Debunking wind energy twaddle

No one does it better than David Mackay:
The Torygraph has actually published this "startling" (and false) meme a second time, this time in an "Analysis" piece authored by "Dave Andrews, head of the Claverton Group", published on 16th July 2009. He writes of onshore wind that "it needs an area of only 70 square miles to generate Britain's total power requirements". Crikey. Did the copy-editor do this to make the Claverton Group look like a bunch of fools? Apparently so - The Claverton site says the article as submitted said "a 70-mile by 70-mile square". Yes, that would be 70 times more accurate! For the record, (see my survey of UK wind farms if you want, where I show that UK wind farms, whether onshore or offshore, generate roughly 2.5 watts per square metre, on average), 4900 square miles of windfarms would generate about 32 GW on average, which is close to Britain's average electricity consumption (it's about 42 GW). If you want to produce "all Britain's energy consumption today" (ie transport and heating too) then you need about nine times the area, since Britain's primary energy consumption is about 300 GW.

The bottom line - the Daily Mail article is off by a factor of 825, and the Telegraph's rendition of Clavertonism is off by a factor of 70 or 630, depending on whether you allow energy to be confused with electricity.
His Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air is required reading for anyone interested in alternative energy. I only wish that 1), he would do this more often (perhaps he is too busy teaching Britain's "best and brightest"), and 2), we had someone like this in the U.S. to lay down some factual outer bounds - to renew-o-philes and enviro-skeptics alike - on how much of American electricity demand alternative energy could potentially satisfy. The public debate would benefit from understanding and agreeing that the answer is somewhere in the range of "some, but not most."

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