The Washington Post has an extensive analysis of Al Gore's plan to power the United States with "100 percent clean electricity within ten years," and finds it exceedingly impractical and unrealistic, to say the least.
The answer is simple: This is where Gore must be pulling our collective leg. Because most people who study the country's energy supply say that -- whatever you think of the motives behind Gore's idea -- as a real-life plan, it's a non-starter.
The problem is that, despite the current boom in green power, renewable sources such as the sun and the wind still provide just a tiny fraction of the U.S. electricity supply. The rest is mainly dirty stuff: coal, gas, oil. To replace one with the other over the course of a decade, energy experts say, would make the Manhattan Project look like a science-fair volcano.
And even if we wanted to try Gore's plan, his goal is likely to get more distant every year. That's because, even as Americans demand more action on climate change, their laptops and flat-screen TVs are demanding more electricity every year -- and they're not asking whether it's clean or dirty. . . .
Perhaps the best way to describe the scope of Gore's challenge is to shrink it. What if you wanted to tackle a slice of the problem in just a slice of the United States -- the region around Washington? What if, instead of switching the entire region to renewable electricity, you wanted just enough clean power to meet the increase in electricity demand expected over the next 10 years?
You would need about 3,700 windmills.
Here's the math: Peak demand -- the amount of electricity needed on the hottest summer days -- is expected to grow by more than 5,500 megawatts for the three utilities that serve this area. A megawatt is roughly enough to power 700 to 1,000 homes. So, at roughly 1.5 megawatts per wind turbine -- the current going rate -- you would need 3,700 turbines.
Right now, from the Delaware Coast to the West Virginia mountains, there are 44 turbines producing power on a significant scale. Add in all the renewable energy projects on the drawing boards in this area, including the large wind farm planned off Rehoboth Beach, Del., and . . .
And you're still nowhere close.