Feasibility of Renewables – Or – Wind can power the World

I’ve been looking into improving the energy efficiency of my own home since I moved in last July. Being that the home was built in 1946, there is a lot of work to be done.

In my travels, I’ve come across many studies and projects dealing with renewable energy… I’d like to talk about one that I saw that I found most striking.

It is a study out of Stanford which “Evaluates Global Wind Power”.

Their conclusions are encouraging… if perhaps overly optimistic.

The goal of this study is to quantify the world?s wind power potential for the first time. Global wind power potential for the year 2000 was estimated to be ~72 TW (or ~54,000 Mtoe). As such, sufficient wind exists to supply all the world?s energy needs (i.e., 6995-10177 Mtoe), although many practical barriers need to be overcome to realize this potential.

Article From South Africa

South Africa’s low power costs — the least expensive in the world — have helped attract industry. Electricity is less than 4 cents a kilowatt hour, 36 percent below the next-cheapest market, Canada, said Rob Lines, Eskom’s acting general manager of generation, in a telephone interview from Johannesburg.

So how is electricity made “cheaply”? I would contend that that is accomplished through two major components:

#1: Massive investiment in a single, abundant, ultra-reliable, and renewable energy source.

#2: Building Incentives and support, and consumer price controls put in place by government, generally in the form of Publicly held Electric companies.

#1 has traditionally been satisfied by the Hydro power plants… dams. That is certainly the reason behind Canadas good fortune. But we are quickly using up that god-given resource as demand for electricity skyrockets.

In the previous post, I mentioned offshore wind… however, I think this would be only a small part of what could be called a “renewable basket” of energy.

Canada, and indeed the world, has a multitude of different regions and climates lending themselves to different forms of renewable energy installations.

In BC, on the Pacific, Wind, Wave, and Tidal forces would be the most easily harnessed and reliable sources of energy.

In Alberta and right across the prairies, Wind, and Solar would be your best bet…

In the North… the wind is your year round friend, but in the summer months, that 24hrs of sunshine would mean some serious generating potential!

There could be wave farms in the Great Lakes… and Wind farms stretching along their massive coastlines. Southern Ontario and Quebec would be perfect for residential solar panels… in the Maritimes, the opportunity to harvest the wind from those leftover Hurricanes and Tropical Storms is just too obvious.

So the question then becomes, why aren’t we doing this? What kind of investment would it take to develop these resources to their full potential?

The largest Dam in BC, the WAC Bennet Dam was built for approx $764 million dollars in 1962.

Why? Because it was clear that over the next 30-40 years, British Columbia, and Canada, would need the 2GW was power that the dam could produce.

My understanding of wind technology is that it’s $/MW isn’t nearly as good as hydro.. but hey, we’ve pretty much run out of big rivers to dam. So there isn’t a whole lot we can do about that part of the equation except perhaps upgrade what we already have.

So what would $764 million buy us today (in 2006 dollars)? Well, according to my last post… about 700MW of wind turbine generated power?… that’s not 2000, like WAC… but, it’s surprisingly close considering it’s “just wind”. Imagine, a deployment of 700 wind turbines… cherry picked across the province. Increase that amount to a cool $1 Billion… and you give yourself the opportunity to “seed” various regions in the province with significant wind generating capacity. Put 50 in the Fraser Valley, 200 on/around Vancouver Island, 200 in the Queen Charlottes, 200 in the Peace Country, and 50 more spread throughout the foothills in the Southern Interior.

Not only would it generate power, it would generate massive construction and investment throughout the province.