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NeilBlanchard 07-18-2008 07:17 AM

Al Gore's 10 year challenge to the USA

Al Gore gave a speech today at D. A. R. Constitution Hall, in which he challenges us to convert over to 100% renewable energy sources for our electricity in 10 years.

Al Gore: 'We Need A New Start' : NPR

You can listen to the speech using the link in the upper left -- please do listen.

He speaks of three major problems that all can be solved by doing this:

* The economic problems brought on by high energy prices

* The security problems brought on by our dependence on a finite energy source

* The environmental challenges of burning carbon fuels are numerous.

He has started a web site called We Can Solve It, where you can get other details:

We Can Solve It

NeilBlanchard 07-18-2008 07:18 AM


The cost estimate from the Scientific American "Grand Solar Plan" (which was to provide 69% of all our electrical needs) was just 420 billion. Not too much really.

That is for ~30,000 square miles of mostly photovoltaic panels, with some solar heat collection (which I prefer), high voltage DC transmission (very efficient apparently -- only 10% loss from coast to coast!) and it included underground compressed air storage to cache excess power, which then provides power when the solar systems are not producing enough. Also, a large company recently released some details about a system that used molten salt to hold high heat (1100F) for a long time, so overnight generation from solar heat plants is doable, if not for longer.

Here's the article (though they have pulled the nice images that were in it at the beginning):
A Solar Grand Plan: Scientific American

They were shooting for 2050 -- quite a bit longer than what Al Gore is proposing.

If we were to combine this "grand solar plan" with what Lester R. Brown proposes in Plan B 3.0 -- which is to build 1.5 million 2MW wind turbines (using some idled assembly lines?) by 2020; to replace ALL the coal fired power plants! Again, not quite as fast as what Al Gore is proposing -- but the coal plants are also about 70% of our electricity; and they are by far the worst offenders in carbon dioxide output.

And T. Boone Pickens seems to agree. :o

If we add in geothermal deep drilling, and/or wave power along the coasts (or offshore wind power!), then I think it is doable -- and trying is everything! We will see immediate benefits! And as Al Gore points out -- we will see huge improvements on three fronts all at once.

The savings from scaling back (and stopping?) the Iraq War alone could easily pay for this.

echomodder 07-18-2008 09:15 AM

DC transmission is VERY inefficient. Just Thomas Edison.:)

PS The war has cost us ~600B. When GB took office we were 4.5Trillon in debt. Now we're ~10Trillon in debt! I here people complaining about the cost of the war all the time & I must say I'm sick of it. We can debate whether the war is good or bad, just or unjust, but the cost of war is irrelevant. If we are in a just war(I don't think Iraq is, not since we stopped LOOKING for the WMD's) if that just war(ie. WWI, WWII) costs us 15T if our way of life is under attack the the cost is irrelevant. What I want to know is where did the other 4.9Trillon go?

echomodder 07-18-2008 09:29 AM

As for offshore wind power our good friend Teddy will never let that happen.

NeilBlanchard 07-18-2008 09:52 AM

That's what I thought, too.

That's what I thought (about DC transmission), too. But apparently, we are both wrong. The Scientific American proposal is the first place that I heard this -- but it has been confirmed by several other credible sources. We live and learn, right?

You are forgetting that we had a surplus when GWB took office -- they then fought over how to "spend" it.

The Iraq War is costing us ~10 Billion dollars per month, or about 200 Million per day -- and that may be just for the military. We are borrowing that money, so the interest over time will easily put the cost well over 1 Trillion dollars.

If we were to spend just a fraction of that money on energy independence, as Al Gore is proposing, not only would we not need to fight in Iraq, we would stop spending $2,600,000,000 PER DAY on oil. (Based on 20 million barrels / day @ $130 / barrel).

ALL of that money goes to the oil companies and to the countries where we buy it!

Add to this that we can stop mining coal, and we can use natural gas for heating (and to run some vehicles?) -- the positives add up pretty quickly.

If we spend the money on building the solar, wind, and grid infrastructure -- we employ a lot of Americans -- and the only cost for our electricity would be for maintenance. The energy itself would be "free".

We improve our security.

We improve our economy.

We improve our environment.

Why would we not do this?

echomodder 07-18-2008 10:16 AM

I totally agree!:) We need to get off foreign energy. I use to be a republican but since this spending spree I can't stand them now. Although I don't think the dem's will do any better. I have no choice in this election. As for the natural gas that comes from drilling too, and also needs to be refined.

PS. As to the surplus the main reason for that surplus was all the company's getting ready for Y2K. The explosion of the internet was a big factor too. All the rush to get up and running made for a lot of money being spent. So thats were the surplus came from. Again where did the other 4.9Trillon go?

rsx2002 07-18-2008 10:25 AM

Its too big of a project for our politicians to handle. They are too hung of on partisan issues to get anything done. GWB has something like a 20% aprroval rating last I heard. Democrats are always running there mouth about it, but I heard today on CNN the newest polls say congress has a 14% approval rating lol. The congress that Democrats have ran for the last two know the two years the gas prices went up $2. Nobody is getting anything done! Ive always thought there needs to term limits in congress, only problem is congress themselves would have to pass that law...which would never ever happen. Why get in a hurry when they have 50 years of service left to accomplish there goals.

Duffman 07-18-2008 01:18 PM


Originally Posted by echomodder (Post 45227)
DC transmission is VERY inefficient. Just Thomas Edison.:)

Not an electrical engineer are you?
HVDC is very efficient. I know Hydro Quebec uses it and it is used extesively by Manitoba Hydro where the bulk of the provinces power is generated in the north and used or sold to the south.
Converter Stations

As I understand it, there is no inductive resistance with DC and there is a phenominon in AC where the current clings to the perimeter of the conductor, so the conductance of the core is wasted.

jamesqf 07-18-2008 03:10 PM

DC is apparently more efficient at higher voltages. I used to work for a utility (developing powerflow & stability software), and there are a number of very high voltage (1 MV, IIRC) long-distance interties out there.

As to the program, I don't think that totally renewable is doable in any realistic time frame. But build nuclear to replace a lot of the current coal-fired generation and provide a system base generation, and you can build to 30-40% or so solar & wind. Beyond that, you need an efficient storage mechanism, and all the ones I've seen lose a significant fraction of what they store.

Arminius 07-18-2008 04:01 PM

The past couple of presidents ended their terms concerned about their legacy. Each of was concerned that they had done nothing of major benefit for the country. Yet the energy issue was staring them right in the face. A comprehensive energy policy is what this country has needed since the 70's, and no one has made a major push for it (yes, there has been a lot of talk). The president that enacts this type of policy, no matter if it is somewhat flawed, will have a legacy worth bragging about.

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