If you switched the US annual budget for its fleet in the Persian Gulf to solar PV, you could provide free electricity to all of the US

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If you switched the US budget for its fleet in the Persian Gulf to solar PV, you could provide free electricity to all of the US.  The US used 3,856 billion kWh of electricity in 2011.  Assume for the sake of argument that all of that electricity was replaced by solar photovoltaics.   Wind would do fine as well and is cheaper and may  be more appropriate in different locations.

Assume that for each kilowatt of electricity installed it generated 1,000 kWh of electricity per year.  This includes the fact that solar only works during the day time and mainly in the summer.  In order to replace all of the electricity generated in 2011 you would need to install 3,856,000 MW of solar PV.

Assuming that this cost $1.4 million per MW to install (it would be lower if we built at this scale) that would mean you would need a budget of $5.398 trillion to install it.  Since the main cost of solar PV is in capital expenditure and the fuel is free the only remaining costs would be maintenance and operations, which are relatively low.  The solar PV panels should operate for 25-30 years as a minimum.  So, for a cost of $5.398 trillion you would get “free” electricity for the next 25-30 years, or the equivalent of $216 billion per year for 25 years.

Bearing in mind that the US military budget is $687 billion per year, this $216 billion per year is the equivalent of spending 31% of the US military budget.  For this cost the US could disengage from the Persian Gulf, saving $235 billion per year, saving the tax payer a net $19 billion per year (see article: Why do we need the military? Securing energy supplies and trade routes for more information.)

American business and citizens would have free electricity at this point for 25 years, making their economy not just greener and more vibrant (renewables require more jobs that their equivalents in coal, gas and oil), but cheaper to manufacture goods to compete with the rest of the world.

Some commentators will poke holes in this argument:  what about battery storage, what happens at night, what about the grid infrastructure etc.  All are valid criticisms.  But the existing electricity sector will still be there, providing back up power, and the excess provided by solar would be sufficient to power fleets of electric vehicles. Those vehicles have batteries which could be used to help balance the load on the grid as well.

UPDATE:

This article was originally a footnote to another article about the military:  Why do we need the military? Securing energy supplies and trade routes and was designed to highlight how much we spend on the military on securing energy supplies and trade routes.  The footnote – this article – then explained how if some of the budget allocated to defending energy – the Persian Gulf Fleet – was switched to providing indigenous energy in the United States we could provide enough electricity for the entire country.  This footnote uses solar PV, but wind could easily be a substitute as well. This is an amazing fact.

What we are not advocating is the abolition of the military! The military remains a vital component of our national defence and readiness.  From the very beginning of civilisation and the rise of cities several thousand years ago, before free schools, free healthcare, unemployment insurance and so forth, the one area that governments have always spent money on is the military.  This will never change, and nor should it.

 


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