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How Far Could $68B Go in Securing Our Energy Independence? Pretty Damn Far.


After hearing President Bush beseech members of Congress for $68B more dollars for the war in Iraq tonight, I got myself to thinking. If we’re already spending $120B a year on this war and we simply decided to bring our troops home, how far could we get in meeting our nation’s energy demands solely with sunshine and that extra $68B dollars? Well according to an article in the Green Wombat last month, a solitary solar thermal plant sized at 92 x 92 miles could take care of our entire energy demand. That’s the size of land that purple square takes up in the above map. Granted, for security purposes it would be a dumb idea to go and build a lone solar plant like this, so let’s do some more realistic math. The land area cited in that article was 92*92mi = 8464sq. miles. Let’s say we intend to create 16 solar thermal power plants and scatter them about really sunny areas of our country such as the southwest, Texas, and areas of Florida. 8464/16 = 529sq. miles for each solar thermal power plant. It just so happens that the square root of 529 gives a clean 23! So we are in search of sixteen 23 by 23 mile plots of sunny land to power the entire country. We’ve got $68 Billion dollars to spend on all of them, or $4,250,000,000 for each one.

Since the Nevada Solar One project cost roughly $240,000,000, produces 64MW of power and amounts to 1 mile by ½ mile (pictured above – thanks to googlemaps) of concentrating thermal solar, let’s just say we use that extra war money to purchase as much solar energy as we can afford. Pictured below is the Nevada Solar Two plant (which I created in MsPaint.. Long live MsPaint!). As you can see, this hypothetical solar thermal plant is about 3 miles by 3 miles, is constructed of 18 Nevada Solar Ones, would produce 1,152MW and would cost at most $3.2B (200 million * 18). I say “at most” here because you’ve got all the equipment going to one place and there are bound to be efficiencies with economy of scale, etc. to bring the megaplant’s cost down a bit from the original $240M to $200M.

But we have enough cash from the proposed war spending to build about 20 of them ($68B/20 = $3.2B). So we’re at 9sq miles * 20 Nevada Solar Twos = 180sq miles of solar thermal energy and 23,040MW. That’s a bit of a far cry from the 8464sq miles needed to satiate the demands of the entire country. We’re just over 2 percent there. While this might sound like a marginal amount of energy, consider that 23,040MW of energy is equivalent to the amount produced by 19 nuclear power plants (1,200MW apiece!)! 23,040MW of energy could power 14,400,000 homes. That’s the number of households in New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago – combined!

If you really want to shake things up, consider that since the Iraq war began, we are now roughly $9 Trillion dollars in debt. Many people, including myself, don’t have any concept of how much money that really is. Well, that’s $9,000,000,000,000 dollars. Remember those 16 plots of 23×23 miles we needed to satiate the nation’s thirst for energy? Well 9 Trillion dollars would be enough to purchase about 2,813 Nevada Solar Twos! That’s 9sq. miles * 2,813 = 25,317 sq. miles of solar thermal energy – more than triple the land area in solar power plants to satisfy the energy demands of our entire country!

It truly is depressing to imagine what the other 2/3rds of that $9 Trillion could have been used for. Universal health care? Education? Ugh!

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Last modified: February 28, 2018

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Delores
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Delores

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Joe D'Agostino
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Joe D'Agostino

Nevada Solar One required 1.5-million man-hours of work to complete during 14 months of construction. Also 3500 tons of Aluminum in fabricated shapes. One solar two would be 63,000 tons per array. The entire output of aluminum is 5mil tons a year for the US. Your arrays would NOT be cheaper as the cost of Aluminum, already in shortages, is driven up. Not to mention you need 21 man years to produce each solar 2. Just saying power plants aren’t built in MS paint :P Please explain why solar companies keep going bankrupt? Obama has already invested 90 billion. Where’s… Read more »

Daniel
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Daniel

This is a great idea and makes too much sense. But think about it. If we went ahead and used the $3Billion in creating this electrical independence ,we would then turn around and spend $5 billion a year in unemployment payments from all the layoffs of individuals that depend on the electrical industry that would have to shut down. So we would be securing our energy independence and on the other hand providing an affordable utility that no one can afford.

Power factor correction
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Power factor correction

I’m all for more solar power and yes, it could easily be done with the money now being spent on the pointless Iraq war.

varadan
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varadan

there any Solar off Grid and Solar Street Lighting projects in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I have developed very good contacts for solar Generators, wind mills, solar street lighting and solar home/office lighting

Anas
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Anas

That’s a very good article. I just stumbled upon this article because I’m researching everything about Solar so that I can start shipping Solar water heaters, Solar PV and other items to Iraq to sell it there and have the Iraqi people enjoy more electricity because they only get about 4 hours of electricity a day from the national grid and the rest is from generators that adds to the pollution and sound noise in the neighborhoods. The electricity situation in Iraq is horrible, I know because I’ve been working in Iraq for the past 4 years as a contractor… Read more »

Dan Hahn
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Dan Hahn

Thanks for the compliment Anas! Good luck with the rest of your research and your extended efforts to power up Iraq. Keep us posted and be safe!

Cheers,

– Dan

kayla stutler
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kayla stutler

i need help for answers

Stephon
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Stephon

I for one am appalled at how much (or how little to be more precise) solar technology has advanced. I tell this one phrase to every intelligent person I converse with and I hope you will repeat it; THE SUN IS OUR PLANET’S SOLE SOURCE OF ENERGY. Bar none. Period. Without the sun this planet would not exist to begin with. So why not invest in harnessing this awesome, virtually limitless supply of energy. Current PV technology has terrible efficiency levels, but that’s not because technology has peaked. I would personally say that our biggest priority would be to research… Read more »

J. Altman
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J. Altman

I’m as appalled by the cost of the Iraq war as anyone, but you exaggerate the impact of the war on the national debt. The debt was already around $4 trillion when the war started.

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