(follow this link for the full size poster)

What is the energy source of the future?  As the chart shows, "green" alternatives, though attractive at first, can generate only a small fraction of the power needed (see bar graph).  We  simply cannot extract enough energy from the wind or the sun to meet baseload requirements.  As a supplement, these sources are both costly and unreliable (no wind = no power, no sun = no power). 

Hydroelectric and nuclear power are the only reliable, non-polluting, and cost effective sources of large scale power.  Uranium (U) and  Plutonium (Pu) yield 3 million times more energy than the same quantity of coal (e.g., 1 gram of U or Pu = 3,000 kg of coal)!

Given the potential hazards, nuclear energy may not be our first choice; but it will likely be forced upon us by necessity as we move away from fossil fuels (assuming there is no new breakthrough in energy technology).  Rather than tilting at wind turbines, our time and money would be better spent improving the safety of nuclear power and resolving the question of nuclear waste disposal.

Energy Camp Curriculum

Here’s Why Green Power is a Pipe Dream
I love the idea of using ‘free’ energy from nature, but I can't get around the laws of physics. Power density measures how much power you get from an energy source relative to its generation size. As you can see from the chart below---compiled by Vaclav Smil, an expert in the field---wind has one of the lowest power densities because a large turbine can generate only a small amount of electricity. Solar is slightly better.

A coal or gas powered generating station turns out 200 to 2000 times more power per square meter of plant space than wind! Though not shown, nuclear and hydroelectric plants have about the same power density as coal and gas. 
To put it another way, "The power density of fossil fuel and nuclear electricity plants is the same order of magnitude of the total power for an average tornado. The power density of wind is closer to that of a horse."

So what are the practical implications of these differences in power density? “[T]he current rush to massive implementations of wind plants is an extremely premature, unwise policy...these new energy infrastructures would have to be spread over areas ten to a thousand times larger than today’s infrastructure of fossil fuel extraction, combustion and electricity generation." [emphasis mine]

“Power density alone establishes wind as unworthy of the diversion of significant amounts of national wealth, human resources, especially within our governments, and time, all of which could be more productively used.”

In the end, the only energy source that has both sufficient power density and a minimal impact on the environment is some type of nuclear power.