Statistics

Wind & Solar Power Are Fake & Gay

Update: Original title—-Every Inch of Texas, California, Oregon, And More, Are Needed To Supply Wind Power To The USA—was too unwieldy. Changed.

From Nate Winchester comes this email with a fun back-of-the envelope problem:

I was reading some energy debate comments when a thought struck. So I decided to check this.

Per the US Energy Information Agency the USA consumed 92.94 quadrillion Btu in 2020.

1 megawatt = 3,409,510 Btu.

That means in 2020, the USA consumed 27,259,048,954 megawatts (or 27.25 billion).

Now per In The Footprint of Energy: Land Use of U.S. Electricity Production, Strata Policy found that wind power requires 70.64 acres per megawatt and solar power requires 43.50 acres per megawatt.

That means to go green, just for 2020, wind power would require 1,925,579,218,128 acres. Solar power would require 1,185,768,629,499 acres.

The ENTIRE land surface of the earth is 36,803,875,537 acres.

Meaning IF we assume that renewables are operating optimally AND assume that they are doing so at all times, we could cover the ENTIRE surface of Earth with wind & solar and still not generate enough energy for the United States ALONE – much less any other nation.

Did I miss anything or make an error?

Let’s write it out so everybody can follow along. Step one, yes, the EIA says 92.94 quadrillion BTUs were consumed in 2020. That’s 92.94 x 10^15 BTU. This is also written 92.94E15 in shorthand.

I went to a site that does conversions and discovered 1 megawatt = 3,412,141 BTU/hour. Pretty close to your figure, and surely within the uncertainty.

That means the US consumes

1 MW/(3.41E6 BTU/h) * 92.94E15 BTU = 27,255,131,965 MW h = 27.26E9 MW h,

or a 27.26 billion MW hours.

Now according to your source on land use for WIND:

According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, large wind facilities use between 24.7 and 123.6 acres per megawatt of output capacity. Most of the area is due to necessary spacing between turbines, which is typically five to 10 rotor diameter lengths. According to Tom Gray of the American Wind Energy Association, the average total land use for wind is 60 acres per megawatt. Such extensive land use requirements become staggering when considered on a national scale. For example, for a wind facility to match the output of a 1.3 square mile 1,000 megawatt nuclear plant, it would need an area of approximately 85,240 acres or 133 square miles.

Let’s use the 60 acres/1 MW figure, recalling there are about 8760 hours per year, and the other figures are all by year (the notation we left out).

Then

(60a/1MW) * 27.26E9 MW h * 1 year/8760 h = 186,712,329 acres.

As we remember from middle school 1 mile^2 is 640 acres. Thus

186,712,329 a * 1 m^2/640 = 291,738 m^2.

So we’d need 292 thousand square miles, which is roughly 1/13 of the entire land surface of the USA, of windmills turning constantly to provide all the energy we need in 2020.

Texas, for instance, is 269 thousand m^2, so we’d need all of Texas, and a great chunk of Louisiana, just for windmills.

If instead the 123.6 acres per megawatt is correct, we’d need 600 thousand m^2. So we’d have to add all of California and Oregone, too (there is no misspelling). And that’s not considering all the constant maintenance and breakdowns, and calm days!, which would put a good chunk of the system off line a lot of time.

Meaning we’d have to add even more land to get consistent power. Add in Washington and New York. Every inch of them.

In short, wind is not the answer.

How about solar? That same source says:

Consequently, utility scale solar requires an average of 8.1 acres per megawatt capacity of electricity generation and thermal solar plants require 10 acres per megawatt capacity. These estimates include land used for access roads and transmission lines. Unlike wind, this land is unusable for other purposes.

Call it 10 a/MW. Then, using the similar calculations, we’d need 48,623 m^2. That’s a good chunk of South Carolina.

It’d be more than this because of the space needed for transmission lines. Also, since in my places it gets dark at night, and cloudy from time to time, we’d need to boost these figures even more. Call it double as a conservative guess.

That means roughly 100 M^2, which is Kentucky.

