MicroLesson Four: Be able to explain why alternate methods of electrical generation did not come to be early on.
It's easy for us to think that we should just switch to wind or solar power and eliminate the harmful environmental effects of coal, but the issue is cost, and it is the same issue that has prevented the wide adoption of alternative power generation since the late 1800s.
In many regions, such as ours in Ohio, a kilowatt hour of electricity generated by coal or fracked natural gas is less expensive than wind or solar power. Since electric companies are for profit businesses, they will always seek the most profitable methods of generation.
Currently the cost of solar and wind power is rapidly declining, so there will be a period in time where the alternatives will be competitive. The other issue to consider is that coal and nuclear are always-on power sources whereas wind and solar only work when the wind is blowing and the sun is shining. Like anything else, the answers are complicated, but cost and always on flexibility are key considerations.
The main takeaway from this lesson is that coal was used to generate electricity historically because is was the least expensive and most practical method of production.
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