Let's consider what a wind-powered hospital in New York might look like. NYU's Langone Medical Center lost power shortly after Sandy hit. The hospital had diesel-fired emergency generators, but basement flooding caused them to fail. [One would think that lessons from the Japanese nuclear disaster would have taught us something, but I digress.] [The power failure] required the evacuation of hundreds of patients.
Assume the hospital needs one megawatt of emergency electricity-generation capacity. Lives are at stake. It needs power immediately. That capability could easily be provided by a single, trailer-mounted diesel generator, which would occupy a small corner of the hospital's garage (and be safely removed from any flooding threat).
By contrast, providing that much wind-generation capacity would require about 5.6 million square feet of land—an area of nearly 100 football fields. And all of that assumes that the land is available, the wind is blowing, and there are enough transmission lines to carry those wind-generated electrons from the countryside into Lower Manhattan.Last year the mayor of New York pledged $50 million to Sierra Club's "Beyond Coal" campaign. The WSJ suggested he won't be making a similar pledge for Sierra Club's parallel "Beyond Oil" campaign.
But I bet there are a few folks in NYC wishing the major had pledged $50 million to shore up conventional utilities in case of global warming catastrophes that have been predicted since at least 1992 by Al Gore. Wow, a short synopsis of how long folks have had to prepare for global warming disasters predicted by Al:
Gore became interested in global warming when he took a course at Harvard University with Professor Roger Revelle, one of the first scientists to measure carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Later, when Gore was in Congress, he initiated the first congressional hearing on the subject in 1981. Gore's 1992 book, Earth in the Balance, dealing with a number of environmental topics, reached the New York Times bestseller list.
As Vice President during the Clinton Administration, Gore pushed for the implementation of a carbon tax to encourage energy efficiency and diversify the choices of fuel better reflecting the true environmental costs of energy use; it was partially implemented in 1993.My goodness, the book was published in 1992 -- that's exactly 20 years ago. And it reached the New York Times bestseller list, so it wasn't exactly unheard of. Twenty years to prepare for one storm that barely reached Hurricane Level 1 status.
One cannot argue that Luddites were standing in the way of upgrading and hardening conventional utilities; there is an article in the same WSJ today talking about the strides being made with new technology, and all the money spent on conventional ways to protect utilities.
The problem is that advocates of wind energy to replace oil ("Beyond Oil") cannot do the math. The math doesn't add up. One small generator in the corner of a garage will match 100 football field-size windmill farms.
If oil didn't exist, we would have to invent it. No other substance comes close when it comes to energy density (the amount of energy contained in a given unit of volume or mass), ease of handling or flexibility. A single kilogram of diesel fuel contains about 13,000 watt-hours of energy. That is about twice the energy density of coal, six times that of wood, and about 300 times that of lead-acid batteries. (And those batteries are useful only if they have been charged by some other energy source.)[And no, we're not going to run out of fossil fuel any time soon.]
A hundred football fields of windmill farms to power one hospital for emergency services only. [I have not verified the Journal's figures.]
And folks get alarmed by a quarter-acre pad that will support a well that will produce upwards of one million bbls of oil over its 30-year lifespan.