Solar won’t do it either.

Solar projects can be hobby-type or small-scale augmentations, but wind is a boondoogle from the get go. Not only are windmills massive land grabbers, they are inefficient, prone to costly breakdowns, and butt ugly landsores. Not to mention all the dead birds.

They make certain people feel good, though. And isn’t that what it’s all about?

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Categories: Statistics

44 replies »

  1. This is a gold rush, PURE UNADULTERATED GREED. Calculations are irrelevant, since it is assumed that at least as many percentagewise as the gold rush will die in this endeavor. Destroying the planet is just a bonus in this game so dead birds and destroyed ecosystems actually acheive bonus points for the demon getting all the cash (this is Satan’s game). Just as in the Gold Rush, laws and rules DO NOT COUNT. It’s all about MONEY AND GREED. So calculations should only be made as to what greedy landowner scum and what greedy billionaires are earning, as the biggest earner with the most destruction is the winner.

    This is NOT about electricity nor was it ever. It matters not how many die cold and starving as long the rich and greedy get richer and greedier. If the game continues, those kids you hate and pimp out for TV commercials are going to die in a bloody hell, which as far as I can tell, is exactly what you want. Starvation and freezing probably net points to the players in the game. After all, Cuomo murdered thousands of old people and was only brought down by fondling women. As long as the greedy planet destroyers are not caught fondling women, murdering millions is just fine in this game.

    Have a nice day.

  2. Didn’t I hear that the whole of Earth’s population could fit comfortably in the state of Texas?

    Think how well the US Population could fit in Texas (or some other state since it’s just US)

    We could divide the rest of the country into food and energy sections (whichever made the most sense)

    Phineas J Whoopie! You’re the greatest!

  3. But (as Frreman Dyson explained) carbon dioxide is necessary for life, and more carbon dioxide leads to more life on earth.

    And CO2 doesn’t have a significant effect on climate.

    So we don’t want to reduce CO2 after all! Quite the opposite.

    Good news, eh?

    What? Our leaders don’t seem to be pleased by this good news. It’s *almost* as if climate change was just a Big Lie to justify totalitarianism…

  4. That’s missing the point. You’d have to cover that much land to power the current population, at current rates of consumption.

    The plan, of course, is to power a much smaller population, where the owners of the large plantation-estates use electricity at the current rate, and their serfs live in mud huts and cook over communal dung fires.

    Wind and solar are sufficient for that.

  5. Average availability of wind and solar is about 25%. So you need to multiply your estimates by at least 4. You also need to allow for transmission losses and storage for the night and windless days. 100% renewables totally in feasible!!

  6. Average availability of wind and solar is about 25%. So you need to multiply your estimates by at least 4. You also need to allow for transmission losses and storage for the night and windless days. 100% renewables totally infeasible!!

  7. On the charmed Italian island of Sardinia – two Colossuses are presently engaged in a Greco-Roman-Wrestling match over energy planning. One giant proposes dotting much of the agriculturally rich lowlands and pastoral mountain landscapes with millions of inter-connected Solar Panels, and visually fencing (just some of) the pristine Coastlines with sea-fields of interconnected PowerGeneratingTurbines – so that THEN – in future an undersea electricity transmission cable can be constructed powering cities on the mainland 300 KM away (making all the Sardinians into wealthy electricity merchants – à la the McKinsey Consulting vision for ENRON in America). The other giant would retain the essentially rural-pastoral-agricultural character of the lands – but would allow a natural gas pipeline for transporting Algerian/African LNG across a South/North axis – eventually servicing European industrial consumers through the mainland port of Genoa. The solar-wind giant thinks that the isolated island’s small scale traditional agriculture is woefully backward and inefficient – and, that unimpeded views of expansive coastlines are a luxury which Italians / Sardinians / & Visitors can no longer afford (we must all sacrifice for The Planet). The gas pipeline giant thinks that perpetual wages from pipeline engineering and maintenance and fuel brokering/transportation management would be an incredible boon to future generations of land proud Sardinians; and that a suitably sized pipeline would have nearly imperceptible aesthetic impacts on the landscape after remediation through re-forestation. By and large the gas pipeline giant has popular support from local elements long in favor of National Independence for the Island. Supporters of the opposing solar-wind electrification Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Net-Carbon-Zero future think that The Sardinian Flag is racist – but don’t live there – or understand any of the local languages. {https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flag_of_Sardinia#/media/File:Flag_of_Sardinia,_Italy.svg}

