Sense of Scale -- Keystone XL vs. Wind

One thing that many green energy advocates fail to understand is the very scale of US energy demand in relation to the output of various green sources.

Let's consider wind.

The Keystone XL pipeline would have provided 900,000 barrels of oil per day, roughly equivalent to 1.53 billion kw-hr per day.  A typical wind turbine is 2MW nameplate capacity, but at best actually produces about 30% of this on average.  This means that in a day it produces 2,000*.3*24 = 14,400 kw-hr of electricity.  This means that the Keystone XL pipeline would have transported an amount of energy to the US equal to the output of 106,250 of those big utility-size wind turbines.

Looked at another way, the entire annual output of the US wind energy sector was about 75 terra-watt-hours per year or about 260 million kw-hr per day.  This means that the Keystone XL pipeline would have carried energy equal to over 5 times the total output of wind power in the US.

Of course, this is just based on the potential energy in the fuel, and actual electricity production would be 50-65% less.  But even so, this one single pipeline, out of many, is several times larger than the entire wind power sector.


  1. Chris:

    I find your lack of faith in touchy feely green tech disturbing.

  2. deadcenter:

    In the vein of not taking coal to Newcastle, why hasn't anyone built a refinery at Tar Sands rather than building a 1,700 mile pipeline?

  3. Me:

    because the greenies have effectively blocked construction of any new refineries.

  4. Benjamin Cole:

    Okay--but what about Keystone seizing property by eminent domain? Not every rancher wants the pipeline to cross their property. Keystone says it will drag into court any recalcitrant property owners, and seize property anyway.

    This amounts to seizing land by eminent domain for private profit. This is not a public highway, or school. It's not even a private hospital. It is a very worthy, but private enterprise.

    Mr. Coyote Blog fashions himself to be a libertarian--but can he wrestle with this issue fairly?

  5. Smock Puppet, 10 Dan Snark Master:

    Stop trying to confuse people with FACTS. You just KNOW their pointy widdle heads get all confused when you get beyond numbers that they can count on their hands.

    Note, for example, how Benny the Bozo is now harping on ED? As though ED had no actual justification in this governmental scheme. But he'll harp on it, over and over, just like he did on Iraqistan, regardless of whether, in future examples, it has anything to do with the topic of conversation or not.

  6. flyovercountry:

    The Green Fairy is indeed angry with you. You have forgotten about Solar in your calculation. All we need do to replace the keystone XL Pipeline is cover the entire state of Indiana in the soon to be thrown away product of Solyndra. Of course, I have no plans on how to replace the literally Bazillions of other already built pipelines around the nation, but I am sure that the Green Fairy will soon be leaving me a vision.

  7. NormD:

    Why no refineries?

    You would need a pipeline to send refined products.
    Refineries produce many products so many pipelines.
    Its far easier to ship one raw product than a plethora of finished products

    Eminent Domain?

    As far as I know the pipeline runs underground. Although I am generally sympathetic to property rights, use of eminent domain to install underground facilities seems the least objectionable. The power, gas, water, sewer need to run somewhere.

  8. Ted Rado:

    I don't understand the Keystone XL pipeline fuss. Tere are jillions of pipelines all over the US. There are also jillions of power lines. These were built on somebody's land and operate with a minimum of problems.

    If we drag every request to build a power line, pipeline, or whatever, through a knothole, our whole system will grind to a halt. Apparently, there are those to whom obstruction of any industrial project is a form of fun. "i'm against everything!".

  9. Bob:

    An issue discussed among engineers is what is the impact on the weather if you pull several terra-watts of energy out of the wind? Would tend to disrupt prevailing weather patterns.

  10. Ted Rado:

    One interesting point re wind energy is the standby power required. Standby power must be quick-starting. The only method for doing this is open cycle gas turbines. One can easily calculate that if you save 30% of the fuel when the wind is blowing, you lose it all during the other 70% of the time when lower efficiency gas turbines are running.

    If you try to ramp power output up and down quickly with idling conventional power plants, the efficiency suffers severely. A Dutch study indicates that there is no fuel saving in that country since the advent of wind energy because of the lowered efficiency of the existing power generating system as it tries to meet the swings imposed by the wind energy producers. Utility companies complain that the mandate for them to buy wind or solar power results in much higher fuel costs due to the above reasons. This is passed on the the consumer. It makes wind power look good and the power company look bad. It should be chargesd back to the wind energy producer.

  11. Ted Rado:


    There are all sorts of human inputs/outputs to the energy balance much greater than the amount taken out of the wind. All the fossil fuels burned wind up as heat in the environment. Nuclear energy also winds up as heat in the environment.

    Since the amount of wind power generated is tiny compared to these other items, which don't seem to have a measurable effect, it is probably nothing to worry about.

  12. calhar:

    Deadcenter you don't make sense.Even if the oil was refined at the tar sands it would still have to be piped somwhere!Unless your green planet wind generators could blow it across the continent????????