How Many Wind Turbines for Leaking Gulf Oil Well?

John Davis

Found a great piece (well, with some help from some Facebook friends at Beckerman PR) on the real cost of offshore wind turbines versus offshore oil platforms in Forbes.

Karl Burkart’s piece asks, “How many offshore wind turbines could have been installed for the cost of one $10 billion Deepwater Horizon?,” the platform that sank and unleashed the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history:

How many turbines can $10 billion buy?

Assuming that the next few big offshore projects will drop in price as manufacturing and grid infrastructure improves, let’s say a 60-megawatt project will go for $200 million. Divide that into $12 billion and you get 60 60-megawatt wind projects, or about 33 billion kilowatts of power capacity per year.

How many electric cars does that power?

A typical American drives 12,000 miles per year. The latest plug-in electric vehicles (like the much-anticipated Tesla sedan) use about 370 watt-hours per mile. The U.S. driver’s 12,000 miles x .37 = 4,440 kilowatts per year. Divide 33 billion by 4,440 kilowatts and you get about 7.4 million electric vehicles that could be powered each year with a $10 billion wind investment.

Now while the piece does admit that the Deepwater Horizon well would have fueled more cars … 18.2 million vehicles per year … it does it at a higher cost per mile: 13.6 cents/mile for petroleum and only 3.7 cents/mile for electric vehicles running on wind-generated power.

If you figure that 7.4 million Americans would be saving $1,188 per year, that is about $8.8 billion going back into the U.S. economy rather than into the grubby hands of foreign oil companies like BP.

And that’s not even counting cleaning up the occasional mess created by Big Oil.

So the next time someone tries to tell you that wind energy is too expensive, just ask them: just how high of a price should we continue to pay for non-renewable oil?