The latest analysis of wind power in the UK is not optimistic:
Analysis of hard data from National Grid shows that wind behaves in a quite different manner from that suggested by study of average output derived from the Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs) record, or from wind speed records which in themselves are averaged. It is clear from this analysis that wind cannot be relied upon to provide any significant level of generation at any defined time in the future. There is an urgent need to re-evaluate the implications of reliance on wind for any significant proportion of our energy requirement.
The team used a more realistic, yet still optimistic, production number — 50 grams per square meter per day. They determined it would take 11 square miles of open ponds making 14,000 tons of algae a day to replace 50 million gallons of petroleum diesel per year — about 0.1 percent of the U.S. annual diesel consumption — with an eco-friendly algae alternative.
Let’s see. If 11 square miles can provide 0.1% of US diesel consumption, then 11,000 square miles or 7,040,000 acres, of algae farm should green up every diesel engine in the USA. According to the USDA, this country had some 2,260,994,361 acres of farmland in 2007, so algae farms would consume only 0.31% of that, which sounds great. However, algae needs a LOT of water, so I suspect most of it would need to be farmed on IRRIGATED farmland, which comprises only 51,615,963 acres. Oops! Algae farms would consume 13.6% of that land, and that’s land currently used to grow…FOOD. This could turn out to be another corn-likker ethanol monstrosity, with higher food prices, no improvement in fuel prices, and even more farmers and Big Ag companies (“Archer-Daniels Midland proudly supports Public Broadcasting”) on the government dole.
Update (10 April). This bit of Australian carbon credits fraud doesn’t reassure me.
Update (16 April). More moonshine about growing algae for fuel. Now the estimate is 19,000,000+ acres (the area of South Carolina) to cut our oil imports by 17% (OK, so I underestimated. Sue me.). A gang of jokers at the Pacific Northwest Research Lab seem to think we can squeeze that much flat, wet land–land that “isn’t farmland or parkland”– out of the Gulf Coast, Southeast Seaboard, and Great Lakes states. (Great Lakes? can you say algaecicle?). I can’t wait to see someone take up the environmental impact statement for this Pie in the Sky, roll it into a tight paper cone, and shove up the collective PNRL nose. Interesting how CALIFORNIA didn’t make the list as a potential algae farm, innit?