Green Ocean Race Blog and News


May 2012


by Eric B. Forsyth
Rev 11/22/11

Everyone knows that it is dangerous to make predictions, we live in a world of random happenstance: wars, plagues, natural disasters, etc. But there is one prediction we can make about the electric power system with some certainty: when the fossil fuel reserves are gone it will be completely different from what we have now. That's because at present about 66% of the power generated in the US is derived from plants fired by coal or natural gas, in passing note that less than 1% of electricity is produced by burning oil. Green enthusiasts promote replacement by renewable sources such as wind turbines and photo-voltaics, but there is a problem that becomes increasingly onerous if these sources of energy are to provide a dominant percentage of generation, namely the primary driving energy is intermittent. There are windless days and, of course, the sun is absent on average for half the day or more. Data from large wind installations in Europe show that the ratio of average to maximum power is about 25 % over a year (this ratio is termed the capacity factor or CF). Solar generators are not much better although there is much less data and performance is very location sensitive. Because at present power generated by both these renewables is very small compared to the rest of the system, fluctuations caused by their intermittent nature can be absorbed without major instability problems. However utilities are installing gas turbines because it is anticipated that steam generators will not respond fast enough as the percentage of renewables increases.


Once fossil-fuel plants are history this means intermittent renewable energy cannot stand alone; generation must be one leg of a three-legged stool. To provide high quality, i.e. uninterrupted, electricity, two other legs are needed: a flexible interconnected transmission system and massive energy storage with a fast response time. The flexible transmission system will be needed because the availability of both forms of renewable energy can vary widely from one geographic area to another and with time. A flexible transmission system is conceptually not too difficult to envisage, although it may be expensive. Massive energy storage is another story, at present this usually accomplished by raising the potential energy of water and generating electricity by conventional hydro-electric plants. Such favorable geographical sites which are not already developed do not occur in much of the US. It is instructive to estimate the amount of energy storage needed to stabilize the entire country in the absence of fossil fuel plants. Although average values for the entire country are used in this article, in practice the country would have to be divided into zones, similar to regions under the control of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, which was formed to prevent black-outs. And, of course, the 'average' is the average of fluctuating peaks and valleys, the system must have margins to meet the peaks, day and night, winter and summer. There is no cut and dried formula to calculate the stored energy needed to stabilize a zone. At any time, the amount depends of the distribution of the renewable energy, such as wind, across the zone and the availability of interconnections. Judging the amount of energy stored to keep the network stable and running at a constant frequency is an exercise in probability, so that the chance of running out of the budgeted amount of stored energy is vanishingly small.

Current annual power generation in the US is about 4000x10³ GWh. If the population grows at 1% per year and per capita electrical consumption remains the same this extrapolates to about 6600x 10³ GWh per year in 50 years or 18x10³ GWh/day. Of course in the fifty year period the nature of the demand will change; electrical heating will replace oil and gas fired heating for example, but at the same time conservation and improved efficiency would reduce demand, assuming these factors tend to cancel each other, 18x10³ GWh/day is a reasonable starting point.


America is a mobile society and automobiles are at the core of our economic system. The production, maintenance and powering of cars accounts for a good deal of domestic economic activity. If electrically powered vehicles replace our present fleet of fossil-fueled cars, this change will significantly impact electrical demand on the grid. For this analysis trucks and buses are not included as they might well be powered differently using a fuel derived from biomass. The introduction of electric cars has scarcely begun in 2011 and performance is limited, battery capacity of 15 to 100 kWh per vehicle restricts the range. However, battery design has greatly improved over the past decade and it is reasonable to assume that on-board energy storage will rise to about 200 kWh or more in the time frame under consideration, this would provide 5 to 8 hours of highway driving, with fast recharge an option after that.

At present the average automobile usually carries about 50% of its fuel capacity at any one time and the range is typically 250 miles from a full tank, although according to Dept of Transportation statistics the average mileage driven is only 36 miles/day. The availability of massive amounts of energy storage in the propulsion batteries of purely electric vehicles raises the possibility of using some of the energy to stabilize the grid, provided cars are 'plugged in' when stationery. The idea first emerged more than ten years ago and there is considerable literature on the subject, although in the past battery performance was too poor to encourage large practical tests, or even merit serious consideration of the scheme. Computer simulations are encouraging if battery performance continues to improve, the topic is often referred to by the acronym V2G (Vehicle to Grid). The advantages can be summarized:

1) The batteries are needed anyway for vehicle propulsion.
2) The batteries store much more energy than needed for the typical daily use of the car.
3) The distribution and ultimately the transmission system to which the converters are connected must be adequately sized to permit fast recharging if needed, this would also allow significant energy flow back into the network.
4) Batteries and converters will be widely distributed throughout the load area.
5) Modern solid state converters are capable of fast response and easily controlled remotely.
6) The concept matches the future expectation of increased use of battery-powered vehicles and more use of renewable intermittent generation. Over time, fossil-fueled vehicles may well be phased out at about the same time as fossil-fueled power plants. Coordinating the use of electrically powered vehicles and a significant contribution to the grid by intermittent sources could provide a major step to the goal of a future energy balanced 'green' society.


