July 28, 2005

"footprint vs. industrialized area"

A stubborn dialogue has been in progress in Grist magazine's comments section. Here is the latest entry.
The brochures from the industry point out that each turbine's footprint is only a little 250-square-foot concrete pad. That's like saying a 747's footprint is only a few square feet (where its tires touch the ground).

The fact is they require a lot of space around them, thus turning huge areas of rural and wild landscape into industrial "parks."

The National Geographic figure is apparently based on the nuclear plant having an 85% capacity factor and the wind plant having a 33% c.f. (again, based only on the industry brochures and not on actual experience). Even with that c.f., but using the actual average space required per megawatt in actual wind facilities (as recognized by FPL Energy -- the largest wind plant operator in the country -- and the EPA) -- 50 acres -- the wind plant equal to the 0.5-sq.mi. 1000-MW nuclear plant would be 200 square miles.

But real-world capacity factors would require a larger wind plant, perhaps 2.5 times more if we go by actual electricity used according to the EIA (as already described).

And because wind-generated power is highly variable, and output falls off cubically as the wind drops below the optimal 25-30 mph, the output -- whatever the c.f. -- would be equal to or more than its annual average only a third of the time. Another third of the time, its output would be zero or near enough.

You'd still need that nuclear (or coal) plant to provide reliable electricity.

I don't like fossil and nuclear fuel any more than you do, but wind power isn't going to make them go away. It won't even significantly reduce their use.

You are the one touting pie in the sky -- and consequently the pointless destruction of the last rural and wild landscapes in the country.
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