Fact Check: Is Large Scale Alternative Energy Feasible?

Fact Check: Is Alternative Energy Feasible?
Fact Check: Is Alternative Energy Feasible?

Freshman congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has proposed a plan to get the United States off burning fossil fuels for energy within 15 years. It’s a lofty goal, and most of us are on board with using renewable resources where it makes sense, but is her plan actually feasible?
Currently the technology needed to accomplish this does not exist. While we do have wind turbines, solar panels, and several other alternatives to fossil fuels, these technologies are largely inefficient and expensive. We are a long way from being able to move on from Fossil fuels on a large scale.
Let’s examine some of the popular alternatives that are being used and proposed as replacements for fossil fuels.

  • One of the most popular alternatives to fossil fuels is wind turbines. The problem with wind turbines, though, is the low amount of usable energy they produce. The largest wind turbine in the world can only produce 12 Megawatts per year. Considering that the city of New York uses 10,000 megawatts every day, we would need to erect 304,166 of the largest wind turbines to power New York City for just one day.
  • Each of these turbines would require approximately 2 acres for a total of 608,332 acres or 950.1 square miles. That is nearly 3 times the size of New York City itself and nearly the size of the state of Rhode Island. To power the entire United States for an entire year using wind energy we would need to set aside 1,018,489.5 square miles, nearly 1/3 of the entire country.
  • If the amount of space needed to show wind turbines are not a viable alternative, how about the costs? Each 12-megawatt wind turbine cost roughly $15.6 million to install. It would cost $61.1 trillion up front just to set up enough wind turbines to power the country. Then, add on the annual cost of $15.4 trillion per year for operations and maintenance.
  • Another popular idea is switching over to solar panels. To generate enough usable electricity to power the entire country we would need to install 42,860,273,973 solar panels.  It would take about 153,741 square miles of solar panels to power the whole of the United States. That is equivalent to the entire state of California.
  • With the average cost of each solar panel and inverter being $400, it is a total cost of about $17.2 trillion just to set the system up. Solar Panels also require cleaning twice per year at a cost of approximately $20 per panel. The total cost of yearly upkeep on these solar panels is approximately $1.7 trillion. With all these numbers in mind, it would take over a century to payback what it costs to install and maintain such a system. Considering that solar panels have an estimated 30-year life span before needing to be replaced, they will never pay for themselves.
  • Let’s forget the initial upfront costs for setting up these systems and the ridiculous amount of space needed and instead, concentrate on what the numbers mean to you as an individual. The cost to everyone in the country for a wind powered system would be more than $40,000 per year, per person. For solar power, the costs would be $5,246.98 per year, per person. Now compare that to what it costs for getting your energy from our current system. The annual costs per year per person is $36.51.
  • There is currently no viable alternative to fossil fuels. While existing technologies may work for individual buildings, they cannot work on a large scale. The only way for any sort of “Green New Deal” to work is to get the government out of the way and allow businesses and private citizens to innovate new technologies. All attempts by politicians to force alternative sources of energy upon the American people will only lead to much higher energy costs and produce very little in the way of results.