The Wild Rose Party Is Unrealistic (In Other News: Nobody Uses Cassette Tapes Anymore – Thank You Cptn. Obvious)

In Dumbass, Personal, Politics, Science on February 20, 2008 at 9:08:22 pm

The candidates from Calgary Elbow (Bow? It’s irrelevant) congregated in our school today for a little debate. They were trying to sway people to vote for one of them. Now, this may surprise you, but I’m leaning towards the Green Party. Why? He’s easily the least dumb of all of the candidates. Not that I can vote. I’m 17. But there was one person who officially blows chunks. In other words: he’s about as smart as your average twig. This candidate comes from (no surprises here) the Wild Rose Alliance party of Alberta. They want to go back to the good ol’ days, but they like this newfangled thing called “solar power”. They like it so much, they offered an example!

See, the candidate told us that a 400 square mile solar array could power the entire continental US. I’m going to do this Mythbusters style: I’m going to say why 400 square miles won’t be enough (and try to figure out how much this will actually require), then I’m going to run down the cost for you. As icing on the cake. Here goes.

1 square meter of photovoltaic cells (or PVCs, as I’ll call them later) can generate 1 kW/h per day in a sunny clime like that of the southern US. We’re going to be optimistic and use that. Now, 400 square miles is about 1 billion square metres. How cool. So, 1 billion PVCs can produce 1 billion kW/h per day.

I just want to put a kW/h in context. The energy consumption of your average home is about 30 kW/h per day, according to The Tennessean. To power your house just for a day, you’ll need 30 square metres of PVCs.

According to the CIA world factbook, there are about 300 million residents in the USA (I’m using the US as an example, because the facts and figures are really easy to come by, and it pertains to the original source). The average family home contains 3.98 people, according to the World Almanac. That means there are about 76 million homes in the US of A. Each needs 30 square metres. That means that you’ll need 2.3 billion square metres of PVCs just for residential. Don’t forget that the biggest consumer of electricity, by leaps and bounds is the commercial and industrial sector.

So, in all, it’ll take a buttload more than 400 million square miles. Plainly, Mr. Wild Rose Party has pulled those figures directly out of his ass. So, how big would the PVC array need to be?

According to the CIA factbook, in 2005 the estimated electricity consumption of the US was 3.8 trillion kW/h. I could have checked the factbook instead of doing all that math, couldn’t I? Alas, I just found that. Grr.

This translates into, handily, 3.8 trillion square metres. For those who can’t transfer square metres into square miles, don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. That’s a cool 1.5 million square miles. For a size comparison, picture about 1/6th of the entire US completely covered in a PVC array.

Cost-benefit analysis time. PVCs typically cost about $0.30 per kW/h. Got a calculator handy? I do. 3,800,000,000,000 x 0.30 = 1,140,000,000,000. That’s right. About $1 trillion to build a solar cell to power the US.

I admit, the US has about 10 times the population of Canada. To make one of these for Canada is a cool $100 billion.

I’m all for alternative energy. But it’s idiots like those in the Wild Rose party (or at least this candidate; I can’t speak to the entire party) who completely miss the issue. It’s like he got up one morning and suddenly heard the words “solar energy”. They struck him as “cool” and “hip” and thought that they’d bring a “new” side to his campaign.

Epic Fail Poster

UPDATE – I’m a moron, again:

So, here’s what happened. In the article, I pointed out that the energy consumption of the US was 3.8 trillion kW/h for the year, but I made some of the other calculations in days. Therefore (in summary, because I’m lazy):

3,800,000,000,000 / 365 = 10,410,958,904. 10.4 billion, ish.

10.4 billion square metres is roughly 4,000 square miles. So, Mr. Wild Rose wasn’t TOO far off. Only by a factor of 10. Which is, admittedly, less than I was. Math errors. Whatcha gonna do?

The rest of the numbers should be correct.

  1. I actually like the Wild Rose Alliance. I agree with their ideas on taxation, crime, education and economics. I also much prefer Paul Hinman over Ed Stelmach. At least Hinman can get out a sentence, let alone a speech.

    However, their biggest flaw is that they do not have enough qualified or well-known candidates (as wonderfully articulated above). For example (all right, all right, I can’t vote yet either) in my riding of Calgary-Lougheed, Dave Rodney (PC) is clearly the best candidate–even though I’d rather vote for Hinman over Stelmach. Derrick Jacobson (Calgary-Lougheed Alliance candidate) is someone who I’ve never heard of before and know nothing about (I haven’t even seen a pamphlet in the mail!).

    And yeah, yeah, I’m a Conservative–can you blame me? I grew up in the most conservative riding of Canada.

    Anyways, this is my hope in terms of results on Monday:
    PC: 48
    Liberal: 15
    Wild Rose: 15
    NDP: 3
    Green: 2

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