breaking wind… farm

30-megawatt wind farm breaks ground in Kahuku hills

Based on expected wind speeds at the site, the system will generate an estimated 83 million kilowatt-hours annually, the equivalent of 139,500 barrels of oil.

That’s enough electricity to power 7,700 homes for a year, according to the company. The wind farm is targeted for completion early next year.

While the 30-megawatt output is a small part of HECO’s islandwide generating capacity of 1,700 megawatts, it is part of the incremental move toward decreasing the state’s dependence on oil. About 90 percent of the state’s energy usage comes from imported petroleum.

This, plus the 20 megawatt solar electric farm posted earlier, puts Oahu at about 50 megawatts of announced renewables in the last few months.  Great news!

But, just to prove that I’m a better pessimist that the rest of you… some numbers below the fold:

The most recent (as of this writing) estimates on BP’s Deepwater Horizon spill flow rate is between 35,000 and 60,000 barrels per crude oil day.  Meaning, the wind farm’s 139,500 barrels of “oil avoidance” is roughly equal somewhere around 2 to 4 days of the Deepwater Horizon spillage. 

Ok… well, I do remember something about chemistry/distilling and I can look stuff up on the internet so:

If we want to try to go apples to apples, the 139,500 barrels saved is actually barrels of fuel oil and not crude.  During the refinement process, roughly 70% of a barrel of oil is used for non-electric generation purposes (gasoline, jet fuel, etc.).  Meaning, very roughly, the spill represents the equivalent something between 10,000 and 20,000 barrels of fuel oil per day. Which makes the 139,500 barrels of fuel oil saved by this wind farm roughly equal to offsetting between 7 and 14 days of spillage. 

On the optimistic side, in 2009, 9.4 GIGAWATTS (!) of wind farms were installed in the US.  That goes a long way in avoiding future oil consumption.

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