Just in: 130-turbine Cape Wind project approved. How much closer does this get us to Renewistan?

The  hotly contested Cape Wind project was approved today.

The New England offshore wind project will build 130 massive turbines. The Department of Interior claims in their press release that the Atlantic region has a million megawatts of potential offshore wind capacity that is still untapped. (See here for an analysis of eastern wind potential from the National Renewable Energy Lab.)

Between drilling platform explosions and problems with the current climate bill, it’s good to see some progress.  But how much progress is it?

For context,  see Saul Griffith’s presentation on how much clean energy we need just to avoid catastrophic impacts from climate change. (Here’s a summary of the talk from Stewart Brand).

Saul estimates that we need to build a “Renewistan” of 11.5 terawatts of clean energy, or 11,500,00 megawatts, within the next 25 years.  His hypothetical recipe for getting there includes a combination of wind, solar PV, solar thermal, biofuels, nuclear and geothermal.

It took nine years to get approval for Cape Wind, which would at best represent .004% of Renewistan.  Saul’s numbers suggest that we need to build a Cape Wind sized project every year for the next twenty-five to get us where we need to go… while simultaneously building all other forms of alternative energy at the same pace.

Based on these assumptions, if we can get a million megawatts of wind out of the Atlantic in the next two and a half decades, that’s only at peak 9% of what’s needed for Renewistan.  (Here’s a Department of Energy report on US wind potential as another data point.) It’s not enough, and requires us to move much, much faster. But there’s a proverb about eating an elephant: the way you do it is one bite at a time.

Cape Wind may be a first bite at a really, really big elephant.


2 Responses to “Just in: 130-turbine Cape Wind project approved. How much closer does this get us to Renewistan?”

  1. 1 Cam Burns April 28, 2010 at 3:41 pm

    Very nice. How’s it compare to the London Array.

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