We don't know how much it cost her, but word is that the Queen of England has put down some mega-bucks to buy the world's largest wind turbine. The 10-megawatt monster machine built by Clipper Windpower of Carpinteria, California will have a wingspan larger than two soccer fields and will stand 574 feet tall when completed. The windmill is expected to displace two million barrels of oil as well as 724,000 tons of CO2 over its lifetime. It will also serve as the flagship for Clipper's Britannia Project, an effort to produce massive new turbines on deep-sea floating platforms. If all goes as planned, the Queen's windmill will light up thousands of British homes starting in 2012. [CNN]
Ohhhh, ya had me up until "over its lifetime". So this thing is insanely expensive, and almost unimaginably huge (sounds like it'd be truly awe-inspiring), and it will get rid of 724 tons of CO2 and 2 million barrels of oil.
Assuming this turbine's lifetime is at least 15 years or so (and if it's not, then it's a real waste of resources), it'll displace about 100,000 barrels of oil per year. A year? That's the DAILY oil production rate of Angola or Petrobras alone. More than that goes MISSING daily in Iraq.
And it eliminates about 45,000 tons of CO2 a year. Heck, they did that in California by planting a bunch of trees, and that approach involves some really good wine. How much CO2 does it generate to manufacture and erect this thing anyway?
Maybe (probably) my math is flawed, but this just doesn't seem like it's worth it. Don't get me wrong... I'm a huge proponent of renewable energy. I think it's our future (especially solar), and we need to be pouring massive amounts of money into R&D for new energy sources. But the immediate requirement as I see it isn't that our energy be renewable, it's that we stop burning things to make electricity as quickly as possible. As much as I like to preach wind, solar, and other renewables, they're just not going to get us off of fossil fuels in ten years.
If we want to do that, we need nuclear power, and we need to lift the ban on used fuel reprocessing established decades ago by Carter. It's not the end solution, but it's the one we need immediately. That way, we can have the carbon-free power we need while we make solar feasable over the next two decades (hopefully less). And with reprocessing, we can actually re-use 95% of all spent nuclear fuel, minimizing nuclear waste while we work toward renewable green energy, eventually eliminating nuclear altogether.
Once we halt the burning of fossil fuels — once we're no longer spewing carbon into the atmosphere to make electricity — then we can plug in our cars or make hydrogen for fuel cells in all mobile applications without the carbon exchange at the coal/oil/natural gas power stations we have right now. That, right there, is our first milestone, and it sets us up for greater successes down the road.