'The Footprint of Energy: Land Use of U.S. Electricity Production'


Guest post by David Middleton

The Strata group at Utah State University recently published a study on the “footprint of energy.”  For each energy source, the calculated the full-cycle land use required to generate 1 MW of electricity from each source of energy.  Despite the fact that they included the land required to drill and mine for natural gas and coal, all of the processing and transportation requirements, as well as power plant footprints, fossil fuels and nuclear power were the clear winners, by a long-shot.

Modern society requires a tremendous amount of electricity to function, and one of this generation’s greatest challenges is generating and distributing energy efficiently. Electricity generation is energy intensive, and each source leaves its own environmental and ecological footprint. Although many studies have considered how electricity generation impacts other aspects of the environment, few have looked specifically at how much land different energy sources require.

This report considers the various direct and indirect land requirements for coal, natural gas, nuclear, hydro, wind, and solar electricity generation in the United States in 2015. For each source, it approximates the land used during resource production, by energy plants, for transport and transmission, and to store waste materials. Both one-time and continuous land-use requirements are considered. Land is measured in acres and the final assessment is given in acres per megawatt.

Specifically, this report finds that coal, natural gas, and nuclear power all feature the smallest physical footprint of about 12 acres per megawatt produced. Solar and wind are much more land intensive technologies using 43.5 and 70.6 acres per megawatt, respectively. Hydroelectricity generated by large dams has a significantly larger footprint than any other generation technology using 315.2 acres per megawatt.

While this report does not attempt to comprehensively quantify land requirements across the entire production and distribution chain, it does cover major land components and offers a valuable starting point to further compare various energy sources and facilitates a deeper conversation surrounding the necessary trade-offs when crafting energy policy.



Chart 1: Land Use by Electricity Source in Acres/MW Produced
Electricity Source Acres per Megawatt Produced
Coal 12.21
Natural Gas 12.41
Nuclear 12.71
Solar 43.5
Wind 70.64
Hydro 315.22

Strata receives at least some funding from those great Americans: The Koch Brothers.  They are also very up-front about their economic philosophy:

Thought leaders and authors we tend to follow:

Friedrich Hayek

Adam Smith

Ronald Coase

Joseph Schumpeter

Elinor Ostrom

James Buchanan

Gordon Tullock

Milton Friedman


I just couldn’t resist taking their results and seeing if I could make renewables look even worse… And it was easy.

The U.S. currently has 274 GW of coal-fired generating capacity (274,000 megawatts).  Using the capacity factors in the EIA’s most recent LCOE analysis, I calculated how many MW of each source would be required to replace 274 GW of coal and then used Strata’s per  MW footprint to calculate the footprint required by each source, if it completely replaced coal.

MW ac/MW Total Footprint (ac) Sq. Miles Capacity Factor
Coal                                 274,000 12.21                     3,345,540           5,227 0.85
Capacity-Adjusted MW ac/MW Total Footprint (ac) Sq. Miles Capacity Factor
Natural Gas                                 267,701 12.41                     3,322,171           5,191 0.87
Nuclear                                 258,778 12.71                     3,289,066           5,139 0.90
Solar PV                                 970,417 43.5                   42,213,125         65,958 0.24
Wind                                 597,179 70.64                   42,184,759         65,914 0.39
Hydro                                 394,746 315.22                 124,431,759      194,425 0.59

Then I related the footprint of each source to U.S. States.

Sq. miles
Connecticut              4,845
Nuclear              5,139
Natural Gas              5,191
Coal              5,227
Hawaii              6,423
Georgia            57,906
Wind            65,914
Solar PV            65,958
Washington            66,544
California          163,696
Hydro          194,425
Texas          268,581

For hydroelectric, I used the total areas of California and Texas.  Otherwise, I just used land areas.

The pictures related to each power source are roughly scaled to the total footprint required to replace coal.


Some may say, “That’s silly!  No single power source is expected to replace coal.”  This is true, however some people think that wind, solar and hydroelectric can provide 100% of our electricity.  In which case we would need a Georgia-sized wind farm, a Washington-sized solar farm and a hydroelectric capacity (including the rivers) almost as big as Texas.

Or, we could just roll with three Connecticut-sized footprints: Coal, natural gas and nuclear.


LCOE: Levelized cost of electricity.

MW: Megawatt

GW: Gigawatt = 1,000 MW


Featured image source:

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August 9, 2017 10:48 am

No, the whole idea is to conserve, so actually producing power is irrelevant./sarc

Johnny Cuyana
Reply to  Tom Halla
August 9, 2017 12:16 pm

[sarcasm noted and appreciated]
OTOH, there are those MANY enviro-Nazis, such as Tom Holdren, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Holdren, obama’s senior advisor [science and tech], who advocated strongly for such conservation while “non-conserving” human global population. If I recall correctly, he is in the group which advocated for total global human population = 500,000. Such people would NOT recognize nor appreciate the sarcasm in your statement.

Thomas Homer
August 9, 2017 10:48 am

Power generation from solar and wind is a function of land area and is therefore not scalable for general human consumption. Solar/wind cannot decide to ramp up existing output to meet increasing demand, they each require building more units.

Reply to  Thomas Homer
August 9, 2017 11:02 am

but, unless Tesla EVs and the like make a difference in the future, isn’t US power demand declining?
And there’s a lot more energy saving from the likes of LEDs to come

Reply to  Griff
August 9, 2017 3:13 pm

All future solutions depend on scalability!

Paul Penrose
Reply to  Griff
August 9, 2017 3:16 pm

Yes, but only marginally. And that is expected to turn-around soon.
No, further conservation efforts will yield little reduction in overall electrical demand. It’s called the law of diminishing returns.

Reply to  Griff
August 10, 2017 10:38 am

In my state demand is still growing, just not as fast as it was previously. Efficiency is kicking in, but more and more megawatt-hunger server farms are being built to serve Google, Amazon, Facebook, etc. They are contracting to get “100%” of the new load supplied by renewables, but we all know what that means. The grid is still being used to absorb the overage and supply the underage to make sure they have power all the time and not be subject to the intermittancy of renewables.
And, as the economy recovers, the loads will continue to rise overall, but maybe not in states that suppress growth through onerous taxation and anti-business regulation.

August 9, 2017 10:49 am

The blight factor is a significant metric when determining the composition of the energy production basket in individual ecosystems.

Reply to  nn
August 9, 2017 11:34 am

I grew up in Texas so maybe I have some antiquated property rights ideas. If I want to build a house on my property you don’t get to veto it just because you think its ugly. If I raise pigs you don’t get to veto them just because their smelly. If I want to frac you don’t get a veto just because you prefer solar power. If I want to lease my land to a wind farm… Well, you get the idea.

Bryan A
Reply to  chadb
August 9, 2017 12:13 pm

Do your figures cover only replacement (Nameplate capacity) or are Capacity factors and generating restrictions factored in. I believe that it takes almost 4 tmes as much generation to offset fossil generation.
Also, does it include the needed additional capacity to charge batteries during the daylight hours? (capacity in addition to that immediately utilized for daily functioning)

Bryan A
Reply to  chadb
August 9, 2017 2:16 pm

Sounds just about right, I kept coming up with 3 times and 4 times as much capacity as well, but this was for current average annual usage and not the increased energy necessary for electrifying transportation.

Reply to  chadb
August 9, 2017 5:15 pm

chadb: That’s probably true, but you might consider what I do to my property in response.

Reply to  chadb
August 9, 2017 5:34 pm

That’s exactly right, property rights are under assault pretty much everywhere and it always concerns me when people refer to “our” land use ,as if all land use should be decided by public planners with little or no regard for those who own and pay taxes on “our” land.

Reply to  nn
August 9, 2017 12:55 pm

I’m making a wild guess about what the ‘blight factor’ is.
When an oil or gas well is done, the site doesn’t need much remediation. On the other hand, when a strip mine is done, the problem is significant. It seems to me that the two cases are orders of magnitude different.
Having said the above, a properly remediated strip mine looks a lot better than a solar farm and the environment is way more natural. link

Reply to  commieBob
August 9, 2017 5:16 pm

Unless you are familiar with the reclamation process,. you probably cannot pick out where an old strip mine was. There are very few clues to the area’s past life.

August 9, 2017 10:55 am

How do you measure the land use impact of a coal slurry dam failure or the carry cost of on-site nuclear waste storage with security expense? These are non trivial analytics issues.

Reply to  Resourceguy
August 9, 2017 11:23 am

The same way you measure the radioactive tailings dams created in china to produce the rare earths necessary for wind turbines?

Reply to  Dean
August 10, 2017 1:01 am

and smartphones and many other consumer devices. The problem is low chinese environmental standards in all industry, not that renewables require polluting mines/manufacture.

Reply to  Resourceguy
August 9, 2017 11:54 am

Then what about the cost of removing and disposing of solar panels? How about the cost of removing wind towers and the huge concrete base? We could play this game all day.

Reply to  Resourceguy
August 9, 2017 5:41 pm

“Resourceguy August 9, 2017 at 10:55 am
How do you measure the land use impact of a coal slurry dam failure or the carry cost of on-site nuclear waste storage with security expense? These are non trivial analytics issues.”

Ah, the specious nightmare fears spread by rumor and innuendo.
You are correct. They are non trivial analytics, they’re specious claims thrown about by the trivial.
Tell us about the wanton deaths of raptors, scavengers, bats and migrating wildlife?
Or the artificial land desolation caused by massive solar arrays and wind farms?
Not forgetting the wind turbine impacts to humans, livestock and wildlife living near those false science edifices.
Can solar/wind electricity provide high quality, extremely consistent electricity needed to run industrial equipment? Of refine ore into the specific alloys needed for bearings, armatures, windings, structures of wind turbines?
The answer is, no.
Those subsidized absurdly expensive inefficient monuments to politicized science require near 100% backup by sources that can provide consistent high quality electricity.
Politics that forces wind and solar power usage as primary sources, instead of the reliable energy sources.

August 9, 2017 11:01 am

Solar: not short of parking lots or rooftops in the US, I think?
Did you factor in energy saving/demand management?
What size wind turbine did you allow for? If you put a few windfarms with the new 8MW turbines of the E coast, that cuts the space down on land perhaps?
and of course with coal and nuclear plants still closing and nobody building any more, their footprint is going down… old coal mines and old coal power plants are ideal for solar too.

Paul Penrose
Reply to  Griff
August 9, 2017 3:20 pm

Parking lots have vehicles parked on them during the day. Doh!

John M. Ware
Reply to  Paul Penrose
August 9, 2017 5:09 pm

Parking garages usually have parking on the roof also–that’s way too much space to waste. I often prefer parking on top because my car will be so much easier to see, and in the winter will be warmed by the sun, if any. The idea of using them for solar panels seems ludicrous to me.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Paul Penrose
August 9, 2017 8:43 pm

Well, to be the Devil’s Advocate here, one could elevate the panels and provide shade for the vehicles. That would be most appreciated in Phoenix. On the other hand, if you tried that in Rochester, and the panels collapsed on the cars after an exceptional lake-effect snow, the car owners might not be thrilled. Speaking of which, how does one clean off 4′ of snow on thin, delicate PV panels?

