Setback Comparisons

Letter that the Dispatch did not publish:

In a letter to the Dispatch (10 Aug., 2017) Jeremy Kitson complained about possible legislation to reduce the distance separating wind farms from residences. Mr. Kitson also noted that the State has complete say in specifying wind-farm locations. Although it is not clear what distance (known as setback) will be in the proposed legislation, 1300 feet appears to be a likely guess, based on news reports.

Setbacks for oil and gas wells are much smaller. Ohio law (Section 1509.021) includes setbacks of 100 feet from rural homes and 50 feet from water supplies for oil and gas wells. As it is for wind, locations of oil and gas wells are determined by the State; local governments have no say.

Neighbors of oil and gas wells have bigger problems that neighbors of wind farms.


Alternative Motor Vehicles

Transportation is the second largest source of greenhouse gasses (1).


Technology Cars Other

Vehicles, (a)

Ethanol/Flex Fuel 3.67 16.12 19.79
Electric/Gasoline Hybrid 3.43 0.44 3.87
Other Technologies (b) 0.81 0.32 1.13
Total Alternatives 7.90 16.88 24.79
Total Vehicles 120.5 121.4 241.9
% Alternative 7% 14% 10%

Notes in Table

(a) Vans, SUV, etc.

(b) Natural gas, all-electric, etc.





(1) EPA “Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions”, accessed 27 June 2017

Renewables Catching Up With Nuclear

Nuclear activists point out that reactors do not generate greenhouse gasses and that decommissioning them leads to electricity being generated by fossil fuels (some nuclear opponents claim that reactor technology is polluting; I looked into this several years ago and was not impressed by the quality of the research).

Renewable-energy supporters claim that sufficient wind energy is being installed each year to offset the loss of reactors (averaging about one decommissioning per year [1]).  Surprisingly output from reactors has remained steady. Improved efficiency must be the reason, since there have not been any new reactors for many years [2].

Generation by renewables have strongly increased from about half of nuclear in 2008 to about two thirds today. Since hydropower has remained steady, the increase is due to wind.

So far so good. Since nuclear production has been steady, wind has helped to take up the slack due to coal plant retirement.


[1] EIA, Today in Energy, June 13, 2017

[2] Data in the figure from EIA, Electricity Data Browse,  accessed July 1, 2017

Why Less Coal

I have been assuming that gains in electricity generation by natural gas were the reason for loss in generation by coal. This is not quite true. In 2016 coal generation was down by about 750 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) from its 2006-2008 average, a 38 percent drop. About two-thirds of the drop was due to natural gas and about one-third to renewables.

Source EIA Electric Data Browser, accessed 21 June 2017

Renewable Energy Does Not Harm Stock Performance

There are still office holders who cling to the notion of expensive renewable energy, buttressed by questionable web sites.

There is a line of argument that I have not seen used: companies, such as Google and Amazon, have made major commitments to renewable energy. These are publically-traded firms. If renewable energy was so expensive, Wall Street would be shouting loudly and hammering their stock down. This has not happened.

Converting MW to Homes

A recent article stated that one MW of wind power provides enough electricity to power 1000 homes (1, 2). This claim was later qualified by stating that “sources such as wind and solar are often operating at less than full capacity” (3).

Actually the largest possible value is 800 houses per Megawatt. Last year wind in Ohio produced enough electricity for about 250 homes and solar about 125 homes (See Appendix).


(1) Wind energy poised for growth in Ohio, advocates say, The Columbus Dispatch, October 30, 2016

(2) Tom Stacy offered a correction in the Comments section of Ref. (1). Unfortunately he used faulty logic.

(2) AEP wins profit guarantee sought in coal-fired power case, The Columbus Dispatch, November 3, 2016

Appendix: Calculations

One Megawatt generating electricity for one year (8760 hours) would produce 8760 MWh. Since the average home uses about 11 MWh (= 11,000 kWh) of electricity each year, this is enough electricity for 8760/11 = 796 homes.

Since Ohio generated 1.2 million MWh of electricity from wind in 2015, wind provides enough energy for about 110,000 homes. Ohio has 432 MW of wind power – 110,000/432 is about 250. So one MW of power provides electricity equal to that used by about 250 homes.

Comparable numbers for solar are 162,000 MWh total electricity and 119 MW of power. This translates to 14,700 homes and 14,700/119 = 124 homes per MW.

(Data from Energy Information Administration for 2015, except solar capacity from Columbus Dispatch, Nov. 4, 2016)