"Power Hungry" unfolds as a brutal, brilliant exploration of this profoundly deluded quest, from fingers-in-the-ears "la-la-la-ing" at the mention of nuclear power to the illusion that we are rapidly running out of oil or that we can turn to biomass for salvation: Since it takes 10,000 tons of wood to produce one megawatt of electricity, for instance, the U.S. will be chopping down forests faster than it can grow them.But…but…what about wind energy?
So you want to build a wind farm? OK, Mr. Bryce says, to start you'll need 45 times the land mass of a nuclear power station to produce a comparable amount of power; and because you are in the middle of nowhere you'll also need hundreds of miles of high-voltage lines to get the energy to your customers. This "energy sprawl" of giant turbines and pylons will require far greater amounts of concrete and steel than conventional power plants—figure on anywhere from 870 to 956 cubic feet of concrete per megawatt of electricity and 460 tons of steel (32 times more concrete and 139 times as much steel as a gas-fired plant).Looks like a great read.
Once you've carpeted your tract of wilderness with turbines and gotten over any guilt you might feel about the thousands of birds you're about to kill, prepare to be underwhelmed and underpowered. Look at Texas, Mr. Bryce says: It ranks sixth in the world in total wind-power production capacity, and it has been hailed as a model for renewable energy and green jobs by Republicans and Democrats alike. And yet, according to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which runs the state's electricity grid, just "8.7 percent of the installed wind capability can be counted on as dependable capacity during the peak demand period." The wind may blow in Texas, but, sadly, it doesn't blow much when it is most needed—in summer. The net result is that just 1% of the state's reliable energy needs comes from wind.