward the coast, much of it passing through Robeson County.

The threat of flooding is something anyone who has lived in Robeson County for any significant length of time has learned to live with. As for the two weeks of wet, chill weather: Welcome to a typical Southeast North Carolina winter.

On the plus side, at least the lights didn’t go off and we could seek refuge from the rain and cold in warm homes. The same can’t be said for millions of Texas residents who fell victims to a rare and vicious winter storm that crippled large sections of the state’s power grid.

Texas has been forced to face a reality overlooked and often suppressed by green energy revolution warriors: Sometimes the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow. In Texas gas pipelines and power generating stations weren’t winterized properly, solar farms couldn’t generate power because the sky was overcast, and wind turbines were frozen and made useless.

The lesson the rest of us should take from the misery inflicted on the people of Texas is that energy evolution is better than energy revolution. To the Lone Star State’s credit, Texas was practicing energy evolution. The state’s power grid draws from a mix of renewable and fossil fuel energy sources. It’s just that Texas is a big state with a lot of residents and even if a relatively small segment of that grid fails, as it was in this case, a lot of people suffer.

Lumberton City Council recently provided an example of resisting the green revolution, even if its members didn’t realize it at the time. In January, Council rejected a plan to build a 30-acre solar farm on land off Lovette Road south of Lumberton. The council members cited concerns about flooding. They also voted to honor the wishes of people who objected to the solar farm.

Regardless of the motivation, the brakes were pumped on a green energy drive, and that drive must be slowed here and across the nation. Efforts to meet the power needs of this state, and nation, must be fueled by an all-of-the-above mentality. Energy grids should be built using multiple power sources and must be constructed in such a way that if one source fails the other sources can pick up the slack.

As it is, whether or not green warriors want to admit it, most renewable energy sources are not advanced enough to be the primary source of the power we need at a cost we can afford. Someday they will.

In the meantime, going green too quickly can leave us all cold and in the dark.