If vehicle ownership tracks population growth we can expect about 410 million private passenger cars on the road in 50 years. Assuming 200 kWh per vehicle, this corresponds to 82x10³ GWh total when all the batteries are charged. As mentioned, daily use is much less than the maximum possible, this is a crucial point in determining how much can be siphoned off for network stabilization. The ratio of daily use to maximum capacity is the demand factor, or DF.

For a DF of 12% the energy drawn from the grid for recharging, assuming the losses are low, is 0.12 x 82x10³ GWh per day, or 9.8x 10³ GWh.

This demand must be added to the conventional load calculated above of 18x 10³ GWh per day to yield an average total of 27.8x 10³ GWh per day for the US as a whole.

The next question is to get a feel for how much of this daily load could be supported by intermittent sources such as wind turbines and photo-voltaic cells.


The reserve factor, or RF, is defined as the ratio of energy that could be supplied to the network compared to the maximum energy stored without jeopardizing seriously the recharging of each vehicle. For example an RF of 15% under the worst conditions would mean there is always a minimum of 85% available for vehicles, which should be adequate with a DF of 12%. The converter at each charging point, which either supplies direct current for charging or alternating current for grid stabilization would be controlled either locally, by the car owner, or remotely from a regional control center. The owner would have the choice of fast or normal ( typically 8 hours) charging, probably under the supervision of a 'smart' grid, and the remote controller would determine how much to draw down the battery when needed to compensate for lack of power from intermittent sources. The converter could even be 'intelligent', and adjust for the driving habits of each owner. The regional controller for each zone would determine how much and when energy is returned to grid from the vehicle batteries to stabilize the network. The infrastructure of batteries and converters is ideal for this purpose because it is widely distributed, already wired for sufficient power transfer and capable of very fast response time.

In the numerical example a RF of 15% would yield about 12x10³ GWh/day for stabilization purposes. Just how much intermittent power could be safely operated without threatening network instability with this much stored energy available depends on the reserve margins. It might even depend of wind or sunlight forecasts. But on average it could be assumed the contribution from intermittent sources will match the RF of 15%, or in this example about 12x10³ GWh/day, which corresponds to 12/27.8 of total demand or 43%. This suggests intermittent sources could provide slightly more than the increased demand caused by the introduction of electric cars, i.e, 12 compared to 9.8( x10³ GWh/day)


Assuming that the energy is provided by wind turbines we can figure the number and extent of the system. Of course, other intermittent sources could also contribute, such as photovoltaic cells, and other storage methods, such as dams, could be mixed in the overall system. Assuming wind turbines have a capacity factor of about 25%, a daily output of 12x10³ GWh would require an installed maximum capacity of 48x10³ GWh/day. If the individual turbines are rated at 3.5 MW then about 570,000 units are needed. If installed in parks of 100 units, each park would cover about 5 square miles and the total for the US as a whole equals 28,500 square miles or an area slightly larger than West Virginia. Of course, offshore parks could also be built. The average generating capacity of a park, about 88 MW, corresponds to a small fossil fuel plant. The direct cost, not including interconnections to substations and real estate, would be about $2 trillion, or $40billion/year over 50 years on average (present value).


If intermittent sources provide about 12x10³ GWh/day, what about the balance of 27.8 -12 or 15.8x10³ GWh/day? As with the present system a small percentage could be provided by hydroelectric, geothermal and cogeneration. It is possible that a fusion reactor may be on line in 50 years. However even an optimistic guess would not put these sources at more than 10% of the balance needed, say 1.6x10³ GWh/day, leaving 14.2x10³ GWh/day. The only source capable of generating power of this scale is nuclear fission, possibly using advanced designs such as breeder or recycling reactors. The recent tragedy in Japan will probably lead to design improvements and stricter siting criteria. Unfortunately technical progress is often made with feedback from accidents, the airline transportation business is a case in point, which is now very safe despite numerous accidents in the past. If the balance is provided by nuclear reactors rated at 1 GW with a CF of 0.9, then about 660 plants will be needed, without accounting for extra capacity to provide reserve power.