Reply to  Paul Penrose
August 10, 2017 12:57 am
Reply to  Paul Penrose
August 10, 2017 1:00 am

Just to be clear, there are already hundreds of parking lots with solar panels over them. NRG signed an agreement with Kaiser to put them in at all Kaiser’s Western health facilities (which may have gone with NRG reorg, haven’t kept up, but proves the practicality)

Reply to  Griff
August 9, 2017 5:18 pm

There’s an industrial wind plant here where there was a coal mine. Thousands of dollars in reclamation shot down with huge towers that mar the land. What a waste of money on all accounts.

Reply to  Sheri
August 10, 2017 12:59 am

My folks are from a coal mining town… I stayed next to the mines as a child.
I cannot see that a coal mine is more pleasing to the eye -or better for the health – for the inhabitants of an area.

Reply to  Sheri
August 10, 2017 5:35 am

It’s much, much better. Coal produces energy 24/7. The mine does not stand 400 feet in the air and turn 300,000 acres of the prairie and mountains into an industrial area. It serves a purpose other than to make billionaires richer and richer and shaft the residence of the area.
Do you live next a wind plant? Are your recreational areas being turned into turbine jungles? Is your cabin 10 miles from 60 gigantic spinning towers of avian death? Would you love looking at hundreds of towers everywhere your drive, instead of herds of elk, mountain views, wildflowers, etc? How in the world can a mine at eye level, or below, covering only a few acres (versus hundreds for the turbines) be less of a disturbance than hundreds of spinning (occasionally) 400 foot towers? Either you’re blind or you have a very warped view of what’s ascetically pleasing. Nature is now concrete and steel.

Reply to  Griff
August 9, 2017 5:43 pm

“Griff August 9, 2017 at 11:01 am”

Willful ignorance at full sail.

John from Europe
Reply to  Griff
August 9, 2017 10:41 pm

Solar: still no power 50% of the time.

Reply to  John from Europe
August 16, 2017 8:08 am

This is a site which tracks daily electricity production and demand in California, by source.

Samuel C Cogar
Reply to  Griff
August 10, 2017 6:02 am

old coal mines and old coal power plants are ideal for solar too.
Shur nuff, Griff, …….. old coal mines are a wonderful place for disposing of old worn-out solar panels.
Finally, you comment contained something worthwhile ……. even though I’m sure the enviros “greenies” would adamantly oppose it.

dan no longer in CA
Reply to  Griff
August 10, 2017 11:42 am
August 9, 2017 11:05 am

Don’t forget about the renewables technology risk!

August 9, 2017 11:15 am

How the hydro land use requirement was arrived at leaves me wondering. What metric was used to “normalize” the sizing assessments?
The amount of energy derived depends on flow and pressure head. The pressure head comes from the elevation difference between the level of the reservoir and the level of the turbines, not on acreage of the reservoir. The capacity of the dam will determine the flow capability. A smallish reservoir will need to restrict its flow so as to not be drained as quickly. The flow rate that maintains pressure head equilibrium of the reservoir is dependent on the watershed replenishing it.

Reply to  David Middleton
August 9, 2017 11:33 am

This is where I take issue with the study. While it is easy to measure the footprint of the reservoir and mark that down it’s not that accurate. They have shifted land use, but the reservoir has not become wasted space unsuitable for anything else. Do we consider lakes waste space? The reservoir is useful for far more than just creating electricity. Flood control. A supply of drinking water, recreational area, etc.
On the other hand most of the other energy sources pretty much restrict their land use to them and nothing else.

Bryan A
Reply to  David Middleton
August 9, 2017 12:17 pm

You would get Far Greater descrepancies in land use if you only calculated the land used for generation
Diablo Canyon nuclear generation sits on 12 acres to produce 2200MW

Bryan A
Reply to  David Middleton
August 9, 2017 12:34 pm

Ivanpah sits on 4000 acres and produces 392MW
To produce 2200MW and replace Diablo (12 acres), the Ivanpah facility would require 22,000 acres,
1833.3 times as much land

Reply to  David Middleton
August 9, 2017 1:11 pm

Ok that’s the metric I was looking for. You determine the average sized reservoir that feeds a hydroelectric facility and then determined the ratio of average power generated for said average reservoir? Given the wide discrepancies between low head ponds and large deep reservoirs isn’t the mash-up a bit misleading and rather a useless metric?
Compound upon this that the reservoir is probably used for other water needs (drinking) might not the size of the reservoir more be determined by other factors rather than strictly for power generation? A good many small scale hydro generation facilities use small retention ponds with long enclosed penstocks to obtain a larger head. These would skew the values differently.

Reply to  David Middleton
August 9, 2017 3:00 pm

Take the case of the flood control (multi use recreation & irrigation as well) dam; then, 20 years after construction of the dam add electric generation because the 90% of the infrastructure is already there and demand has grown. Now calculate the required footprint of the hydro generation.
A significant percentage (with respect to the overall land use impact outcome as presented/depicted) of the dams were going to be there anyway.

Reply to  David Middleton
August 9, 2017 4:39 pm

That analogy only works if the oil wells were 5 to 10 times as large of an impact as they need to have been because they were also used for irrigation, flood control, & recreation.

Reply to  David Middleton
August 9, 2017 6:03 pm

“David Middleton August 9, 2017 at 11:37 am
It’s not a matter of whether or not the reservoir is multi-use. Based on the average footprint of existing hydroelectric power plants, it would require an area equivalent to 72% of Texas or 118% of California.”

That’s rather prejudiced, Dave.
Very few dams are built primarily as “generating sources”. Most of those dams are built for water containment and control; primary, secondary and tertiary.
The electricity generation is installed because it is absurd to waste all of that work energy inherent in falling water.
Let us know when collected and concentrated wind or solar can safely provide similar energy efficiencies with all of the land involved providing multiple layers of benefit; e.g. drinking water, water control, irrigation, flood control, transportation, regional environment moderation, aquaculture, wildfowl habitat and nesting, boating, waterskiing, fishing, swimming, hiking, etc etc.

Reply to  David Middleton
August 9, 2017 6:30 pm

“David Middleton August 9, 2017 at 6:15 pm
It’s just math.
The quality of the footprint is irrelevant to the size of it.”

“Quality of the footprint is irrelevant”?
My statement stands, David. You do not present any relevance or logic in that response of yours.
When comparing energy generation land usage, land that is only used for one purpose, literally exclusive of other benefits to Earth, wildlife, mankind; especially for very low energy density, that is a pitiful waste of land.
The quality of the footprint is everything. Otherwise, it is mostly wasted space.
Again, hydro power is not a primary reason for building dams. It is lagniappe, as are many other benefits of reservoirs.

Reply to  David Middleton
August 9, 2017 7:49 pm

“David Middleton August 9, 2017 at 7:29 pm
Each source of energy requires an average area of land per MW. Apart from solar, most of the land remains open to other uses.
Major hydroelectric plants are built into dams which were primarily designed for electricity generation.”

Large wind farms are mostly sole use too, not multiuse.
Dams include power generation as a secondary feature.
Look up the history of TVA, Lake Mead and many other water projects. They were built for water control.
Many small reservoirs are built for water, not power. Water is intensely precious across America.
Controlling floods is extremely beneficial. Providing water for irrigation, populations is extremely beneficial.
Only when a consistent volume of water will fall from sufficient height to power generators are dams built with generating facilities.
Lagniappe! Not primary.
Dammed water, fossil fuels, nuclear density of land use is beneficial to far more than some company raking in subsidies from land turned desolate. Birds, bats, wildlife, humans are endangered within wind turbines’ operating areas; if the blades don’t kill outright, their low frequency vibration disturbs or damages biological systems.
Pristine beautiful recreational places, wind farms are not. Decaying cities have finer allure and greater benefits than unhealthy land wasting low density short lived subsidized electricity pits.

Reply to  David Middleton
August 10, 2017 7:31 pm

“David Middleton August 9, 2017 at 7:57 pm
Texas is swarming with dams and reservoirs designed for freshwater supply. Most of these are unsuitable for hydroelectric power.
The Glen Canyon and Hoover dams can only generate electricity if the reservoir elevation is high enough. The higher the elevation, the bigger the footprint. This isn’t good or bad. It’s just volumetrics”

You have yet to make any valid points David.
You insist on defending an untenable opinion as your position. Just because you wrote an opinion, does not make it gospel or even correct.
Glen Canyon, just as Lake Mead were built for water retention, flood control and irrigation. They would have dammed the Grand Canyon as well, if citizens and government had allowed it.
It is not just volumetrics. As you notice with Texas’s potholes, height is required to produce serious electricity.
Using gravity and water volume to amass enough work potential to drive large generators.
Niagara Falls is one example of a generating facility built without intention to actually control the water; just to benefit from the water’s work potential.
Across America, water is life. Around water, life prospers. Hoover dam and Glen Canyon generating facilities were built long before there were sufficient people, businesses or industries around to benefit from the electricity.
California, however was buying, controlling or politically driving crusades to lock in water supplies for California; without care for who they took the water from.
Water from the Colorado River, Glen Canyon, snow fields in the Rockies, Great Lakes, icebergs, etc.; it doesn’t matter just so long as California gains the water they desire.
Where I live, there are three reservoirs within ten miles.
None generate electricity. Their sole purpose is water supply.
Could a local reservoir generate electricity? No.
These are all county reservoirs or jointly controlled county and town reservoirs. In order to amass a sufficient column of water to generate electricity on par or competition with nuclear, gas or coal facilities; they would have to flood the entire county and most of the neighboring county on the other side of a river.
Most modern dams, over the last 80 years or so, are built primarily, secondly and tertiary for water. Electricity is lagniappe and very useful, but low on the list and only viable where sufficient water column can generate electricity on par with nuclear, LNG and coal.
There is zero equivalence to the vast areas land wasted under alleged renewables. Alleged wind and solar renewables consume land and subsidies.

Reply to  David Middleton
August 11, 2017 7:37 am

David, you are inventing fiction and cherry picking isolated descriptions.
The history and rationale for establishing the TVA and other large dams are well documented.

Saving Chattanooga
Before Chickamauga Dam, Chattanooga—the Valley’s most flood-prone city—suffered from massive economic damage and mosquito[sic]-borne health crises because of the untamed river.
Just two or three generations ago, life in the Tennessee Valley was precarious at best. This was partly due to raging floods that regularly destroyed crops, livestock, homes, property and human lives. Flooding—still the most common natural disaster worldwide and the leading cause of natural disaster fatalities—was a grim reality of life for people struggling to make a living in Tennessee.
This was especially true for Chattanooga, which had one of the most serious flooding problems in the nation, suffering serious damage in 1867, 1875, 1886 and 1917. When the Tennessee Valley Authority was formed in 1933, annual flood damage to the Chattanooga area was estimated at $1.7 million (well over $31 million in today’s dollars). This did not include indirect damage such as losses due to interrupted business and traffic, unsanitary conditions and the spread of disease.
Because of this, flood control was the primary consideration in planning and constructing Chickamauga Dam. ”

Tennessee Valley Authority
One of the most famous and successful projects begun by the federal government during the Great Depression was the Tennessee Valley Authority, or TVA. Do you know what it was and why it was started?
During the Great Depression of the 1930s, President Franklin D. Roosevelt set up many new projects and agencies to help the hardest hit areas of the United States. One such agency was the Tennessee Valley Authority, which was created in 1933. The Tennessee River valley was continually dealing with floods, deforestation, and eroded land. The TVA aimed to help reduce these problems by teaching better farming methods, replanting trees, and building dams.”

Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), U.S. government agency established in 1933 to control floods, improve navigation, improve the living standards of farmers, and produce electrical power along the Tennessee River and its tributaries. The Tennessee River was subject to severe periodic flooding, and navigation along the river’s middle course was interrupted by a series of shoals at Muscle Shoals, Ala. In 1933 the U.S. Congress passed a bill establishing the TVA, thus consolidating all the activities of the various government agencies in the area and placing them under the control of a single one.
A massive program of building dams, hydroelectric generating stations, and flood-control projects ensued. The fusion of a broad range of specific powers with a sense of social responsibility to the region made the TVA significant as a prototype of natural-resource planning. Its jurisdiction is generally limited to the drainage basin of the Tennessee River, which covers parts of seven states: Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.
The TVA is a public corporation governed by a board of three directors appointed by the president with the advice and consent of the Senate. The constitutionality of the TVA was immediately challenged upon the agency’s establishment, but it was upheld by the Supreme Court in the case of Ashwander v. Tennessee Valley Authority (1936) and in later decisions.
All dams in the system are managed as a unit, with primary emphasis on flood control, which has proved extremely effective; no major flood damage has occurred on the Tennessee River since the system of dams was completed.”

President Roosevelt signed the Tennessee Valley Authority Act on May 18, 1933, creating the TVA as a Federal corporation. The new agency was asked to tackle important problems facing the valley, such as flooding, providing electricity to homes and businesses, and replanting forests. Other TVA responsibilities written in the act included improving travel on the Tennessee River and helping develop the region’s business and farming. The establishment of the TVA marked the first time that an agency was directed to address the total resource development needs of a major region. TVA was challenged to take on—in one unified development effort—the problems presented by devastating floods, badly eroded lands, a deficient economy, and a steady out-migration. The most dramatic change in Valley life came from the electricity generated by TVA dams. Electric lights and modern appliances made life easier and farms more productive. Electricity also drew industries to the region, providing desperately needed jobs.
Today, TVA is the largest public power company in the United States. The agency also carefully runs the nation’s fifth-largest river system in order to control flooding, make rivers easier to travel, provide recreation, and protect water quality. As a Federal public power corporation, the TVA serves about 80,000 square miles in the southeastern United States. This area includes most of Tennessee and parts of six other states—Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia.
TVA’s facilities for generating electric power include 29 hydroelectric dams, a pumped-storage plant, 11 coal-fired plants, 3 nuclear plants, and 4 combustion-turbine installations. These facilities provide over 27,000 megawatts of dependable generating capacity. TVA typically produces more than 130 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity a year, making it the largest electric power producer in the country. TVA provides electric power to 160 local, municipal, and cooperative power distributors through a network of about 17,000 miles of transmission lines.”

Dam electricity generation is lagniappe to the primary rationale, authorization and assignment to control floods.

Established by the U.S. Congress in 1933 as a critical component of President Franklin Roosevelt’s Depression-era “New Deal,” the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) was initially created primarily to manage the Tennessee River’s navigation and flood control problems, to encourage reforestation and proper land use, and to foster agricultural and industrial development.”

A Suggestion for Legislation to Create the Tennessee Valley Authority
President Franklin D. Roosevelt

April 10, 1933
Publishing Information Source: The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt With a Special Introduction and Explanatory Notes by President Roosevelt, Volume 2, The Year of Crisis, 1933. New York, Random House, 1938, 122-29.
To the Congress:
The continued idleness of a great national investment in the Tennessee Valley leads me to ask the Congress for legislation necessary to enlist this project in the service of the people.
It is clear that the Muscle Shoals development is but a small part of the potential public usefulness of the entire Tennessee River. Such use, if envisioned in its entirely, transcends mere power development; it enters the wide fields of flood control, soil erosion, reforestation, elimination from agricultural use of marginal lands, and distribution and diversification of industry. In short, this power development of war days leads logically to national planning for a complete river watershed involving many States and the future lives and welfare of millions. It touches and gives life to all forms of human concerns.
I, therefore, suggest to the Congress legislation to create a Tennessee Valley Authority, a cooperation clothed with the power of Government but possessed of the flexibility and initiative of a private enterprise. It should be charged with the broadest duty of planning for the proper use, conservation and development of the natural resources of the Tennessee River drainage basin and its adjoining territory for the general social and economic welfare of the Nation. The Authority should also be clothed with the necessary power to carry these plans into effect. Its duty should be the rehabilitation of the Muscle Shoals development and the coordination of it with the wider plan.
Many hard lessons have taught us the human waste that results from lack of planning. Here and there a few wise cities and counties have looked ahead and planned. But our Nation has “just grown.” It is time to extend planning to a wider field, in this instance comprehending in one great project many States directly concerned with the basin of one or our greatest rivers.
This in a true sense is a return to the spirit and vision of the pioneer. If we are successful here we can march on, step by step, in a like development of other great natural territorial units within our borders.
President Roosevelt’s Notes
Added to the Published Congressional Message

. . . Pursuant to the foregoing message, the Congress passed the Tennessee Valley Authority Act of 1933.
The Tennessee Valley Authority created by this Act was established, in the words of the document, “. . . for the purpose of maintaining and operating the properties now owned by the United States in the vicinity of Muscle Shoals, Alabama, in the interest of the national defense and for agricultural and industrial development, and to improve navigation in the Tennessee River and to control the destructive flood waters in the Tennessee River and Mississippi River Basins. . . .”
The program aiming at the control and proper use of the water resources of the Tennessee River Basin began with the issuance of my Executive Order No. 6162 of June 8, 1933, starting the construction of the Cove Creek Dam (Norris Dam) on the Clinch River, the first of a system of publicly owned dams on the principal tributaries and on the Tennessee itself.”

At the turn of the 20th century, farmers sought to divert the Colorado River to budding Southwestern communities via a series of canals. When the Colorado broke through the canals in 1905, creating the inland Salton Sea, the job of controlling the raging river fell to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
Bureau director Arthur Powell Davis in 1922 outlined a plan before Congress for a multipurpose dam in Black Canyon, located on the Arizona-Nevada border. Named the Boulder Canyon project, after the original proposed site, the dam would not only control flooding and irrigation, it would generate and sell hydroelectric power to recoup its costs.”

Even before Powell and Ives explored the river, others had seen the possibility of using its water to irrigate lands in California’s Imperial Valley. The idea was proposed in the 1850s, but it was not until the 1890s that actual development began. In 1896, the California Development Company began constructing canals in the Imperial Valley and the first water from the Colorado River was delivered in 1901.
The Imperial Valley of southern California is a deep depression with its lowest point, the Salton Sink, some 280 feet below sea level. The Colorado River flows along the valley’s southeastern rim, about 100 feet above sea level, and is separated from the valley by a ridge of alluvial material deposited by the river. The original Imperial Canal had its headworks on the California side of the river just upstream from the US/Mexico border. The canal ran along side the river for about four miles before turning west into the old Alamo River channel and into the Imperial Valley. In 1904, floods filled the first four miles of the canal with silt and prevented diversion of water. To solve the problem, a temporary channel was dug directly from the river to the old Alamo River channel. Since the channel was temporary and supposed to be closed before the spring floods, no control works were installed. Unexpected winter flooding caught the canal’s owners off guard, sending floods into the Imperial Valley. The uncontrolled flows began to cut into the channel making it deeper and deeper until the entire flow of the Colorado River was flowing into the Alamo channel and the Salton Sink, creating the Salton Sea. The river ran uncontrolled into the valley until November 1906 when the bypass channel was finally blocked. In December 1906, the river once again flooded, breaching the dam that had been built across the bypass channel and the river again flowed into the Salton Sea. The river was again controlled in February 1907, but renewed flooding in 1908 and 1909 underscored the need to find a way to control the river.
The Imperial Valley was not the only place to suffer from the unpredictable nature of the river and its tributaries. Yuma, Arizona, and the Bureau of Reclamation’s Yuma Project were subject to the effects of flooding by the Gila River. Levees built to protect the city and the project proved to be less effective than hoped, and the area became subject to regular floods. In 1916, flooding on the Gila River breached levees, and water stood four feet deep in the streets of Yuma. Faced with constant cycles of flooding and drought, the people of the region looked to the Federal Government for relief, and the Bureau of Reclamation began investigations into how to control the river and best use its valuable resource.
The passage of the Boulder Canyon Project Act came after more than two decades of studies and investigations. One of the most difficult steps in gaining approval for the project was determining the equitable allocation of the waters of the Colorado River. The people living in the Colorado River Basin depended of the waters of the river, and in many cases water rights held greater value than land titles. While all of the Basin states recognized the advantages of a large dam on the river, there were concerns about one state’s ability to claim the lions’s share of the water, leaving the other state without sufficient water for development. Under the doctrine of prior appropriation which was recognized by all Basin states, an individual or agency meeting certain legal conditions and first appropriating water for beneficial use had first right to the water. Several of the Basin States feared that California, with it’s vast financial resources and great thirst for water, would be the first state to begin beneficial use of the waters of the Colorado River and therefore claim rights to the majority of the water. It was clear that without some sort of an agreement on the distribution of water, the project could not proceed.
In 1920, representatives of the seven Basin states met and endorsed a proposal for an interstate compact. A commission was formed with a representative from each of the Basin states and one from the Federal Government. The Government’s representative was Herbert Hoover, then Secretary of Commerce under President Harding. The commission first met in January 1922 with Hoover presiding. At first, negotiations attempted to establish amounts for each state, but an agreement could not be reached. Hoover proposed that the Colorado River water resources be divided into two groups, the Upper and Lower Basin States, with the division of water within each Basin to be agreed upon at a later date. The Upper Basin consisted of the area above Lees Ferry, Arizona, about 30 miles south of the Arizona/Utah border, with the Lower Basin that area south of Lees Ferry. The proposal, known as the Hoover Compromise, led to the Colorado River Compact, which was signed by the Commissioners on November 24, 1922. The Compact was approved by the legislatures of six Basin States (Arizona did not approve the Compact until 1944) and the Federal Government. The division of water within the Upper and Lower Basins was left to the Basin States. In October 1948, the Upper Basin States approved the Upper Colorado River Basin Compact dividing water resources among the states of the Upper Basin. The states of the Lower Basin could not reach agreement, and the Secretary of the Interior determined the state’s allocation. The matter was sent to the courts for determination, and in 1963, the Supreme Court upheld the Secretary’s decision. The Colorado River Compact allocated each Basin 7,500,000 acre feet (af) per year, slightly less than is, on average, available. The Upper Colorado River Basin Compact divided the Upper Basin’s share in the following manner: Colorado, 51.75 percent; Utah, 23 percent; Wyoming, 14 percent; New Mexico, 11.25 percent, and 50,000 af to Arizona because a small portion of the state is within the upper basin. The Secretary of the Interior divided the Lower Basin’s share with California receiving 4,400,000 ac/ft, Nevada 300,000 ac/ft, and Arizona 2,800,000 ac/ft.
The first attempt to gain approval for construction of Boulder Dam came in 1922 with the introduction of two bills in the House of Representatives and the Senate. The bills were introduced by Congressman Phil D. Swing and Senator Hiram W. Johnson and were known as the Swing-Johnson bills. The bills failed to come up for a vote and were subsequently reintroduced several times. Many parties joined to oppose the bills. Arizona feared that a thirsty California was trying to get their water. Eastern legislators saw the project as a white elephant that would in no way benefit their constituents. The power lobby, under the guidance of Utah Senator Reed Smoot, saw the project as an attempt by the federal government to get into the power business, directly competing with private industry. Also joining the fight was the influential publisher of the Los Angeles Times, Harry Chandler, who owned 830,000 acres of irrigated land in Mexico. Chandler feared that the proposed project would siphon off water that was irrigating his land. In December 1928, after many failures, both the House and the Senate approved the bill and sent it to the President for final approval. On December 21, 1928, President Coolidge signed the bill approving the Boulder Canyon Project.
The Boulder Canyon Project Act authorized construction of a dam in Boulder or Black Canyon, construction of the All-American Canal to connect the Imperial and Coachella Valleys with the Colorado River, and divided the lower basin waters among the lower basin states. In addition, the Act authorized $165,000,000 for construction and stated the primary purposes of the project as flood control, improvement of navigation on the Colorado River, storage and delivery of water for reclamation and other beneficial uses, and generation of power. The Boulder Canyon Project Act became effective in June 1929 following ratification of the Colorado River Compact by six of the seven states of the Colorado River Basin.”

