T. Boone Pickens is holding his “virtual march on Washington” today with the millions of his army emailing their Congressional representatives about the Pickens Plan.
The Plan, as I’m sure you know, goes like this: We’ll put up lots and lots of windmills, beginning with Pickens’ own contributions in West Texas. That will replace the 20 percent of our electricity that is produced with natural gas. Then that “wedge” of gas will be picked up like a piece of pie and moved over to the transport sector, where it will power our cars. That will enable us to reduce a big chunk of our imported oil.
Sounds plausible, right? According to the video on his site, Pickens is drawing huge, enthusiastic crowds around the country and hobnobbing with the likes of Al Gore, Bill Clinton, President Barack Obama, and Steven Chu. “I was sitting between two Nobel Prize Winners the other night,” he says at one point. He’s a sweet, well-meaning guy — the “Texan of the Year” in 2009 — but unfortunately he’s marching in the wrong direction. If the Pickens Plan were put in place tomorrow, we’d be much worse off than we are now.
Here’s the reason. Wind is an intermittent source of energy. It comes and goes unpredictably. You can’t do that with an electrical grid. The voltage balances must be maintained within about a 5 percent margin or you run into all kinds of trouble — either power lapses and brownouts or power “surges” that can damage electrical equipment. (That’s why you have a “surge protector” between your wall outlet and your computer.)
Go read all of this. He discusses Denmark's failure among other things. Good stuff.