  8. This was the topic of my Master’s thesis 18 years ago. I took the US hourly electricity demand for the year 2000 (aggregated from all the regional power authorities), and ten years of hourly wind and solar flux data from a couple of dozen locations, and ran them through a MATLAB model (yes, a model!) to calculate the land area and energy storage requirements to run the US on 100% renewable energy. The aim was to find a system that could “work” over multiple years without draining the critical storage system. For the purposes of the exercise, all conventional power plants were assumed to have vanished.

    Numerous simplifications, of course: transmission losses were ignored (huge); energy storage was represented by simple input and output efficiencies; wind turbines and solar panels were represented by simple parameters and assumed to never fail or require maintenance; land was assumed to be flat and suitable for building on, and so on.

    But the numbers were huge. The energy storage system alone ended up being about the size of the conventional power grid, and even the best locations (Nevada for sun, the Great Plains for wind) required staggering amounts of land area. If you were to take practicalities into account, like proximity to demand or maintenance, it would be multiples of the figures I arrived at. It was a fun exercise.

  9. and your calculation is assuming the available wind energy is on average evenly spread out across these areas. I suspect that that’s not the case and even more land may be required. But I am no meteorologist.

  10. 1 megawatt = 3,409,510 Btu. Wrong! Mw is power, BTU is energy.

    (60acres/1MW) * 27.26E9 MW h * 1 year/8760 h = 186,712,329 acres.
    This is so wrong! If you look at those units, you’ve got acres * h * h = acres.

    There is no reason to multiply acres/1Mw by 8760h.

  11. Dang, why does this happen to me? Try again…

    It’s not just the massive land grab needed for wind farms….what about all of the materials?

    One 3-MW turbine contains:

    335 tons of steel
    4.7 tons of copper
    1,200 tons of concrete (cement and aggregates)
    3 tons of aluminum
    2 tons of rare earth elements
    Zinc
    Molybdenum

    https://www.americanexperiment.org/so-you-want-wind-turbines-but-dont-want-copper-mines/

    As the American Experiment article notes, conventional power plants (coal, natural gas, nuclear) require about one ton of copper to produce on megawatt of electricity, whereas wind and solar can require between three and five tons per megawatt.

    Briggs notes that the U.S. consumed 27.25 billion megawatts in 2020.

    This means that going “all green” might require between 82 and 136 billion tons of copper, and that doesn’t doesn’t factor the massive transmission lines needed to carry this wind energy to population centers, often running through pristine wilderness areas.

    Meanwhile, these same “environmentalists” (largely funded by Russian and Chinese shell corps) are trying to shut down mining in the U.S., including a large modern (deep underground) copper mining operation in Minnesota’s Iron Range.

    What to do, what to do…Asian and Third World slave labor will always be in their go-to business models, but for “Green Energy” supplies, what about Greenland?

    Remember all the grief and ridicule that the Manson Media gave Pres. Trump, when he suggested we offer to buy Greenland? One leader of that Manson Media is the Washington Post, owned by Jeff Bezos. Turns out, Bezos, Bloomberg and Gates are investing in Greenland themselves, for its mineral wealth, to mine nickel, cobalt, platinum and copper, for their electric cars:

    https://www.theepochtimes.com/mkt_morningbrief/bill-gates-and-jeff-bezos-backed-mining-firm-to-seek-electric-vehicle-metals-in-greenland_3942041.html?utm_source=Morningbrief&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=mb-2021-08-11&mktids=52691b3245bb57b9882ccb116b1bcd57&est=niumGMH3ew8ShU%2B%2FENVZn1ogq32gEPuxGPZcRPHSlZ3ugVYo62WxZUPZ01kUEwqTZg%3D%3D

    As the Epoch Times article notes:

    “Kurt House, KoBold’s CEO, said the Greenland region has seen “the rare convergence of events in Earth’s history that could have resulted in forming a world-class battery metal deposit.”
    Disko-Nuussuaq covers a more than 1,000-square-mile area that is expected to be high in nickel, cobalt, platinum, and copper, according to BlueJay.