Glen Canyon Dam Construction History
The authorization of the Colorado River Storage Project Act by Congress on April 11, 1956 initiated the construction of Glen Canyon Dam, the key unit of one of the most extensive and complex river resource developments in the world. The first dynamite blast in Glen Canyon occurred on October 15, 1956 when President Dwight D. Eisnehower pressed a telegraph key from Washington D.C. to set off the explosion signaling the beginning of construction.
Once completed, Glen Canyon Dam would provide vital water storage that would allow the Upper Colorado River Basin states of Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, and New Mexico to utilize their share of the Colorado River, especially during times of drought, while providing the required delivery of water to the Lower Basin states of California, Nevada, and Arizona, as required by the Colorado River Compact of 1922.”

Our modern era of dams are all about water!
Electricity generation is lagniappe.
Especially when the long term result of hydro electrical generation is cheap electricity.

Reply to  David Middleton
August 11, 2017 8:02 am

Unfortunately, working for the Federal government frequently introduces workers to alleged leaders who set wild goals for major projects.
Eerily recorded in the Dilbert comic strip; clueless bosses love to inflate goals so they can puff up their achievements to their superiors.
This over assignment often was described by workers as receiving assignments to “create life”, “eliminate hunger”, “banish poverty”, “cure cancer”, etc.
Keeping assigned goals within achievable limits of budget and time, while simultaneously preventing “mission creep” required constant attention and effort.
That TVA had so many extra goals tacked onto their flood control mission is not surprising.
That TVA succeeded achieving their goals is surprising.
TVA’s success established the model for most major dam projects since.
N.B. each dam’s primary mission is to control water, control flooding, provide irrigation, provide water to people, businesses and industry.
Hydroelectric power generation is lagniappe.
Pretending that reservoir footprints are solely for generating electricity is foolish.
Dams, reservoir footprints, reservoir shorelines, etc. support a dam’s primary assignment while benefiting people, wildlife and plants.
The footprint of hydro-electric power are those components added to a dam for power generation, e.g. generators, sluices and gates.
Cheap hydro-electric power is lagniappe to water control.

Reply to  rocketscientist
August 9, 2017 12:00 pm

Also there may be one storage reservoir but multiple generating facilities downstream reusing the water flow. Then there are run of river generation with no storage. These would reduce the total area.

Reply to  nc
August 9, 2017 1:25 pm

nc, I agree. Such a combined metric conglomerates far too may different hydroelectric concepts and assumes they are all Hoover Dam.
For many large scale hydroelectric facilities the primary determining factor is how high the dam needs to be to generate the pressure head. The size of the subsequently created upstream reservoir is a result of the dam height and upstream topography, not so much on how much water will be needed to maintain flow rates.
This is a misleading metric which biases against hydroelectric generation if land use alone is the determining factor.

Paul Penrose
Reply to  rocketscientist
August 9, 2017 3:30 pm

If you consider the purpose of this posting is to figure out how much land it would take to replace coal generation with other sources, it is probably a reasonable method. Sure there are lots of different types of hydro facilities with differing amounts of acres per megawatt, but in this case we don’t care if the metric does not fit well for all of them. We only care about the average, because if we built enough new hydro plants to replace all the coal plants, it would all average out anyway. So far ballpark figures, this is fine.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Paul Penrose
August 9, 2017 8:53 pm

It is really academic anyway. The best hydroelectric sites were built up first. I think I remember reading that something like 95% of all the suitable sites have been developed. Many of the remaining potential sites have issues of being in national parks/monuments or defined wilderness areas. So, for all practical purposes, we have all the hydroelectric capacity we are going to have. There is little chance for hydroelectric to make much in the way of inroads on replacing other sources.

Reply to  Paul Penrose
August 10, 2017 5:19 am

I think the point is dams tend to be triple use. They 1: generate power 2: provide flood control 3: provide water for a thirsty populous. Hoover dam does all three of these, so you have to do an apportionment of how much of that land use should be dedicated to each cause.
Admittedly this gets tricky and folks use dubious math to prove their case with apportionment. Eg, when corn is turned to ethanol, they apportion some of the energy to the remaining low energy byproduct because it can be used as cattle feed – not that it actually is – since it has to be delivered most and would rot if not fed very quickly. Some more goes to the stover (corn stalks) which are used for animal feed, and occasionally as cellulose stock.

August 9, 2017 11:30 am

If wind is placed throughout the Texas panhandle and cattle grazing and farming continues uninterrupted then who gives a flip?

Reply to  David Middleton
August 9, 2017 11:38 am

Agreed, but the 80 acres/MW is the easement and spacing. When a 3 MW turbine goes up the builder does not fence out 240 acres. The physical footprint is a lot smaller than that. Most of the land is dual use, and in places like Iowa, Oklahoma, and Texas the original use is unimpeded. That may not be the case for ski resort towns in Vermont, but it is a little disingenuous to insinuate that an area the size of Georgia must be solely dedicated to wind. I understand that the article does not claim it, but the map implies it.

Reply to  David Middleton
August 9, 2017 12:11 pm

Most lakes created by hydro-electric dams are dual use as well. So what?

Reply to  David Middleton
August 9, 2017 12:54 pm

David, the renewable technology risk includes new emerging technology that outdates current renewable investments.

Reply to  David Middleton
August 9, 2017 2:19 pm

“I understand that the article does not claim it, but the map implies it.”
The article specifically uses the total land area rather than the direct land area for wind, thus assumes no dual use for the land.

Reply to  David Middleton
August 9, 2017 2:35 pm

To clarify, if the land can be used as it was before with the presence of turbines, you have not “used” any land. Dual use does matter. The authors recognise this when they discount the use of rooftop solar as not requiring any land. It is a pointless argument to say that generating the country’s power would require X square miles of land if those X square miles were all on roofs.
Puttng it another way, the total land area of the country is fixed. We simply have to divide it up as to how we use that area. If generating wind requires an area of X million square miles, but all those square miles can still be used as they were before (by grazing sheep or growing crops), then this land use has not been lost for those other purposes. The total land area needed is therefore pretty much irrelevant. The only relevant factor is the amount of productive land that can no longer be used for another purpose. This is a genuine cost and is the reason why biofuels should not be primary crops. The genuine cost in that case is the food that could have been grown. Bioethanol in the US was always more about fuel security than about environment, in my opinion, as backed up by Bush.

Reply to  David Middleton
August 9, 2017 4:07 pm

“The point is that in order to replace coal with wind, you would need an area the size of Georgia.”
There is an area the size of Georgia. It is Georgia. If we can ultilise this area without preventing the existing use of the area the size of Georgia then very clearly there is no problem, since we have a great many areas the size of Georgia available. Georgia being one of them.
The only problem is what we cannot use for other purposes, so the total area required is a complete red herring.

Tsk Tsk
Reply to  David Middleton
August 9, 2017 6:05 pm

Within the total land use requirements are direct impact areas. Permanently disturbed land amounts to less than one acre and only 3.5 acres are temporarily disturbed by construction and other activities.173 Wind turbines require vast tracts of land to operate, but the direct impact area is often comparable to other power sources. Despite smaller direct impact areas, this study will rely on the total land use requirements of 60 acres per megawatt due to the restrictions on development that the presence of wind turbines causes.

It’s a bit disingenuous to imply that the authors neglected the issue when it comes to wind when they actually give their reasoning. Rooftop solar is different because the land is already committed to a use before the panels are added. In the case of wind that use is restricted only after the addition of the turbines.

Reply to  David Middleton
August 10, 2017 4:33 am

I did not imply they had neglected the issue. I said they chose a worst case senario.

Thomas Homer
Reply to  chadb
August 9, 2017 11:36 am

Where will the installations go to power San Francisco? Washington D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City, etc.?

Reply to  Thomas Homer
August 9, 2017 11:42 am

You probably start running out about there. However, increased wind farms in Texas, Oklahoma, Iowa, Nebraska etc. along with a few strategic HVDC lines connecting Dallas to Memphis, Boise to Chicago and so on could displace a lot of the power currently being produced in the south east and near Chicago. I doubt lines connecting Iowa to New York could be profitable, but it is not difficult to imagine wind penetration increasing nationally from 6% to 15%. The natural answer for DC and NYC would be ocean. However, I doubt even 15 MW turbines could get down to $0.05/kWh so I don’t know whether that will ever be feasible. However, improved geothermal heating units could likely displace a lot of current energy use in the NE.

Reply to  Thomas Homer
August 9, 2017 12:12 pm

Even with HVDC, maximum practical distance is about 500 miles.

Reply to  Thomas Homer
August 9, 2017 12:47 pm

To MarkW below:
“Even with HVDC, maximum practical distance is about 500 miles”
Somebody should make sure Brazil knows that so they don’t build the 2,385 km long Rio Madeira HVDC line capable of carrying 7.1 GW. Oh shoot, they finished it in 2013.
Also, according to Wikipedia there are 14 individual projects over 1,000 km each with a total capacity of 68.6 GW. Another 3 with a total capacity of 22GW are under construction. Let’s note that these aren’t Germany Energywiende projects, they are coal and hydro powered lines in China and India. If China and India can push around 90GW of electricity on lines 1,000 km or longer we can build a line connecting Wyoming to California, Texas to Memphis, Iowa to Chicago, etc. To put it in perspective the Rio Madeira line could connect Dallas to New York. If Dallas could buy wind from West Texas farms at $0.04 /kWh (current wholesale is below that, but let’s kick it up to that level for fun) and sell it into NYC at their current retail rates of ~$0.2/kWh over a 10 GW line and you assume a 40% capacity factor (capacity factor of new wind turbines) they would make $5.6B/y on the spread. The reality is that the capacity factor of the line would be higher (solar farms would pop up near wind turbines to sell their power into NYC), and the state would likely charge high interconnect fees, so it is difficult to know what the exact return would be. However, the economics could very well work out.

