Saturday, July 12, 2008

America's Best Places For Alternative Energy

The "cubic mile of oil"--a metric roughly equivalent to the amount of oil consumed worldwide each year--is frequently used to explain the challenge facing solar, wind, geothermal and biomass power. What would it take to replace the amount of energy in a cubic mile of oil? The best location for specific technologies varies, and some areas are best for one technology or another. Some places are windy, others sunny, the wind varies from season to season, and geothermal power is easily tapped only in volcanic regions.

The Texas panhandle was recently highlighted by oilman T. Boone Pickens. But that's not the only place where the wind blows strong, it just happens to be one which Mr. Pickens is fond of.

The deserts of the U.S. Southwest are great places for solar power. The most insolated place in the country is Inyokern in southern California. Ensconced on the eastern edge of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Inyokern covers 11 square miles of Kern County in the dust-choked Mojave Desert. Those 11 square miles receive more solar insolation annually than any other comparably sized locale in North America. FPL Energy recently announced plans to build a massive 2,000-acre solar power plant in the area called the Beacon Solar Energy Project.

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