The two biggest hitters causing global warming are electrical
generation using fossil fuels and transportation using fossil fuels. If we made all electricity carbon neutral, most of which would come from wind and solar generation, that would be about a third of the problem. If we made all vehicles run off of carbon-neutral electricity (or biofuels where electricity just won’t cut it, an increasingly small niche), that would deal with another third of the problem or so.
This action would have a huge impact on global warming targets. Could we do it in 20 years globally in a crash plan? Let’s start with what it looks like today, or at least in 2016 per the IEA. Globally, we generated about 25,000 TWH of electricity (reminder on units: KWH, MWH, GWH then TWH, each 1000 of the previous unit).
Could we replace 16,250 TWH of electrical generation with wind and solar in 20 years? Well, it’s not actually that hard to generate a TWH of electricity.
A single 2.5 MWH wind turbine running for a year with a mediocre capacity factor of 35% will generate 7,665 MWH. To get a TWH, you’d need 130 of them, a reasonably sized wind farm of 325 MW capacity. For context, the Gansu Wind Farm in China is already at 8,000 MW capacity and is expected to reach 20,000 MW capacity by 2020, 60 times larger.
A solar farm is a bit different and has a typically lower capacity factor. Let’s go with a middling 20%. To get a TWH you’d need a solar farm with a capacity of around 570 MW. For context, a couple of solar farms in India are 1,000 MW and 2,000 MW capacity 2-4 times the capacity. MORE