    “The announcement comes as top Democrat officials in recent months have said they are pushing automakers to manufacture more electric vehicles.

    “Last week, President Joe Biden said during a White House event that he wants to make half of all new vehicles sold in the United States electric. The 50 percent target executive order signed by Biden, however, is not legally binding.

    “The biggest thing that’s happening here is there’s a realization, on the part of both labor and business now, that this is the future. We can’t sit by,” Biden told reporters on Aug. 5.

    “Biden has also called for $174 billion in government spending to boost electric vehicles, including $100 billion in consumer incentives. An infrastructure bill that passed in the Senate on Tuesday includes more than $7 billion for electric vehicle charging stations.”

    So let’s put on our happy faces: Our Overlords will periodically allow us to leave our homes, masked up of course, and hop into our tiny electric cars, where our mileage and routes will be carefully traced and taxed. These cars will be powered by the vast landscape of Chinese-manufactured windmills, solar panels, and mega-transmission lines, funded by U.S. taxpayers and ratepayers who are already $30 trillion in debt.

    In Germany, they de-commissioned their nuclear power plants because of a Jane Fonda movie, and then figured out it cost $20 billion for every $3 billion worth of “green” energy produced, and this is why they’re building a natural gas pipeline to Russia.

    But we are bigger and smarter than Germany, and this time, Green Energy, and the fascism that it requires, will be done right, beginning with changing the name “fascism” to “public-private partnerships.”

  12. Some years ago in South Africa entrepreneurs were attempting to raise funds to build prototype desert-based towers with enclosed solar heated bases creating quite a high volume of air flow up through tower-enclosed (venturi) turbines to generate electricity. Quite a feasible renewable energy source project for desert or near desert regions, I thought, but the politics there were so difficult that it never came to fruition. It’s been said that the solar energy of the Sahara alone could power most of planet earth.

    There are certainly feasible renewable options out there but not yet solar panels or windmills.

  13. You didn’t factor in that all the energy we currently produce is going to be devoted to mining cryptocurrency in a few years time! 😉

  14. Solution: Devise process taps into unlimited supply clean-burning natural stupidity.

  15. As I understand it, availability of wind turbines is assumed to be 20%. Since the calculations are based on “per megawatt of output capacity,” the need for turbines and land will be about 5x for that of an equivalent nuclear facility.

    In fairness, it would be slightly less than 5x because nuclear generating stations are assumed to have 90% availability, while coal plants have 85% availability. Availability, in the case of nuclear and coal is a function of outages for turbine and boiler maintenance and nuclear refueling. Wind turbine availability is due to the intermittency of wind (mostly at night, and useable wind speed between 5 and 20 mph).

    Most nuclear and coal plants perform better than these assumptions, while wind usually performs worse. Wind turbine outages are generally unplanned–due to the ravages of weather–while servicing a turbine 300-400 feet in the air is a logistics nightmare. Nuclear and coal plant turbines sit indoors at ground level, making regular servicing easy.

  16. Mark, the original article cited was wrong in that Hate equated MW with BTU and not BTU/h. But, Briggs’ equation yields just acres. The aiches cancel.