Reply to  Thomas Homer
August 9, 2017 1:09 pm

How favorable are the envirowhackos going to look at the underground pipelines needed for transmission of this HVDC throughout the US along with the necessary facilities about every four to five hundred miles for distribution node points?

Reply to  Thomas Homer
August 9, 2017 2:16 pm

“Even with HVDC, maximum practical distance is about 500 miles.”
As pointed out by chadb, MarkW has again made an unsubstantiated and completely wrong assertion. I recommend checking before posting.

Walter Sobchak
Reply to  chadb
August 9, 2017 11:41 am

I don’t, but I don’t go there. The folks in the area who are annoyed by the noise and wildlife destruction might have a different opinion, and it is their territory.

Javert Chip
Reply to  Walter Sobchak
August 9, 2017 11:57 am

…not to mention the taxpayers who’re forced to subsidize this crap.

Reply to  Walter Sobchak
August 9, 2017 12:03 pm

Thanks, Walter. There’s far more than audible noise to be concerned about with industrial scale wind turbines. Why not include this form of ‘trespassing’
as part of the ‘footprint’?

Reply to  chadb
August 9, 2017 12:10 pm

The migratory birds that are being killed by the windmills give a flip.

Reply to  chadb
August 9, 2017 5:31 pm

Yes, chadb, the owner can and often does fence out the entire wind plant. The two large wind plants going in in Wyoming take 300,000 acres total area. Open space is destroyed, as is the history of the area and recreational opportunities (people don’t generally camp under wind turbines so far as I know). They are blight on the land—like sticking hundreds of Washington monuments out on the prairie connected with dirt roads. Of course, if you hate open space, wildlife, and nature, they’re perfect.

Retired Kit P
Reply to  Sheri
August 9, 2017 7:19 pm

I have been to Wyoming. I would rather camp in a truck stop with our motor home than Wyoming open spaces.
There are an infinite number of free camp sites where you have all the open space you want.
We are not running out of open space.

Reply to  Sheri
August 10, 2017 5:40 am

Retired Kit P: A person from Japan will say we have too much open space because we have a backyard. So we all should live in 600 square foot houses packed in like sardines because the Japanese live that way. We can cram thousands more into cities that way.
Of course, since you don’t apparently like open spaces and wildlife and nature, you’d love wind turbines. Please have them moved to YOUR backyard, not mine, and we’ll both be happy.
(What is it about people that they fear being out alone in nature?)

August 9, 2017 11:40 am

The 550 mw Topaz solar farm is slated to be surrendered to the Corrizo Plain enviro groups when the panels are removed at the end of the PPA contract term. That was a stipulation in getting the groups to allow it in California. It was dry land before and will continue to be so after.

Brett Keane
August 9, 2017 11:48 am

In spite of the tears of urban folk, nothing is really lost from Hydro. Part of a river is converted into a lake, both of water. Natural lakes can be made from cataclasmic volcanic explosions, or having a mile of ice form and scour the watercourse deeply before leaving a tailings dam at one end, of great size, or from immense landslips combined with deep erosion. And folk will say ‘how lovely’,with justification. None of the above last forever, however. So, get real.

Reply to  David Middleton
August 9, 2017 3:35 pm

As stated above (by others), neither storage area or volume is not the controlling factor in hydro design. The storage could be much less if a penstock were to be run horizontally, relatively flat,along the natural grade contour, and then drop into generation.
The 4 mile long penstock method would save “area”, but the reservoirs that are created along with dams are usually considered a benefit. If hydro systems were designed to minimize storage footprint, the storage footprint could be 20% (estimate based on experience and pulled from dark place) of the typical multi-use generation facilities.

Javert Chip
Reply to  Brett Keane
August 9, 2017 12:01 pm

Ok let’s get real.
Lake Powell has materially changed the Grand Canyon.
Your flawed bucolic view is that since everything is eventually going to change anyway, why worry about sooner the later?
Logic like that is difficult to argue with because it’e mind-numbing stupid.

Reply to  Javert Chip
August 9, 2017 3:48 pm

Natural dams on the Colorado had greater impact that anything done by man. They lasted longer than any manmade structure will last; they took longer to fill with water (20 years of obstructed flow before over topping); and more sediment released at failure than anything imaginable.)
The previous dams on the Colorado system materially changed the river system as well.
Perspective matters; I don’t live there so I don’t care.

Retired Kit P
Reply to  Javert Chip
August 9, 2017 7:41 pm

The place we call ‘grand’ canyon is an isolated waste land with little value. It is not particularly unique or ‘grand’ when it comes to western river systems.
I have been there and it is beautiful. Other than its destination as a national park, the river could be used for power.

Reply to  Brett Keane
August 9, 2017 12:02 pm

Anyone living in the area that is now underwater would bet to differ with the idea that nothing is lost, especially the farmers.

Thomas Homer
Reply to  Ted
August 9, 2017 12:09 pm

The St. Francis Dam had many losers. Those that lost their land to the new reservoir, and those that lost their lives and homes when the dam failed.

August 9, 2017 12:02 pm

With both wind and solar, the best locations are already being used.
If we were to start ramping up production, less optimal sites will have to be selected.
This will cause the acres/MW number for them to get even worse.

Reply to  MarkW
August 9, 2017 12:22 pm

Incorrect. Wind sites are already being repowered. The best sites were taken 20 years ago and now the 300kW turbines that were there are being replaced with 3MW turbines. Also, as the turbines get larger there are more areas that can be built without taking a capacity penalty.

Thomas Homer
Reply to  chadb
August 9, 2017 1:16 pm

MarkW – “the best locations are already being used” chadb – “Incorrect … The best sites were taken 20 years ago ”

Reply to  chadb
August 10, 2017 4:41 am

Thomas – since the 300kw turbines are being replaced with 3MW turbines, the sites are only 10% “used”.

Thomas Homer
Reply to  chadb
August 10, 2017 8:37 am

seaice1 – [ Thomas – since the 300kw turbines are being replaced with 3MW turbines, the sites are only 10% “used”. ]
You’re admitting that “the best locations are already being used”, so that is not incorrect. Your argument now is that, while those locations are in fact in use, the turbines there currently are so inefficient that replacing them with more modern turbines might produce more power.

Reply to  chadb
August 10, 2017 3:42 pm

The response is really aimed at this
“With both wind and solar, the best locations are already being used.
If we were to start ramping up production, less optimal sites will have to be selected.”
That is wrong because we can ramp up production by up-grading the already used land.

August 9, 2017 12:03 pm

One of the contributors to Ted Talks did a back of the envelope calculation to see how much land area in the U K would be required to grow enough biomass to supply Britain’s energy needs. He ran out of country!

Reply to  Trebla
August 9, 2017 2:12 pm

Trebla – I agree entirely. Simple back of the envelope calculations can easily show that land-based biomass cannot replace fossil fuels. Utilising waste biomass can make a contribution.

August 9, 2017 12:09 pm

We lost the Hetch Hetchy Valley, the nearby twin of Yosemite, to a reservoir for San Francisco, and the tears were shed buy environmentalists, not the urban folk of San Francisco. http://www.hetchhetchy.org/history_of_the_valley

Retired Kit P
Reply to  majormike1
August 9, 2017 7:48 pm

Who is we and what is lost?
Yosemite is lost to tourist hordes.

August 9, 2017 12:16 pm

The only power source, sustainable or otherwise, that makes sense is nuclear. First we do liquid fluoride thorium reactors (LFTR), then fusion. LFTR is compact, scalable, dispatchable, non-proliferating, consumes nuclear waste and produces little, and is fail-safe. Its only problem is our environment of abiding ignorance, abetted by scaremongering media and politicians.

Reply to  majormike1
August 9, 2017 2:09 pm

I agree that nuclear should be an important and incresing part of our energy mix. Nuclear offers us a reasonable and safe way to a lower carbon future. The anti-nuclear lobby is just as anti-science as the CO2 denying lobby.

August 9, 2017 12:26 pm

Median capacity factor for onshore wind in the US,is,0.31, not 0.39. See guest post True Costmof Wind at Climate Etc. for details and sources.

August 9, 2017 12:49 pm

Probably nothing better than Electricity will ever be discovered that would displace it as the most efficient source of power/energy. However it is produced, and how much land is required to host the various means of production of electricity will still require dedicated right of ways for power lines (Both AC and HVDC) The one thing we should do now is to make sure these Easements and Right of Ways are in place for the future so as the CAVE people (Citizens Against Virtually Everything) protesting civilization and development cannot stall future power line construction. I may have missed it, but I don’t know if this article made much mention of the power line foot print required to transmit electricity, and we will need much more power line capacity in the future. It will be required forever, unless of course, Tesla was onto something with his wireless electricity transmission. I guess never say never, but it hasn’t happened yet.

Reply to  Earthling
August 9, 2017 2:05 pm

” I may have missed it, but I don’t know if this article made much mention of the power line foot print required to transmit electricity, ”
you can only have missed it if you did not read the report. Each source has a section titled “Transmission/Transportation Land Use”
It is difficult to miss.

Reply to  seaice1
August 10, 2017 11:24 am

The only reference to power line foot print is very vague… “For each source, it approximates the land used during resource production, by energy plants, for transport and transmission, and to store waste materials.” There would be a lot of overlap on the same power line, whether it be Transmission or Distribution. All electrical generation, wind, solar, coal and gas or nuclear uses the same power line infrastructure. I didn’t see any substantive break down for such. However, this opens another question where say, much more distribution lines are required to install solar, but at a very low capacity factor as compared to a NG or nuclear generator that goes straight out to Transmission lines. This is a fairly simplified article, but it does show that capacity factor, and power density for choice of source of electrons does make a difference to total foot print.

Bryan A
Reply to  Earthling
August 9, 2017 2:22 pm

Probably because the Power Line footprint is the same regardless of the source of energy generation. The only additional Transmission facilities would depend on generation placement though any new generation would require additional intertie

Paul Penrose
Reply to  Bryan A
August 9, 2017 3:37 pm

That’s wrong. Because solar and wind are so diffuse, they require a lot more transmission lines. This is a significant factor that is often overlooked or just hand-waved away.

Reply to  Bryan A
August 10, 2017 12:54 am

domestic solar doesn’t need any more power lines at all… reduces amount of power needed to be provided over grid.

Paul Penrose
Reply to  Bryan A
August 10, 2017 4:59 pm

That might be the most ignorant thing you’ve ever said. But it’s hard to judge since you spout so much ignorance. So tell me, just how do you interconnect millions of PV panels spread across thousands of acres of land?

Michael S. Kelly
August 9, 2017 12:55 pm

Bravo. Excellent article.

