Alternative Energy – What’s It Gonna Take?

May 3, 2010

Roger L. Simon » Has Al Gore given up on global warming? (UPDATED)

This was a good article about one of my favorite hypocrites… but there’s a gem in the comments section that cannot be overlooked:

Here’s a number you need to keep in mind: 3 Terawatts. That’s about how much power we’re using in the country right now. If that were used for 100W incandescent bulbs you’d need 30 billion bulbs. There’s no way renewable energy is going to come close to that. That would require over 2 billion square meters of 100% efficient solar panels, that’s about the same area as all the land in Rhode Island (real solar panels are about 25% efficient so you’d need to pave Delaware’s land as well). And of course solar panels don’t do too well at night, so you’d need to at least double that area, that brings us to the land area of Hawaii, plus you’d need a way to store around 40 TWh’s which simply doesn’t exist. And all that ignores factors such as clouds, dirt, animals, etc.

So what about wind? The most powerful wind turbine today is ~7 MW, so we’d need around 500,000 of them. They have a rotor diameter of 126m, so they’d have to be at least 65m apart. That means they’d take up 6 billion square meters, about the same as all of Delaware. I can’t imagine it would be good for anything flying. Now this is the peak power, so we’d have to factor in all the time that the wind isn’t blowing hard enough, or when it’s blowing too hard. Again we need a storage system for mind-boggling amounts of energy. Also, has anyone looked at the climatological effects of taking 3TW of convective energy out of the atmosphere?

Both solar and wind suffer from a fatal flaw: They can’t be controlled. Grid operators can’t dial supply up (we can somewhat do down) to meet demand, and when you’re talking about the electric grid either you balance it or it balances itself…usually in some exciting manner.

Hydro’s pretty much tapped out in the country, not to mention ecomentalists flip their shit whenever someone mentions building dams. Same thing with geothermal, unless we want to start drilling in Yellowstone.

Nuclear could do it, but whenever you mention it the ecomentalists set a record in going from zero to stupid.

That leaves fossil fuels. There’s nothing else. Especially when it comes to moving stuff. We have nothing that comes close to the power density of hydrocarbons when it comes to mobile applications, and hydrocarbons are the only energy source that’s suitable for mobile applications. Everything else (e.g. hydrogen and ethanol) are just ways to make electricity mobile.

You want an alternative to fossil fuels. I want to motorboat Scarlett Johansson. It’s good to want things, keeps us hungry.

So clearly stated.


Gulf Oil Spill – Answers, Please…

May 3, 2010

In ironic twist, BP finalist for pollution prevention award – This Just In – Blogs

BP, now under federal scrutiny because of its role in the deadly Gulf of Mexico explosion and oil spill, is one of three finalists for a federal award honoring offshore oil companies for “outstanding safety and pollution prevention.”

Seriously… heads need to roll in this disaster. Just when Americans were ready to come off the ledge regarding offshore drilling we have an unmitigated disaster with repercussions that will last for decades.


  1. What happened to cause an explosion that kills 11 workers and destroys a drilling rig?
  2. What safety procedures were in place and which procedures were circumvented?
  3. What new regulations are going to arise which hopefully will prevent this from happening again – but will also no doubt add to the cost and complexity of developing off-shore resources?
  4. Who’s responsible? The easy target is BP but I’d bet more than a few oil-free shrimp they were also dealing with a mountain of regulatory agencies pushing conflicting demands.