More of a symbolic replacement, to be sure, but symbols count: the Long Island Power Authority has installed two 50 kilowatt wind turbines on the Shoreham, New York, site of a defunct nuclear power plant. The two turbines should provide 200,000 kWh annually, not a huge amount -- enough for a couple thousand homes, perhaps. Longer term LIPA goals include an offshore wind generation facility producing 140 megawatts, coming online in summer of 2008.
I am certainly a proponent of wind power, but I do not think that it can replace the large generation produced by large power plant such as a nuclear power plant. The two 50 kW wind generators that symbolically can not support more than 20 homes, not the couple of thousands proposed. A typical home demands five to seven kW of power most of the time.
For security, of the nation's power system, the power generation needs to be from diverse portfolio of generation, coal, hydro, nuclear, renewables, etc. Wind is a problem in that the wind does not blow hard enough all the time. Solar is no good without the sun. Hydro disappears in a drought. Oil is too expensive, probably from now on. Coal and nuclear will need to be used a base load to support the grid power needs when others are not there. Security and adequate supplies are not an option. Just look at the costs of the August 14th blackout.
I visited a wind farm last month. It was 50 megawatts in size. I actually liked watching the 280 foot tall turbines. It used 63 wind turbine-generators that were rated 800 kW a piece. The size of the wind farm was one half mile wide by five miles long. The largest wind generators made now are 1.5 megawatts a piece. To replace a typical nuclear plant, over 800 wind turbines. That would take up an area, say, one mile wide by 30 miles long. Not everone will want to look at those turbines. Also, the blades move quite fast, which will take a toll of the birds. Bottom line is that each source of power has its drawbacks and we need a reliable base from "clean" coal and nuclear to meet the power needs.
You're wrong about the size of the largest wind turbines available; as was posted a couple of days ago, Germany already has 5 megawatt turbines.
Nobody's talking about replacing obsolete power sources with *just* wind or *just* solar. Instead, we're talking about diverse systems, a multiplicity of sources, in a more distributed, decentralized network. The "one mile wide by 30 miles long" wind farm won't happen because it doesn't *need* to happen; you're much better off putting smaller clusters in higher-wind locations than trying to create an artificially centralized power system. Hydro will remain important, too, and is not suited for decentralization in the same way wind and solar are. Nuclear is more controversial for a variety of reasons, but I suspect we'll end up with more of it.
As for "clean" coal (and I just love oxymoron branding), it still does nothing about CO2 emissions.
Since you're posting from an energy company address, I'll accept your analysis that the two 50kW turbines would support a smaller number of homes than suggested. As I said in the post, it's symbolic.
He's wrong about the energy consumption of a typical home. Most use in the neighborhood of 1 kW average. My consumption on my latest bill was 342 kWH, or about 1.1 kWH/day or about 460 watts average. That includes lights, all cooking and one hungry Athlon.
Continuing that thought, if the average home uses 720 kWH/month or 8640 kWH/year, 200000 kWH/year would be able to supply the energy needs (though not the immediate demand) of a mere 23 homes, or about 50 people like me. He got that much right.