  17. I find it interesting that, per the EIA web page, 39% of renewable energy sources (the biomass sector) emit carbon. Biomass emits more CO2 per BTU than, say, natural gas. On the other hand, ‘renewing’ the biomass pulls more CO2 out of the atmosphere, so maybe it’s a wash in the environmentalists’ handbook. Even so, 84% of the energy used in the US in 2020 emitted CO2. Add in another 9% for nuclear and 2.6% for hydro, so over 95% of the energy used in the US comes from “bad” energy sources. (Yes, the environmentalists hate hydroelectric because they hate dams:

    https://shiftwa.org/democrat-governor-jay-inslee-and-his-green-friends-want-to-cripple-washingtons-hydroelectric-power-system/

    https://www.ghpud.org/newsletter/648-september-energy-newsletter-2020/file

    One thought I had on biomass. If you believe, like I do, that the trajectory for the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is controlled by basic economics and human nature, and not by any conceivable governmental efforts, then we know with certainty that the level of CO2 in the atmosphere will be much higher in the future. My understanding is that CO2 levels have been much higher in the past, but not a whole lot lower, even at today’s rising levels, because plants are essentially on a starvation diet of CO2. So it makes sense that plants have adapted to this near-starvation level of CO2. An analogy would be desert plants, starved for water – they survive, but they would make a lousy candidate for a biomass source, no matter how much you watered them. Perhaps we could start breeding plants for higher CO2 levels, and achieve, say, an order of magnitude efficiency in turning CO2 into biomass? If this breeding program were successful, we could abandon all the futile and hugely expensive efforts to reduce CO2 emissions, knowing that we have a plan in-hand for the future.

    I believe I first saw this referenced on this blog, but it bears a rerun; do an Internet image search for “recycled wind turbine blades”. Suggestions include playground equipment (hollow tubes) and using thin sections for wall shelves. But apparently most are just buried. (This isn’t a completely fair criticism, though – I have no doubt that a better solution can be developed.)

    BTW, for units conversion, I use this one:

    https://www.onlineconversion.com/

    (Actually, I rarely use the web page, I bought the local install version, since I use it so much, and have for years now.)

  18. Ann: They are mining in those countries with brown and black people, so it doesn’t count. As long as it’s not in the USA or Europe, it doesn’t really matter.

    Hagfish: If only we could.

    We have nearly zero wind all summer. Thankfully, it’s the Californian dying of heat stroke as their electricity fails. Couldn’t happen to a nicer group. (And yes, it’s LIE the wind always blows in Wyoming.+

  19. Solar belongs in two places: your roof, not arable land (what is the surface area of the nation’s roofs?); and baseload power generated nearly 24×7 by locating the PV panels on large platforms in geostationary orbit, sending the power back via a diffuse (for safety) microwave link to rectifying antennas located in deserts, brownfields, etc. Space-based solar power is feasible; every space power including China have performed the requisite studies and tech demonstrators.

  20. Mark,

    Briggs understands what is power and what is energy, even if it is done in a funky looking way. He is taking the 92.94 quadrillion BTUs and converting it to power output needed by dividing by the hours in a year. His calculations are right- I triple checked them. The confusion arises from the first part where MW is being misused instead of MWh, but Briggs did account for this by dividing by the hours in year.

    92.94 quadrillion BTU x (1MWh/3.41 million BTU) gives the conversion to total enery in MWh, but the land use is in power output/acre, so the term in the clause above must be divided by the hours in a day for wind and I would argue hours of usable daylight in a year for solar. That gives you the power output in a moment in time for both sources on average, if both are fully operational at all times during the day of utility.

  21. for a humanoid who enjoys pretending to write about uncertainty, you sure profess an awful lot of certainty!

  22. Yancey Ward

    Since there is no storage, I would argue that daily energy production is irrelevant because electricity generation must match demand every second. You must be able to cover the peaks, making a bad situation worse.

  23. Shecky,

    Where is the uncertainty? It isn’t like we are suddenly going to find windmills and solar panels that can be stacked right on top of each other- the space requirements for both aren’t going to obey any kind of Moore’s law technological leap. The only real leaps available are finding solar technology that converts 70%+ of incident radiation, or space based solar collection, and neither of those are going to happen any time in the next 100 years, and the former is probably impossible to ever scale. You will need a Texas or more for today’s needs, and another Texas tomorrow since power consumption is only going to go up.