As fossil fuel plants are phased out, intermittent renewable energy sources can only be effectively utilized in combination with a flexible transmission and distribution network and widely distributed energy storage. In the far future the most versatile form of energy storage will be propulsion batteries for automobiles. Using some of this stored energy to stabilize the network in combination with fluctuating, intermittent generation from wind turbines and solar panels could maximize the number that can be brought on line. But it seems unlikely that intermittent renewables will provide more than half the energy needed in the face of population growth and changing uses of electricity. Experience with an actual operating system may permit refinement of DF and RF to safely maximize the contribution of renewable energy. The only viable source for the bulk of the balance is nuclear fission reactors, possible of advanced designs, unless the R&D on fusion reactors reaches fruition in the far future.

The wide-scale introduction of vehicles propelled purely by rechargeable batteries will put the electric utilities in competition with the oil companies. This development will produce a host of political problems during the transition period as electric vehicles are phased in. Each battery will have to be electronically identified to ensure proper billing for power used for charging and proper credit for power withdrawn for grid stabilization. This will require high levels of security and privacy protection. The car-owning public will have to agree to permit their vehicle to participate in this kind of system but a financial incentive could be devised. If battery improvement continues at the present rate there is a good chance the driving public will switch to electrically-powered cars before fossil-fueled power plants disappear, such cars will potentially require less maintenance and provide performance on the road equal or better than present-day automobiles.

The numerical examples are speculative but they illustrate several important points:

1. Population growth will place a severe burden on the grid if per capita consumption remains the same.
2. If battery performance continues to improve, electrically-powered vehicles may actually facilitate the incorporation of wide-scale intermittent 'green' energy, perhaps as much as 40 to 50 % of the average power supplied by the grid.
3. Massive contribution to the grid by intermittent sources will consume a huge amount of real estate, although limited agriculture may be possible on the land.
4. On the scale predicted a significant amount of generation must come from nuclear reactors, although design and siting criteria must be changed.

Brief CV of Eric B. Forsyth

Mr. Forsyth grew up in England where he served as an RAF fighter pilot in the 1950s. He obtained a master's degree at Toronto University in 1960 and then worked until his retirement in 1995 at Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island, NY. He led the development at Brookhaven of superconducting cables suitable for very high capacity underground ac transmission systems. In 1986 he was appointed chair of the Accelerator Development Department which was responsible for the construction and design of several particle accelerators including preconstruction design and planning of the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, now the largest nuclear physics research tool in the US. Since retirement he has taken his sailboat twice round the world and sailed to both Polar Regions several times including a transit of the Northwest Passage. He has observed first-hand the effects of climate change and the efforts in many countries to deal with the future energy crisis. He is a Fellow of IEEE and in 2007 he was presented with the Herman Halperin Award for Transmission and Distribution development.


May 2009

This site is going into temporary hibernation while Captain Forsyth attempts to sail to California via the Northwst Passage. Although no sponsor has been found for the Green Ocean Race as yet, it remains a great way to promote green technology and if any potential sponsor chances on this site please contact Captain Forsyth here for more details.

He delivered a talk entitled, "The Challenges Facing Renewable Energy," during Earth Week using a Powerpoint. It is narrated and runs 60 minutes. Click here to download the presentation in a compressed folder (about 44 mb; with instructions included in a text file).


February 2009

Engineering America's Energy Future
by Eric B. Forsyth
Fifth Revision


Within the next generation two problems of global proportions threaten the way of life as we now know it in the United States. They are:

1. Global Climate Change
2. Global Depletion of Fossil Fuel

They are related; most scientists agree that the release of carbon into the atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuel in the past century has contributed in some degree to the present warming trend. What is more contentious is how much change will be produced in the future by burning the remaining reserves of fossil fuel, the true extent of which no one really knows. If the human record with timber and fish is any guide, it has to be assumed that eventually all fossil fuel left on the planet will be consumed and the trapped molecular carbon entombed over millions of years will be released over a period measured in decades. If that is the case, the only countervailing strategies now in place are: a) ineffective control of the rate of consumption using carbon credits and mostly voluntary conservation, and b) capture of the carbon in quite expensive ways on a small scale. It is hard to believe that these measures will have a significant effect, but possibly I am unduly pessimistic.

