Thursday, July 10, 2008

Is an Answer to Global Warming Blowin' in the Wind?

Bad Astronomy has an excellent post on Dick Cheney and global warming: Dick Cheney, enemy of reality. Which brings me to the advertisements currently being run by Texas oil man T. Boone Pickens, who is saying we "can't drill our way out" of this problem.

Oil mogul and corporate raider T. Boone Pickens launched an energy plan and social-networking campaign on Tuesday that calls for replacing Middle Eastern oil with Midwestern wind.

The so-called Pickens Plan would exploit the country's "wind corridor" from the Canadian border to West Texas to produce 20 percent of the country's electricity.

Transmission lines would be built to transport the power to places in the U.S. where the demand is. The natural gas, now used to fuel power plants, would instead be used as a transportation fuel, which burns cleaner than gasoline and is domestic.

He proposed that the private sector finance the investment, which would result in a one-third reduction, equal to $230 billion, in the U.S.' yearly payments to foreign countries.
It looks like a good idea. I would like to see someone follow up on it with a solar plan for the southern states, to form an alternative energy T (well, an inverted T).

Florida, nicknamed The Sunshine State, has a significant number of sunny days. Only the Southwest has more.

As the Sunshine State, Florida is uniquely situated to exploit cheap (practically free), clean, renewable solar power. In fact, so is most of the South. Only the Southwestern United States is better situated to most effectively utilize solar power.
I'm not a scientist, but it just seems to be another idea for reducing our dependency on oil. If we can produce microchips the size of a pinhead, that hold tons of information, why can't we design smaller, more efficient solar panels, that could capture and store energy for use in at least our southern states. Thus helping to reduce our overall dependency on foreign oil. Not to mention the jobs created in this country.

What do you think?


Nan said...

I've always thought there needs to be a big push for decentralization. More rooftop solar for individual homes or factory buildings, for example, so the power grid as a whole isn't so susceptible to region-wide blackouts when something goes wrong. The biggest problem I have with Pickens plan is once again it's the mega model of power generation: a humongous wind farm with the resulting electrical power distributed over a highly centralized system -- and all built right in the middle of tornado alley.

BAC said...

Nan - I hear you about the Pickens plan, but I do think it's worth pursuing. We have to disengage from foreign oil, and this could be a start. The challenge would be to design windmills that could withstand tornado strength winds -- and possibly be able to utilize those winds to collect even more energy.


John J. said...

Speaking as someone living on the border of tornado alley, the tornado's winds are barely half the story. The real issue would be building them to withstand the debris (up to the size of cars at times) being thrown about at 150 miles an hour. Damage to the turbines is going to have to be something calculated into the cost of running these farms, just like hurricane damage has to be included in the expense of running off-shore drilling.

Solar is definitely where it's at. Nevada, with the technology we have now, could run on solar power alone and still have electricity left over (even with Las Vegas). Germany, a country that gets about the same amount of annual sunlight as those northeastern states on that map, gets about 30% of it's electricity from solar. It is completely possible, using a mixture of these technologies and a couple more (including a limited nuclear contribution) to largely replace fossil fuel generated electricity.

Mary Ellen said...

Here's some interesting news on solar panels...

Japanese Shell subsidiary plans solar-panel plant
Posted by Hanna Sistek 1 comment

Corrected July 9 at 6 p.m. PDT: This blog initially stated that CIS reached an efficiency of 20 percent. The studies showing that efficiency used a higher light concentration than the studies of CIGS efficiency. When comparing the two, CIS has a lower efficiency of around 15 percent.

Royal Dutch Shell subsidiary Showa Shell Sekiyu, Japan's fifth-largest oil refiner, plans to invest 100 billion yen, or about $938 million, in a solar-panel megaplant, according to AFP.

The planned factory will produce panels with the cumulative annual capacity to produce 1 gigawatt of power, equivalent to that of a small nuclear-power reactor.....

Squirrel Queen said...

I'm with you on an increase in solar energy as an effective way to reduce our fossil fuel needs. I've alwas wondered why that hasn't been implemented more frequently.