Thursday, June 12, 2008

Is Solar a reasonable alternative? Continued

Oak Creek Power Plant (OCPP) produces 7,070,196 MW per year (based on the maximum output and the average real production for coal plants being 70%) and resides on 400 acres of land.

Today the largest solar plant in the world, Hoya de Los Vincentes in Murcia, Spain (HdLV), produces 60,444 MW per year (based on the maximum output and the average real production for solar plants being 30% – actual results are much worse) and sits on 247 acres.

The largest solar plant under construction, Girassol Solar Power Plant in Moura, Portugal (GSPP) expected to by in operation by 2011, will produce 162,936 MW per year and operate on 320 acres of land.

If we want to have a solar plant produce the same energy as that of the current OCPP then based on what is currently in operation we would need a solar plant that would take up 45 square miles of land (about 6.7 miles by 6.7 miles). Using the technology that is currently under construction we would be able to have a solar plant that would only take up 22 square miles (about 4.6 miles by 4.6 miles)


Okay I’ve looked up all of these numbers and they are all verifiable. So let’s begin…

I decided to determine how much space would be needed for a solar plant if we wanted to replace the current Oak Creek Power Plant.

Here is what I found:

Oak Creek Power Plant (OCPP) has a capacity of 1,153 MW – what this means is that if the plant is operating at 100% capacity it can produce 1,153 MW of power in 1 hour!! They also state that they supply power to about 567,000 households and that they operate 24/7. The currently reside on 400 acres of land just North of the Racine county line.

Based on DOE averages the average Wisconsin house hold in 2006 uses 712 kW/mo or about 8,544 kW/year. This is lower than the US average in 2001 which was 10,656!

So here is the math for OCPP: If they produce at 100% for the full year they would produce: 1,153 x 24 x 365 = 10,100,280 MW

The national average output for a coal plant in only around 70% so the approximate out put for OCPP is 10,100,280 x 70% = 7,070,196 MW

Hoya de Los Vincentes in Murcia, Spain (HdLV) is the largest solar plant in the world at 247 acres and has a max capacity of 23 MW. For the year at 100% the would produce 23 x 24 x 365 = 201,480 MW

The output on an average solar plant is only 30% (the actual for HdLV is 20%!) so 201,480 x 30% = 60,444 MW

Are you still with me?

So if we want a solar plant to produce the same amount of energy as our current power plant then we would need a solar plant that is 117 times the size of HdLV (7,070,196/60,444 = 116.97)!!

HdLV is 247 acres x 117 = 28,899 acres. There are 640 acres in 1 square mile so: 28,899/640 = 45 square miles of solar panels would be needed to produce the same amount of energy that we are currently getting out of OCPP.

Maybe this will help:

The green blob is the actual area of the OCPP while the light orange would be the "proposed solar plant"

Now before I’m accused of using out of date technology (HdLV is a bit older and there are new solar plants being built that produce more energy) lets look at the plant being built in Moura, Portugal (Girassol Solar Power Plant – GSPP) which will reside on 320 acres and have a max capacity of 62 MW when it is completed some time in 2011.

Same math different facility:

62 MW x 24 x 365 = 543,120 MW x 30% (avg. real output) = 162,936 MW

Acres needed to produce same amount as OCPP = 7,070,196/162936 = 43.4 x 320 acres = 13,888 acres / 640 = 21.7 square miles

So do you really think that it is a good idea to waste hundreds of acres of land, by clear cutting the land mass and placing a solar plant on it? Senator Feingold and his ilk are out there talking about renewable energy and how we must move to it in order to attain true energy independence…but they never look at the impact that these “alternatives” will have on the environment!

Now I know what some of you will say…”I’ve checked Feingold’s website (or talked with one of his staffers) and they say that he has only supported measures such as the Renewable Electricity Standard which only requires that 15% of the countries electricity come from renewable sources.”

Well then what is 15% of the OCPP production? 7,070,196 x 15% = 1,060,529

HdLV would need to be 6.8 square miles (((1,060,529/60,444) x 247)/640)) or roughly 10 times the size of OCPP
GSPP would need to be 3.2 square miles (((1,060,529/162,936) x 320)/640)) or roughly 5 times the size of OCPP.

Neither scenario seems really worth while does it?

Get ready…I’ll talk to wind power soon…and guess what…it’s not any better!!


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