Many experts believe that global oil production has peaked; this means that supply cannot be significantly increased to meet rising demand from populous developing countries such as China and India. At present the US is the largest consumer of oil, thus increased competition for the remaining reserves will have a severe impact on this country. A strategy the US could adopt which would simultaneously address both these crises is to develop alternative energy sources which do not depend on fossil fuel. This is an immense problem; the infrastructure that provides our energy needs from transportation fuels to electricity is enormously complex and cost uncountable billions over many decades, as will an alternative. In the US a shortage of energy during the next generation is far more likely to cause social disruption than the effects of climate change.

Conservation is an important element on the road to alternative energy sources. By developing energy efficient technologies we reduce the load that will eventually be supplied by alternative sources. It has been suggested that conservation will extend the life of the reserves and thus provide more time for the development of alternative technologies. This may not be true; conservation in the US will probably be offset on a world-wide basis by increased demand from other countries and population growth. But conservation could reduce imports, although to be strictly logical and ignoring economic and diplomatic implications, it may be preferable to consume oil and gas from other countries and conserve domestic reserves. In recent years hybrid cars have made some penetration into the automobile market. This is a good example of conservation; a more efficient machine to do the same task. Other technologies have also appeared such as cars powered by fuel cells using hydrogen and all-electric cars using batteries, which is how very early autos were powered. Whether or not they conserve fossil fuel depends on where the hydrogen or electricity for charging comes from. Using ethanol as a fuel is discussed below. Conservation only saves energy, certainly a good thing, but it does not provide an alternative to support our present life style. I must emphasize; conservation is not the same as an alternative source.

Alternative Forms of Energy

Two properties of the major fossil fuels; oil, natural gas and coal, will make it very difficult to find 'plug-in' substitutes. These are:

1. They are transportable and pack high energy content per unit volume.
2. The energy is inherent; it was generated by Mother Nature millions of years ago and stored until Man exploited it.

A significant fraction of the fossil fuel consumed in the US, about a third, is converted to electricity. The fuels used are mostly coal and natural gas; oil-fired power plants provide less than 2% of the electric energy we use. This statistic suggests that alternative technologies which generate electricity, such as wind and solar, will not significantly affect oil imports unless there is a massive switch to electrically powered vehicles and electric space heating. Our society has become completely dependent on the reliable, stable delivery of electric power. Several proposed alternative sources of energy would also generate electricity, to be a viable alternative the electric power generated this way must meet the same quality standards as the present system. This may limit the contribution they can supply because of the nature of the electricity network; at any moment the power generated and the power consumed are matched, there is virtually no storage of electrical energy. In the future, increased use should be made of electric power to displace fossil fuel in such applications as space heating, rail transportation and transportation using all-electric automobiles. If this occurs, besides many more generating plants, the transmission and distribution networks must be greatly expanded, including a national transmission grid. Such a strategy matches the massive urbanization of the population that has occurred since WWII by concentrating load centers.

Renewable Energy

At present by far the most important renewable energy resource is hydro-electricity. Most of the power generated this way comes from agencies such as the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Bonneville Power Authority in the west which control massive dams. Unfortunately most of the suitable sites in the US have already been developed and further expansion would be difficult. There may be opportunity to develop 'low-head' hydro, but on the scale power is needed this would be a small contribution. The large hydro installations in the US have an attribute that is not provided by many other proposed renewable sources; the power is available continuously, day and night, rain or shine. Only a long period of severe drought can compromise operations.

In the past decade or so, two renewable but intermittent sources of energy have been widely promoted; wind turbines and photovoltaic generators. Both provide electric power, but because the basic source of energy, wind and sunlight, are not fully under control of the operators the power does not meet the quality standards of the present system. The intermittent characteristic of wind power can be gauged from experience in Europe where power supplied by wind generators to the grid averaged over a year is about 25% of the maximum rating of the wind turbines, a ratio termed the load factor. They can only be used if connected to a large grid so that the intermittent characteristic can be backed up by power drawn from other generators operating off fossil fuel, nuclear or hydro primary sources, that is to say, a megawatt of wind power requires a matching megawatt of conventional generation somewhere else in the system. There are also stability problems associated with connecting a myriad, widely dispersed, relatively small generators to a network if their total power begins to approach the network capacity, although advanced computer control systems incorporating weather data may be able to ameliorate the problem. An aspect also observed in Europe, where there is more wind-generated power connected to the grid, is that back-up energy sources must be capable of fast start-up, perhaps gas turbines, to match the rapid changes in wind velocity or incident sunlight that can occur. In any power system the demand fluctuates by day and by season, but there is a load consumption below which demand never falls, known as the base load. Typically the base load is 40% of the peak load. System operators usually supply the base load from nuclear or large coal-fired plants so that their output remains essentially constant. Obviously the degree of penetration into a power system by intermittent sources could never be allowed to approach the base load. Many of these drawbacks also apply to other ideas under review such as tidal and wave generators and solar steam boilers, even designs with limited (diurnal) energy storage, although efficient, long-term energy storage would greatly assist in bringing these technologies to the market. These constraints mean that such sources must be regarded as a form of conservation, possibly quite useful and able to make a contribution, but not a genuine alternative.