Svend Ferdinandsen
August 9, 2017 1:07 pm

It could be valuable to measure the land use for 1MW production at some time now and then. It would give more information to also tell about the MWh produced in a year or in average over a year.
A 3MW windturbine can produce 3MW maximum, but might only produce 1MW in average over a year.
Normal power stations produce 80 to 90% of the rated capacity over a year, if they are not reduced because of other variable and unpredicted sources.

August 9, 2017 1:41 pm

It is certain that wind, hydro and solar will need more land than fossil fuels. However, the numbers are disputable. for example, for wind they say
“Within the total land use requirements are direct impact areas. Permanently disturbed land amounts to less than one acre and only 3.5 acres are temporarily disturbed by construction and other activities.173 Wind turbines require vast tracts of land to operate, but the direct impact area is often comparable to other power sources. Despite smaller direct impact areas, this study will rely on the total land use requirements of 60 acres per megawatt due to the restrictions on development that the presence of wind turbines causes. ”
So despite saying that direct impact of wind could use similar areas of land to other sources, they have chosen to use total land use – assuming the land cannot be used for other purposes.
I am sure the real answer is somewhere inbetween, but this analysis has taken the worst possible case for wind.
For solar, the location of concentrated solar plants is likely to be desert, which has little other use.
Whilst this sort of analysis is useful it is very far from being the whole picture. This sort of analysis is very useful for showing that land grown biofuels can never replace fossil fules for transport for example. However, the type of land used is very important, and deserts and mountain lakes tend to be pretty low productivity before the energy source is installed.

Reply to  seaice1
August 9, 2017 5:42 pm

The only use for land is for human beings to cover it coast to coast? No open spaces, everything covered with concrete steel and roads. Perhaps even use wilderness areas and national parks. After all, the turbines don’t really disturb anything. There are millions of acres of parks in windy areas. Why not?

Reply to  Sheri
August 10, 2017 4:45 am

See Scott Adam’s “Absurd absolute proof” that I have won this exchange.

Reply to  Sheri
August 10, 2017 5:55 am

It would only be an absurd assertion if 1700 turbines weren’t going in within 150 miles of my house. Also, I remind you that at one time a boy saying he was girl and winning high school track meet trophies in the girl’s division would have fallen under the Scott Adams “Absurd Absolute”. In the face of the denial of reality by much of society, I’m not sure Scott Adam’s idea is still valid.

Reply to  Sheri
August 10, 2017 3:43 pm

“to cover it coast to coast? No open spaces, everything covered with concrete steel and roads” Absurd absolute

Tsk Tsk
Reply to  seaice1
August 9, 2017 5:46 pm

And precisely how much land was budgeted for backup of these intermittent sources?

Michael S. Kelly
Reply to  seaice1
August 10, 2017 5:21 pm

No, it didn’t put forth the “worst possible case” for wind. I don’t know what that is, but I know it’s worse than one central wind park. The reason is that wind turbines actually can’t coexist with random people. They are big, very powerful, and therefore very dangerous machines. Wind farm host municipalities have, for years, been struggling to find the safe “standoff distance” for people. Various studies have been done, but the one I recall the best analyzed the actual incidence of hazards that could affect the public from the long history of wind farms. Dominating the standoff distance calculation was blade-throw, the shedding of one of the multi-ton, 200 foot long blades and flinging it a considerable distance. Analyzing the actual history revealed a probability of 1 blade throw per hundred windmills per year. The authors guessed that the phenomenon would, in the long run, average one blade through per thousand windmills per year. Based on that guess, they recommended a standoff distance that exceeded that required for efficient turbine operation. In other words, the boundary of a wind turbine farm would extend further than calculated by a “hectares per watt” estimate, and the increase in land use would grow with the number of wind farms.

August 9, 2017 1:53 pm

“Strata receives at least some funding from those great Americans: The Koch Brothers. ”
Not just recieve some of their funding from the Koch’s – the ties are closer than that.
“Simmons was the “Charles G. Koch Professor of political economy” at Utah State from 2008 through 2013 and is the President and Director of Research for Strata. In addition to serving as the Koch Professor at Utah State, Simmons also runs the “Koch Scholars” Program, which receives an annual grant from the Charles Koch Foundation.”
Simmons is the Strata president.
Ths does not make their conclusions wrong, but perhaps sheds some light on the choice of using the worst case scenario for wind of total rather than direct impact areas.

Paul Penrose
Reply to  seaice1
August 9, 2017 3:40 pm

They also used the worst case for coal, oil, and gas by including mining and transportation land uses. I wonder why you left that part out?

Reply to  Paul Penrose
August 9, 2017 4:00 pm

I did not leave that out, all these are included in each case. Look at the quote I provide – they chose to use total land use rther than direct impact. That is a “worst case” for wind. Show me where they chose to use a total area rather than direct impact for coal and we can discuss. The mining and transportation uses for coal use are all direct impacts.

August 9, 2017 1:57 pm

For anyone that wants to slag off Mosh for his Engish degree “Landon earned a bachelor’s degree in communications…”
Landon is the lead author of this report.

August 9, 2017 2:13 pm

In his graphic comparing power footprints with states, David Middleton has covered eastern Mass. with nuclear power plants. The area includes Boston, Cambridge, North Shore, South Shore, and MetroWest. A most astute choice! This is one of the most liberal areas of the country, and is heavily infested with moonbats.
Paving the whole region over with nukes would greatly enhance the quality of life in the rest of the state. Finally, a climate change program we can all get behind.

August 9, 2017 2:45 pm

An interesting point is the use of land outide the USA in some calculations. Whilst this is one way to look at things, it also increases the amount of land avalable to the whole world.

Tsk Tsk
Reply to  seaice1
August 9, 2017 5:50 pm

So no more nonsense about using up multiple Earths, right?

Reply to  Tsk Tsk
August 10, 2017 4:47 am

Tsk Tsk, touche. However, I was pointing put that the argument generally is discussng land area in terms of the USA, whereas the article is not restricted to USA.

August 9, 2017 3:06 pm

Does Musk realize that less than 1/2 of all family homes have a roof facing South?
Does Musk realize that of those roofs facing south half of them have a pitch of less than 9/12 – 37 degrees with the most common pitch being 6/12 or 26.6 degrees. Thus they panels will not be at optimum angle for solar efficiency.
Does Musk realize that there are only 125 million homes in the USA? [https://www.statista.com/statistics/183635/number-of-households-in-the-us/]
Does Musk realize that the average home is only 1660 sq ft providing a roof of about 2000 sq feet, and only one half of the roof of a home facing south is usable, i.e. 100 sq feet? [https://www.fatherly.com/love-and-money/family-finance/average-size-houses-us/]
Is Musk aware of this map? http://rredc.nrel.gov/solar/old_data/nsrdb/1961-1990/redbook/atlas/serve.cgii
Note that is for a plate tilted at an angle of 15 degrees greater than the latitude, about 50 degrees. do you want that on your roof.
Is Musk aware that when directly on the roof that all you get is this map? http://rredc.nrel.gov/solar/old_data/nsrdb/1961-1990/redbook/atlas/serve.cgi

Paul Penrose
Reply to  usurbrain
August 9, 2017 3:43 pm

Musk realizes that he can get people to buy his product by hyping the good points and not mentioning the bad. Just like every other company selling a product. Many of which, gasp, also take advantage of government subsidies. So why is Elon Musk always singled out?

Reply to  Paul Penrose
August 9, 2017 5:46 pm

Perhaps because he is the epitome of the modern progressive—using everyone else’s money to run his businesses. Tesla went something close to 13 years without making a profit. I read once that Musk said profit was not important, the mission was. Only someone not using his own money would say that.

August 9, 2017 6:30 pm

Some apparently interesting work in this study is made absolutely misleading if not worthless by assignment of transmission acreage on a prorata basis. For nuclear, transmission represents 80% of total landuse of 12 acres/ MWe. Compare this with landuse for nuclear plants such as Chinshan in Taiwan and Hanbit in Korea which come in at 0.04 acres / MWe. When land is scarce, the production facilities themselves take up 300 times less land than the assigned value from the ‘study’.
Robust transmission networks will be required in any industrial society, and no, you can’t power steel mills from distributed rooftop solar. Further, nuclear due to large unit size and high capacity factor will use a much smaller share of transission acreage than other intermittent and distributed sources. This is clearly evident in FERC publications related to high penetration for wind.
For meaningfull comparisons, production facility acreage should be shown separately from transmission. Otherwise, comparisons are misleading.

August 9, 2017 6:49 pm

Middleton makes a fool of himself again. The implicit assumption of this entire article is that “less land per megawatt is good. To show what a stupid assumption this is, consider rooftop solar. This technology takes area that serves no purpose, which would do nothing otherwise, and uses it to produce energy.

Another example of how stupid this implicit assumption is, is that the land used for a wind turbine farm does not preclude the land for it’s original purpose, be it livestock grazing, or crop production. When the land is use for TWO purposes simultaneously, it increases the value of said land.

Seriously Dave, go out and do a scientific poll of the cattle grazing underneath the wind turbines, and find out if they mind the whooshing noise.

Reply to  Mark S Johnson
August 9, 2017 6:59 pm

Wind is not free for adjaent landowners in Germany. Real estate values for properties with a view of a wind turbine suffer a 15% discount relative to similar properties with unobstructed views. Who compensates those landowners?
And for me, the nightime visage of the wind farms on I-65 north of Inianapolis is absolutdly hellish, venturing into Mad Max territory. Anyone think this improves the view?

Reply to  Robert
August 9, 2017 7:05 pm

“Who compensates those landowners?”

The same people that compensate the landowners downstream of a coal ash pond:comment image

Reply to  Robert
August 10, 2017 12:53 am

about half of German wind turbines are owned collectively by local communities. who presumably agreed to the turbines being amongst them.
(and I’d like to see a source for your assertion)

