I grew up farming. Cultivating land gives you a unique appreciation for the lowly acre. According to word-origins.com, the term “acre” is “from the Old English æcer, which as early as 1000 A.D. had come to be used for referring to a particular measured area of agricultural land (as much as a pair of oxen could plow in one day).” Modern agriculture has vastly expanded the amount of ground a farmer can till. My father and I could cover an 80 acre plot of ground in one day.
So what does that mean to alternative energy?
The Virginian-Pilot reports:
“NASA announced plans Thursday to develop a solar-energy facility that would meet part of the energy needs at its Wallops Island Flight Facility. The project, to be built in stages, would have as many as 80 acres of solar panels.” http://hamptonroads.com/2011/03/nasa-plans-sunenergy-project-eastern-shore
Let me give you some perspective. A section is one square mile or 640 acres. A quarter section is therefore 160 acres, or ½ mile x ½ mile. Half of that (80 acres) forms a rectangle of ¼ mile x ½ mile, a significant amount of space.
The entire project, when completed, will supply energy equivalent to the needs of 850 homes. According to hypertextbook.com (http://hypertextbook.com/facts/2003/BoiLu.shtml ), the average power consumption per home is 8,900 kW/hrs per year. A little arithmetic reveals that over a one-year period, 7,565,000 kW/hrs (7,565 MW/hrs) will be generated. That breaks down to 630.4 MW/hrs each month.
The full text of the article follows:
NASA plans sun-energy project on Eastern Shore
By Tom Shean
© March 25, 2011
NASA announced plans Thursday to develop a solar-energy facility that would meet part of the energy needs at its Wallops Island Flight Facility. The project, to be built in stages, would have as many as 80 acres of solar panels.
As part of its alternative-energy project at Wallops Island, it also plans to install two residential-scale wind turbines capable of generating 2.4 kilowatts, NASA said. One turbine would be built near the NASA visitor center and one near the entrance gate and security-guard station at the Eastern Shore facility.
NASA said it expects the electricity output to alleviate rising utility costs at its Wallops Island facility and enable the agency to meet energy-conservation requirements imposed by the Federal Energy Policy Act. When complete, the project would generate enough electricity to supply about 850 typical American homes, it said.
NASA said its alternative-energy plan for Wallops Island no longer calls for installing the two utility-scale wind turbines that it proposed earlier. These were dropped, it said, because of concerns that agencies and organizations expressed about the potential impact on birds and bats.