Two decades from now, Americans could get as much electricity from windmills as from nuclear-power plants, according to a government report that lays out a possible plan for wind-energy growth.
The report, a collaboration between Energy Department research labs and industry, concludes wind energy could generate 20 percent of the nation’s electricity by 2030, about the same share now produced by nuclear reactors. Wind energy today accounts for about 1 percent of the nation’s electricity.
To reach the 20 percent production level, wind turbines would have to produce 300,000 megawatts of power, compared to about 16,000 megawatts generated today. Such growth would envision more than 75,000 new wind turbines, many of them larger than those operating today. Turbines in offshore waters would produce about 54,000 megawatts.
I am sure we also could have 3 billion hamsters on little wheels hooked up to generators. Or we could fill, as Al Gore wants, 5 million acres of Arizona desert with solar panels. Of course I calculated the latter plan to cost about 20 trillion dollars.
Just because the megawatt numbers add up to some target, does not make it a feasible plan. The cost per megawatt needs to be balanced against other potential sources of power, and technological deficiencies (e.g. no solar at night, no wind power when there is no wind) also need to be addressed.