Reply to  Robert
August 15, 2017 5:13 pm

You really want to go there? Can anyone argue that the local wind farm increases property values?
From Forbes (23 Sept 2015):
Here are some more detailed analyses about wind project effects on
property values, by independent professionals:
A 2013 Study of over a million homes by the London School of Economics,
concluded that properties near turbines will decline in value. Searchlight wind farm could reduce property values by 25-60 percent, suggest studies.
A 2012 study by Lansink Appraisers: Diminution in Price.
A 2012 Study by E.ON Energy Research Center (German Utility company):
The Impact of Wind Farms on Property Values.
2012 testimony in Lee County, Illinois, by appraiser Michael McCann.
A 2011 study Values in the Wind: A Hedonic Analysis of Wind Power
Facilities by Clarkson economics professor, Dr. Martin Heintzelman.
A 2011 Study by appraiser Michael McCann on property value impacts in
Cape Vincent, New York.
A 2011 Report by appraiser Michael McCann on property value impacts in
Brewster, Massachusetts.
Testimony of appraiser Michael McCann on property value impacts in
Adams County, Illinois.
A study done by Metropolitan Appraisal, regarding the Forward Wind
Project (Wisconsin).
“A Wind Turbine Impact Study” by appraisers: Appraisal Group One, and a
later version.
A valuable report: “Impact of Wind Turbines on Market Value of Texas
Rural Land” by Gardner Appraisal Group.
“Living with the impact of windmills” presentation by Real Estate broker
Chris Luxemburger, is an analysis of some 600 sales over a three year
Testimony of Maturen & Associates, Real Estate Appraisers, concerning the
effects of wind projects on home values.
In addition to being an excellent noise an health effects report, this
document has a twenty page appendix on property values.
Wind Power Siting Issues: Overview” (by energy expert Tom Hewson): cites
several studies.
Appraisers report property value losses near turbines.
Government Agency agrees that turbines do devalue property!
Property assessments reduced near turbines.
Property assessment lowered for home near wind project.
Grafton Vermont Property Values Forum (1/17/14): Mike McCann
Council tax cut for homes near wind farms.
These are some other analyses and commentary about wind project
effects on property values:
Wind farm ‘blight’ cutting value of homes by up to a third.
“How do wind turbines affect property value?”
Property values are the new front line in the war over wind turbines
32 Lawsuits against wind developer — including property value loss
Falmouth Real Estate – “The Turbine Effect”
Turbines complicate sales of abutting homes.
“Wind Industry Big Lie: Your Property Value Will Not Be Affected.”.
Vermont Wind Developer buys neighboring property after lawsuit
“A new slant on wind projects” offers a very helpful idea as to put some of
the economic benefits of wind projects into perspective.
This site has a fine collection of property value articles.
“Property Values decrease by 40% if view of wind turbines” is an analysis of
a real estate broker on turbine impacts on residential values.
An excellent discussion by the Wisconsin Realtor Association about the
adverse effects of wind development.
An analysis by an Illinois Realtor about effects of wind projects.
A survey by a Wyoming Realtor concluded that properties nearby a wind
project were virtually unmarketable.
“Property values blowing in the wind” is a report done by a local Realtor
about wind project effects in her area of northern NY.
See here and here where two Realtors make formal testimony about the
effects of wind turbines on property values.
Landowners say Turbines have Hurt their Property Values.
Wind turbines have reduced property values, court says.
Wind Turbine Compensation Stirring Discontent (Denmark).
“How Industrial Wind Projects Affect Property Values” is a worthwhile
commentary by Chuck Ebbing.
A nice presentation “Turbine Effects on View Shed” by engineer Chuck
“Impact of wind farms on the value of residential property and agricultural
land” an RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) Survey.
“Farm couple fights wind turbines”.
A newspaper article: “Critics say wind turbines hurt land values.”
“Wind turbine homes threat” is a news report.
“I predict a series of rural ghettos of abandoned, unmaintained homes” says
an experienced appraiser.
The Better Plan website has a good example of a real estate problem, plus
some good recommendations.
Here is a good news story about homeowners holding out for the wind
developers to buy their property — and succeeding very well.
This article says: “Horizon, opponents debate effects on property”.
“U.S. wrestling with property values and setbacks for its wind turbines”
touches on several related matters.
This UK site site lists several other sources regarding property values.
“Giant blades are slicing home prices” an article about experiences in
“An Ill Wind Blowing” is a story about an English family’s experiences with
a wind project depreciating their home value.
Ontario Parliament member calls for a provincial home value study about
another English family’s experiences with a wind project depreciating their
home value.
“Windfarm Blows House Value Away” is a story about another English
family’s experiences with a wind project depreciating their home value.
“Wind farm property sells at sheriff’s sale.”

Reply to  Mark S Johnson
August 9, 2017 7:01 pm


Hey Middleton, this analysis doesn’t account for the fact that off shore wind doesn’t use land.

And how about floating solar? http://www.seaflex.net/wp-content/sembly_data/thumbnail/f1/7614c7205535b2a4b9ab128ac69aeb.jpg?134177

Reply to  David Middleton
August 9, 2017 7:24 pm

Middleton posted: “fossil fuels and nuclear power were the clear winners, by a long-shot.”….

How did they “win?” What measure did you use to determine “winning” and “losing?”….

Acknowledge the implicit assumption: “less land per megawatt is good,” which is how you determine the “winner”

Reply to  David Middleton
August 9, 2017 7:29 pm

PS, offshore wind would beat out natural gas, coal and nuclear because it uses ZERO land.

Reply to  David Middleton
August 9, 2017 7:36 pm

Middleton expounds the metric: “smallest footprint” which means smaller is better, with “footprint” being Mw/acre.

Thanks Dave, you’ve just acknowledged my contention that your implicit assumption is: “less land per megawatt is good.”

Reply to  David Middleton
August 9, 2017 7:38 pm

Thanks Dave, you again acknowledged the implicit assumption that I previously pointed out.

Now, do you wish to talk about using desert land for solar? You know, land that can’t be used for anything else?

Reply to  David Middleton
August 9, 2017 7:40 pm

Dave, have you spoken to the Iowa farmers that collect rent from the wind turbines that co-occupy their corn fields?………the farmers that collect a rent check monthly for the trouble of plowing around the base?

Reply to  David Middleton
August 9, 2017 7:42 pm

Pointing out an implicit assumption that underlies your entire article is neither a straw man, nor a red herring. I find it funny you would label them as such being that you’ve acknowledged that the assumption is valid.

Reply to  David Middleton
August 9, 2017 7:48 pm

I don’t care who won the Super Bowl. I don’t like my herrings red.

Reply to  David Middleton
August 9, 2017 7:52 pm


You are funny.

You posted: “It would” in this comment: https://wattsupwiththat.com/2017/08/09/the-footprint-of-energy-land-use-of-u-s-electricity-production/comment-page-1/#comment-2577123

You acknowledged my assertion of an implicit assumption.

Thanks for playing.

Reply to  David Middleton
August 9, 2017 7:55 pm

Middleton posts: “You assumed I oppose…….”

Nope, I didn’t make any assumption, I just pointed out one that you made.

Reply to  David Middleton
August 9, 2017 8:05 pm

Strawman? Could you please elaborate on that contention and stop posting the stupid pictures that waste bandwidth? Posting those pics just shows your desperation when losing an argument.

Reply to  David Middleton
August 10, 2017 4:59 am

By saying “win” there is a clearly implied value to having smaller area. You could have said wind was the clear winner, by a long shot, of the biggest area needed. Yay!
That would have changed the way the article read.
The analogy of the Superbowl deonstrates this clearly. The purpose of the game is to win. To win is better than to lose. When we say one team won it is saying the outcome for that team was better. Winning is an implicitly superior to losing.
“The Patriots won the Super Bowl by scoring more points than the Falcons. Is this good or bad?” Almost everybody would say it was good for the Patriots and bad for the Falcons.
By analogy, fossil fuel won the energy race by having a smaller footprint than renewables. Almost everybody would say that was good for fossil and bad for renewables.

Reply to  David Middleton
August 10, 2017 6:22 pm

Mark, the next thing we know you will be talking about cold fusion and carbon capture.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Mark S Johnson
August 9, 2017 9:13 pm

Well, if cattle liked to eat feathers and guts they might well congregate under the windmills. But, they don’t! I haven’t done the “scientific poll” but I have been around cattle enough that my suspicion is that they probably will take a while to get used to the noise and the approaching blades. Cattle can be spooked easily. I’d be interested to see if anyone has actually done your study.
By the way can you tell me, if I were to replace the asphalt shingles on my roof with the new Tesla PV glass shingles, would I be able to walk on them to remove leaves or deep snow?

August 9, 2017 6:51 pm

BTW Dave,
Your efforts in producing a large quantity of high quality articles for WUWT is greatly appreciated in this corner. Your energy level must be close to Trumpian proportions.

Reply to  Robert
August 9, 2017 8:11 pm

Robert, I agree with you regarding “quantity”, but the quality is lacking.

August 9, 2017 8:28 pm

The amount of land used for wind power is negligible even though wind farms cover large areas. To say that it would take acreage the size of Georgia to produce required amount of electricity is meaningless since the US has potential wind areas able to produce electricity which are several times the size of Georgia, where the actual amount of land used would be a mere fraction of the total area of the wind farms.

Reply to  qbagwell
August 10, 2017 1:04 am

Yes… and solar goes on old airfields, over parking lots (many already in use for this), on conference centers, warehouses, on reservoirs, over irrigation canals, on houses, schools, old coal mines and even on farmland which can still be used for grazing sheep or raising chickens.
No shortage of space for solar.

Reply to  Griff
August 10, 2017 6:24 am

another place you can put solar – an old nuclear plant!
I note:
“he site remained mostly untouched until Charlotte, N.C.-based Birdseye Renewable Energy partnered with United Renewable Energy of Alpharetta, Ga., earlier this year to design and build the solar farm2
“A 2016 report from solar panel manufacturer SolarCity said today’s solar panels should still produce about 80% of their power after 35 years in service. “

Reply to  Griff
August 10, 2017 12:18 pm

Solar is banned around active airfields in NC, and, in the immediate area around them due to causing reflections that blind pilots.

Reply to  David Middleton
August 10, 2017 3:49 pm

“Most of the land under its footprint is still available for its preexisting land use.”
I don’t think that is the case. The land use decribed is pretty much the direct land use for fixtures and infrastructure. I don’t think that can be used for its previous purpose once a power station has been built on it. I don’t think the underground parts were included in the land use.
However, one does not need to make this argument because the land use for gas is so much smaller anyway.

Reply to  David Middleton
August 21, 2017 12:31 am

I drive through the northern plains of the us and Canada every year. From North Dakota to Alberta and Manitoba I saw nothing but oil wells right in the middle of growing fields, for throusands of miles. No such additional use around wind mills, sorry.

August 10, 2017 2:38 am

David – A worthwhile article, thank you. My previous post disappeared so here is a shorter one.
The Capacity Factor for wind power (too high, imo) reflects the ridiculous fact that non-dispatchable wind power is legislated into the grid ahead of much cheaper and fully dispatchable conventional power. This is the BIG FIX that our idiot politicians have enacted to make wind power LESS UNeconomic.
We pay the wind power companies 20 cents/KWh 24/7 for their output, and when there is too much wind power we give it away for free to neighbouring provinces and states. We also idle much cheaper gas-fired power costing 2-4 cents/KWh to make room for the much more costly wind power. It takes a politician to be that stupid (or corrupt).
However, the true factor that reflects the intermittency of wind power Is the Substitution Capacity*, which is about 5% in Germany today. This is the amount of dispatchable (conventional) power you can permanently retire when you add more wind power to the grid. In Germany they have to add 20 units of wind power to replace 1 unit of dispatchable power – ja, that’ll work!
Regards, Allan

Retired Kit P
Reply to  Allan M.R. MacRae
August 10, 2017 7:24 am

“David – A worthwhile article”
No Allen it is not. The article is worthless crap. David is an idiot for writing about the power industry. Why folks in the oil and gas part of the industry think they have a clue is beyond me.
First off, electricity has huge benefits to society.
Second the most important criteria is safety. Over the years, the power industry has become one of the safest industries to work in and live near.
Third, the power industry must show that it meets customers needs with insignificant environmental impact and we do. It has taken a long time to reach this goal
David is debating just how insignificant, insignificant is.
How stupid is that? Texas stupid! There are parts of Texas with lots of people and cars and no wind resource. Other parts of Texas has hardly any people or cars, but with a great wind resource. I have even seen a few wind turbines turbines there.
The step that David misses is determining the of such things as foot print. This a public process. If a windfarm is proposed, neighbors are asked what they think. Since David is not a neighbor, what think does not matter.
I have been to a few public meeting where the NRC ask for public input. The usual suspects from far away cities show up and make the same statements over and over. What you like or dislike also does not matter. To stop or shutdown a power project you need a substantive and non-emotional reason. It also has to be factual.
This is a two way street. Regulators are required to consider alternative power sources. For example, for a nuke plant; coal and gas are alternatives. Wind and solar are dismissed by the NRC because it does not meet the need for baseload power.
When and if wind and solar can produce baseload power, then fossil and nukes can be replaced. It is up to the wind and solar industry to show this. Not going to happen.

