Bates/My Turn: Do some energy math
Let’s do the math concerning wind and solar energy as they relate to western Massachusetts.
First, let me get this out of the way. If you are anti-CO2, anti-nuclear, anti-methane, then you must be for darkness. Because darkness is what will happen in this region if the residents continue to be anti-everything except wind, solar and other alternatives to produce the energy this region needs.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Agency (eia.gov) world energy demand will increase by 56 percent by 2040.
Everything in life is a gamble. Driving a car is gamble, crossing the street is a gamble. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in a 2013 report; “highway deaths increased to 33,561 in 2012, which is 1,082 more fatalities than in 2011. The majority of the increase in deaths, 72 percent, occurred in the first quarter of the year. Most of those involved were motorcyclists and pedestrians.” Extrapolated; in less than 10 years over a quarter of a million people will perish on U.S. roadways by riding, walking or driving on them. A very sad statistic indeed, but it is real. Will you stop driving? No. Will you advocate banning all forms of motorized vehicles from Franklin County? No.
Yet, there are many people around here who would like to ban a proposed pipeline that runs through certain western Mass. counties. Some of the same people seriously want to take us back to the 1800s or very much believe that is about to happen if we do not save the world. They use supposition, innuendo and whole lot of emotions to create “potential” disasters.
Vast arrays of pipelines already exist to bring natural gas into the Northeast from other parts of the country. In addition, LNG is delivered by ships to a terminal on the coast of Massachusetts.
We no longer have an oil refinery in the Northeast. We must rely on refineries in New Jersey and Pennsylvania for our heating oil and gasoline. Most refined oil is shipped on railroad tankers and trucks throughout the Northeast. Is this safer than a pipeline?
How will this region and specifically western Massachusetts meet its increased energy demands if we do not let companies increase their infrastructure to supply us? This cannot be done by conservation only. You’re fooling yourself and others if you think so.
On the lighter side; I consider all fossil fuels “green” energy. Why, because they are made naturally, from decayed dinosaurs and composted plants from millions of years ago. But I digress.
We all know that Vermont Yankee is shutting down along with the Mount Tom coal plant. This will amount to a loss of 768 MW (Vermont Yankee 620, coal plant 148) of energy from our region. How will this energy be replaced?
By wind? Let’s do the math.
A modern wind turbine can generate about 1.5MW. The Roscoe Wind Farm in Roscoe, Texas, uses 634 turbines to generate 781 MW and spans over 150 square miles, equating to several times the size of Manhattan.
By solar? Let’s do the math.
The Agua Caliente PV solar plant was just completed and is located in Yuma County, California. The plant uses 3.75 square miles of solar panels to generate 250 MW. Using simple math, it would take three of the Yuma solar plants to replace the lost energy from Vermont Yankee and Mount Tom, or 12 square miles. This equates to covering the town of Sunderland (14 square miles) with solar panels.
Because of the low efficiency ratings of solar and wind (10 to 15 percent) and inconsistent power output, they must have backup power generators fired by conventional fossil fuels.
Is this the alternative energy, so-called environmentalists and “progressives” wish for? To cover some of the best farmland in the country with solar panels or line the mountains surrounding us with wind turbines, not to mention vast tracts of land needed for transmission lines: Just imagine the protests from the All-American NIMBY’s that live here in the valley. Most waste areas and capped landfills are already used up for small projects.
The 71,000 residents of Franklin County have to make some very hard energy choices. Let’s get real, and do the math if you think solar or wind alone will fulfill our future energy needs.
Jim Bates is a Greenfield resident.