    There is only one solution to not using fossil fuels for the next 100 years- nuclear.

  24. I think that Cord hit it! “The plan, of course, is to power a much smaller population,….”. That is the plan.
    God bless, C-Marie

  25. Mark, then I don’t understand your first comment at all. You were criticizing Briggs for a mistake he didn’t make. Yes, the calculations use no storage factors, but all Briggs and his commenter were doing were calculating how much land is required for all wind or all solar production of energy consumption. Briggs did it correctly. Storage of excess production is a whole different problem.

  26. @Mark & @Yancey – Thank you both. I’m a bit rusty on energy math which is why I was reaching out for others to double check my math and catch any mistakes. You know – practicing science. 😉 I have a habit in my day job of checking to see if something is even possible theoretically in simplified, optimal conditions before even trying to tackle the actual practical issues of a challenge. One day it occurred to me to see if anybody had done it with energy production.

    Also it can be tougher to find the raw data on things than you think it should be – even with mighty Google at your fingertips.

  27. 335 tons of steel
    4.7 tons of copper
    1200 tons of concrete
    2 tons of aluminum
    2 tons of rare earth elements
    Plus, aluminum, zinc and molybdenum

    One 3-MW Wind Turbine

  28. I make mention (again?) that there are developments on the horizon which challenge ANYBODY’S dire warnings concerning man’s purported energy crisis – and that includes the present mania involving carbon dioxide (NOT ‘carbon’) emissions …

    It is too bad that even the scientific community has not heard of this development (LET ALONE promote it) BUT the concept does require a slight re-write of the ‘postulates’ upon which underpin QM and THEREIN lies the rub; WARNINGS TO ALL who would challenge the ‘high priests’ in physics to whom QM is the be-all and end-all of ‘theories’ atomic. If one is interested in this sort of thing, one only need click my name (I’m NOT selling anything, just informing ‘those with ears’) and save me the need to post a relevant link or two.

  29. OH what the heck – here is BrLP’s latest ‘overview’ of this tech (WHICH mainstream so-called ‘science’ will not mention the name of): https://brilliantlightpower.com/pdf/Overview_Presentation.pdf

    Cutting to the quick (b/c no one has time to ‘read for content’ anymore): This technique takes the ‘bare’ Hydrogen atom and kicks the electron down to a _lower_ energy level, quite below the QM postulated “ground” state, thereby releasing 100x to 200x the energy of ‘burning’/combusting Hydrogen with Oxygen.
    PS, this is similar to what the electron does when 2H + M -> H2 + M. See “The Chemical Elements and Their Compounds”, Volume I, Sidgwick, 1950, “2H to H2 is non-radiative energy transfer requiring a neutral, energy-absorbing ‘mass’ for the process to take place.”

    So, a liter of water COULD power a 250 kW rated power-plant in a car some 2,000 odd miles. Yes, I said it. A car that ‘runs on water’ … well, the Hydrogen IN that water anyway.

  30. @John B()
    re: “Bush, Obama and BoJo were/are high on hydrogen as well”

    Have you seen what Hydrogen Mine Futures have done lately?
    .
    .
    .
    Do I need it? Just in case: /s (sarcasm closing HTML tag)

  31. _Jim

    One would expect Hydrogen [Mine] Futures to be quite high

    The availability of “free”/”bare” Hydrogen is kind of the point or is that the point?
    Using “QM”, sending the Hydrogen down this “QM Rabbit Hole” yields more energy than it took to split it off

    Without reading it, it’s sounding like something out of The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov

  32. Using “QM”, sending the Hydrogen down this “QM Rabbit Hole” yields more energy than it took to split it off (?) (should have been a question mark at the end) ?

  33. re: “Using … Hydrogen … yields more energy than it took to split it off (?) ”

    Um, yeah. FIRST tell me you read my prior posts (in this thread) with the Comprehension Boolean == True before we continue this ‘back and forth’. Furthermore, we aren’t going to get anywhere unless you’re sharp, awake, and open to a few new ideas …

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