Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Okay, I gotta get my head around this :: The Pickens Plan

Do you ever start thinking about something and it just boggles your mind and bothers you?

I had to run some rough numbers to get my head around this whole PickensPlan wind energy thing.

This appears to be a useful resource :: EIA :: Energy Information Administration :: Official Energy Statistics from the U.S. Government ::

Total U.S. electricity generation capacity is currently at about 4,065 million megawatt hours [MWh].

Here's the breakdown ::

Total U.S. Electric Power Production

According to PickensPlan (info gleaned from the home page), wind turbine power is currently at about 48 million megawatt hours [MWh] or 1% of total U.S. power production. Doing the math, that would put the figure at 4,800 billion kWh.

So, for argument's sake, let's say total current capacity is at 5,000 billion kWh.

First and foremost, which I don't ever hear anyone talking about, is the concept of maximum energy production. Under the current state of "affluenza", it's all about more, more, more. We need MORE power, more this, more that. But we don't. Can we all agree that we can't continue building power plants and extracting resources infinitely for ever and ever.

We need to come clean with the concept of using less energy, figuring out how to live the American dream consuming LESS energy.

So, given that, let's say 5,000 billion kWh is our max - the concept that we should never need more power than that.

Also according to the PP home page, the average American household uses roughly 10,000 kWh (per year). I backed into the figure by using the statement that "4,800 billion kWh is enough power to supply 4.5 million households...".

Keep in mind though, that infrastructure, commercial and industrial power needs are in the 5,000 billion kWh figure.

Now moving on to the dollars.

Pickens says $1.0 trillion for enough wind farms to bring the wind power proportion to 20% of total. Plus $200 billion for the electrical distribution/power grid.

So, corporate sponsorships with little decals on the blades of the turbines aside, let's start talking about where we are going to come up with $1.2 trillion dollars. Or let's say half that as a start - $600 billion.

The momentum of this movement will solve the land challenges - that is the easy part to me.

$600 the manufacturing capacity to build millions and millions of turbines.

According to this article on Wikipedia - "Wind Power in Texas", "The Wildorado Wind Ranch is located near Amarillo and consists of 161 MW of wind turbines (70 Siemens Mk II turbines each with a rating of 2.3 MW). These turbines have the capacity to meet the electricity demand of more than 50,000 households."

I'm not sure of the conversion from MW to MWh, but it it's linear, that would mean it takes seventy one [71] 2.3 MW turbines to generate 161 MW of power. It seems to me from driving by Wildorado, that there are more than 71 turbines, but let's go with that figure.

We need 10% from wind (remember, I am going with half of the 20% figures to start out) - so 500 billion kWh. 161 MW = mega is 1,000,000 right? Kilo is 1,000. So 161 million kWh?

I'm lost now. Any engineers out there care to help?

I'm trying to figure out how many 2.3 MW turbines it will take to provide 500 billion kWh....? I've got units/conversion issues going on. Let's just say that's a lot of turbines that need to manufactured - not to mention the manufacturing facilities that need to be built to do it. I'm sure the production capacity is not there right now.

Also, to get your head around the dollars involved, a $250 million dollar construction project is huge - like Coors Field (baseball stadium) in Denver. $4.8 billion is the final cost of the Denver International Airport. So, $600 billion dollars is huge - the equivalent of building 125 huge airports.

So, now I have my head wrapped around the problem...did this help you at all?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

MW x 8760= MWhr mutliplied by the capacity factor gives you total number of mega watt hrs each turbine can produce.

the nubmer 8760 is the number of hrs in a year. I hope this helps! and yes there only 71 turbines at Wildorado.