Reply to  Allan M.R. MacRae
August 10, 2017 10:06 pm

KIt – I reject your comments. Read my above post in detail.
Wind power is worthless, even harmful because of intermittency – it costs too much and it destabilizes the grid.
Paying 20 cents/KWh for nondispatchable intermittent wind power vs 2-4 cents for dispatchable reliable gas-fired power is so utterly stupid that it beggars belief.

Reply to  Allan M.R. MacRae
August 21, 2017 12:35 am

Allan, game, set, match!
Retired Kit, you’re coming across as a crotchety old geezer with no major points other than to be contrarian. And you’re not particularly nice about it either. Doesn’t make your contributions very valuable, just saying.

August 10, 2017 6:26 am

Greenies don’t care about “frontprint” ’cause that’ll always be done somewhere out in the sticks/flyover country, away from their cities & suburbs. Unless it’s near their summer homes in Martha’s Vineyard (Kennedys) — then it’s not acceptable of course.

Retired Kit P
Reply to  beng135
August 10, 2017 7:39 am

Wind farm developers I have talked have a map showing local wind resources. Superimposed are places are you can not build because wind advocates will see them from vacation houses.

August 10, 2017 8:49 am

How many wind proponents live near the wind plants? How many of you here that love wind live within 15 to 20 miles of 300+ turbines (many of which are visible from your road), another 46 in a different wind plant, drive by 11 turbines on the way to work and have over 200 near your recreation areas? How many of you have 700 being installed where you used to hunt and camp?
How many wind advocates would be estatic if a natural gas backup plant went in next to their house? Do you live with the reality of what you think is so great?

Retired Kit P
Reply to  Sheri
August 10, 2017 10:54 am

I am not a ‘proponent’ of windfarms. I am an an opponent of stupid.
Sheri is using the debating device of asking the rhetorical question.
I camp and sail smack dab in the middle of two wind farms. Does not bother me in the least. Can not hear them.
The trains on both sides of the river can be an irritating source of noise. A 100 car coal train goes by daily to the coal plant down the road. I like to use electricity.
The grain elevator makes noise along with the trucks bringing it wheat and the barges taking it away. Wheat dust all over the place. I like to eat bread.
When the wind is blowing from the east, I can smell the paper plant and feedlot. I use paper and like beef.
When we choose to enjoy modern conveniences, it is implicit that you accept the means of providing them.
‘the way to work’
Of course Sheri’s work and her driving a car would not be a problem to anyone!

Reply to  Retired Kit P
August 10, 2017 3:42 pm

There are WORKING means of providing them and then there are ripoffs. Wind turbines are ripoffs. The landscape is dispoiled for nothing but corporate welfare, passed on to land owners who get second hand welfare.
I have had railroads through my back yard, lived next to car washes, downwind of hog farms, grain elevators, and etc. I did not complain about these because they had VALUE. Wind turbines only function is to make billionaires richer. Nothing else.
My driving to work may involve an electric car for all you know. Yet you assume it does not. Assumptions are okay from your side?
I am curious how many turbines you are referencing? 10, 20? 50?
Would you live next to a nuclear power plant? A uranium mine? A rare earth mine? Is there anything you would consider an intrustion great enough to leave?
I am not doubting you. I am just trying to understand. People tend to dump on those who live in truly rural areas that are “worthless” to most people. That’s where many of the turbines are—where no one could fight back against them. What is “worthless” to you may have great value to me and I don’t want to give that up any more than you would something you valued, assuming you value anything enough to not want to lose it. Giving it up for the benefit of corporate welfare makes it all the worse.

Reply to  Retired Kit P
August 10, 2017 3:53 pm

I don’t mind NIMBY’s, but I don’t want them anywhere near me.

Retired Kit P
August 10, 2017 9:35 am

“Of course, since you don’t apparently like open spaces and wildlife and nature, you’d love wind turbines. Please have them moved to YOUR backyard, not mine, and we’ll both be happy.”
Sheri, why is that apparent? Clearly some open spaces are less desirable than a truck stop. Truck stops are crowded, most open spaces are deserted.
Here is an example of a beautiful open space. Although it is hard to get to, you can see some desire to be there. Gooseneck State Park, Mexican Hat, UT
We have a piece of land where we can hear the ocean surf in Washington State. It is mostly overgrown with nature. It is home to 5 deer. Enough was cleared enough to park the motorhome and the deer coexist within a few feet.
Another open space where we park the motorhome is on the lakes behind dams in Oregon and Washington State. We were sailing there long before windfarms took advantage of the good resource. Sailing by definition is an open space activity. Seeing wind turbines on the hills with wheat fields, does not destroy the open space.

Reply to  Retired Kit P
August 10, 2017 3:56 pm

“Seeing wind turbines on the hills with wheat fields, does not destroy the open space.” Open space does not include wheat fields. It’s open areas where there are no people living and no structures. Just short of being what used to be called a wilderness area where no vehicles were allowed.
This is extremely difficult for people to understand. Open space in the West means acres and acres of land used only for grazing or recreation. There are no buildings, nothing. People moved out West for the open space. Now, in order to supposedly keep the lights on in California, thousands of turbines are going in. It benefits only people out of state and takes away what people moved here for.
Perhaps a better way to explain:
If you lived in a city and it was decided to raze the city, send everyone to live only in small towns and on farms and ranches, in order to put in a power system that generated power on a random schedule in varying amounts, would you just sigh and move to the country. What turbines do to the open spaces out West is the same thing—razes our open areas for a power source that is completely random. We become an industial wind park, not open spaces. Can the city be razed and you just move away? Can several cities be razed?

Retired Kit P
August 10, 2017 10:22 am

Why are we having this debate?
Having worked at many nuke plants, I can tell you that some do not like nuke plants. Others do not like coal. Some want to tear out existing hydro. Being against something does not require rational thought. It is about the drama of having a cause in a world where survival from cold winter nights is no longer an important issue.
Since providing power is a public service, we are tasked with proving power they way our customers want even if it is not the most practical choice.
The expected unintended consequence is that a new set of crackpots will find irrational reasons to be against things like wind a solar. Sheri comes to mind.
Of course the reason they are a crackpot is normal people do not care. Think of it this way. A normal person understands that some people like chocolate ice cream and some do not. If you get angry, upset, and unhappy because not everyone agrees with you, you are a crackpot.
Unfortunately, crackpots organize and politicians pander to them. Next thing you know some mayor or governor is banning chocolate ice cream.
So how easy is it to avoid seeing power plants of any sort?
Last week I drove 1000 miles from the PNW to the Mohave Desert. The first power plant I saw was McNary Dam. Then there was a gas fired power plant and another wind farm which was the first in the PNW. The itinerary of the first 50 miles included dumping my sewage holding tank and buying fuel.
This was followed by 500 miles of backroads. Took a break in a beautiful Oregon state park. No one else was there. Took a break in a beautiful Blue Mountain forest service campground. No one else was there. In Nevada, had to wait for man on a horse to move a herd of horses off the road. Will not see that on the interstate.
Took a break in a ‘beautiful?’ Nevada rest stop that was 100% open space No one else was there. Had to run the generator to run the A/C since it was 105F.
Finally got to I-80 for 50 miles. Bought fuel and saw a coal fired power plant. This was followed by 500 miles of backroads. Took a break in a ‘beautiful?’ Nevada rest stop that was 100% open space No one else was there. Had to run the generator to run the A/C since it was still 105F.
The point, again, the footprint of the power industry is insignificant.

Reply to  Retired Kit P
August 10, 2017 3:57 pm

Excuse me, irrational wind worshipper.

Reply to  Retired Kit P
August 10, 2017 5:49 pm

“Of course the reason they are a crackpot is normal people do not care. Think of it this way. A normal person understands that some people like chocolate ice cream and some do not. If you get angry, upset, and unhappy because not everyone agrees with you, you are a crackpot.”
Wind plants are like mandating a set amount of chocolate ice cream per state, at an elevated price, subsidized by the government, paying the chocolate ice cream people for the ice cream even if they don’t deliver it and building the ice cream factories in the middle of parks. I’m sure “normal people” will agree that chocolate ice cream not delivered but paid for anyway and mandated to be bought before vanilla or any other flavor, paid for in large part by tax breaks and produced in factories in the middle of parks is a great way to sell ice cream.

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
August 10, 2017 3:37 pm

Thanks Dave — interesting as always, but some people sure got ruffled!
Land acquisition is part of the cost of building anything. There’s a monetary aspect, which is of course quantitative and then there are intangibles. All other things being equal, acquiring more land costs more money. So it is not at all irrelevant to consider how much land is required to produce the same amount of power through different technologies. If you like recreational lakes, you might well think the land area converted to hydroelectric use is a net benefit. I suppose somewhere there are people who find living next to a wind farm is pleasant.
While land used for nuclear, gas or coal power generation is devoted exclusively to that purpose, land required for hydro and wind is still available for some other uses (I wouldn’t put a sky-diving school near a wind farm however). That mitigates to some extend the disparity between thermal and renewable technologies.
However, I believe you can put a CCGT plant on exactly the same footprint as a decommissioned coal plant — maybe even reuse the building — so the net land cost of replacing coal with CCGT is zero.

Retired Kit P
August 10, 2017 5:53 pm

Alan the reason you are wrong is that each power project has a specific location. It is not some hypothetical situation. Regulations require the environmental impact be insignificant.
Sheri asked me if I would live next to a nuke plant. Well of course. Buy me the million dollar house on the cooling water lake for one of Duke’s plant and I will live there.
I would live next to the TVA coal plant with the worst coal ash spill. Again you will have to buy it for me because it is mire than I can afford.
I have been to these places. Land use is not a significant issue in the context of society. In the context of project development there is lots to consider.

Reply to  Retired Kit P
August 11, 2017 5:13 am

No, we do not buy you the house, we build the plant next to your current house.

Retired Kit P
Reply to  Sheri
August 11, 2017 8:04 am

Sheri objection to windturbines is that she can see them and she does like them because she can see them.
This is called a circular argument.
Like said I have been there. You can see them from the interstate which I try to avoid. Ugly before wind turbines. I checked for the closest ‘free’ campsite. Walmart it is!
For those who have not been there, Wyoming is vast barren place. The foot print of beautiful places you would want to visit is small. Mostly butt ugly.
Culturally and historically barren too. Lots of fossil fuels.
I have lots of memories of Wyoming. All the goods ones are from avoiding the interstate.

August 11, 2017 5:13 am

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