Another renewable source which has been heavily subsidized to bring it to market is biomass. Of course, in centuries past, wood was mankind's most common source of heating, but the goal of modern biomass production is to replace fossil fuel with ethanol, obtained by fermentation or with oil from plants. In Brazil a national effort has resulted in significant displacement of gasoline for autos using sugar cane as the feedstock. The US, much further north with less solar radiation, has embarked on a similar program using corn as the feedstock with less success. The energy available from the final product is not much different than the energy invested in its production. On the downside is the loss of agricultural land for food and the water needed for irrigation. Even with a vast electrification program, many energy users would still need portable fuel sources, for example; remote habitation, heavy trucks, farm and construction equipment, planes and ships. These markets could support a large bio-fuel industry. The carbon released on burning bio-fuel is presumably drawn from the soil, fertilizer and the atmosphere during growing and does not represent 'old' carbon.

Non-Fossil Primary Energy Sources

'Primary' means the power is available on a continuous basis and can be closely controlled. In a few areas of the US the hot magma of the earth's core is close enough to the surface to provide steam for turbines. In Iceland most of the energy consumed by the relatively small population is derived from this source, the opportunity to exploit sites in the US on the scale needed for significant contribution to national energy needs is much more limited. Apart from hydro, referred to earlier, the largest provider of non-fossil energy is fission of uranium. Nuclear power plants have been operating very successfully in the US for more than thirty years. Some, in fact, are reaching the end of their design life, it must be stressed they have operated reliably and safely despite a lingering public perception that they are dangerous. Just as fossil energy represents the power produced by the sun millions of years ago, fission energy originated in the heart of stars billions of years ago. Current reactor designs, called 'thermal' reactors, are not very efficient at extracting the energy in the nucleus; when the fuel becomes unusable more than 99% of the possible energy is still locked in the waste. Therein lies the problem; safe disposal of such radioactive waste is difficult and highly contentious. The reserves of economically available uranium for thermal reactors will probably not greatly outlast fossil fuel reserves. A few trial reactors have been constructed throughout the world that mitigate these problems. Known as breeders or recyclers they use a different fission mode than thermal reactors by producing plutonium faster than it is consumed. After separation the plutonium can be re-used. Much more of the available energy in the uranium nucleus is extracted and waste volume is greatly reduced because breeders 'burn' the residual waste of thermal reactors. Probably the final residual waste will need to be safely secreted only for centuries, not millennia, because it will be much less radioactive. Make no mistake; plutonium is a highly toxic material that presents severe technical challenges to design ways of separating and re-using it in a breeder. In addition, in a very pure form plutonium can be used to make bombs, which raises serious foreign policy issues when other countries pursue the same path, as they are doing. The complete processing cycle would require the highest level of security and environmental vigilance. To embark on this Faustian compact is a choice forced onto us by our excessive consumption of energy and little sign that our society is prepared to live with a good deal less. Uranium reserves to operate breeders would last for centuries. Finally turning to fusion reactors, these will would fuse hydrogen nuclei into helium and release energy in the process. Despite decades of research a continuous fusion reaction has not yet been achieved. Even if this finally occurs on an experimental basis the design of a power plant would require much more development. This source of primary energy is many years away from practical realization, but may represent hope for future generations.

A National Strategy

It is impossible to predict the future, but a strategy can be formulated based on events which are highly likely to occur. It is very likely that oil and natural gas production will not rise significantly in the future and increased demand for these products will force up the cost. Eventually demand will seriously outstrip production and unless alternative energy sources and infrastructure are in place by then there will be major disruptions of our way of life. This scenario will not occur overnight, but construction of alternative energy sources using existing technology must start immediately, these can then be phased in as oil and gas reserves fade away. Coal, which could provide electric power for over a century, albeit with high carbon emission might well represent the final gasp of fossil fuel energy production for our grandchildren. There is some irony in this as coal kicked off the industrial revolution and started mankind on the profligate use of energy.

National Priorities

Before listing the technical options which must be pursued there are two issues which have to be resolved and are outside the scope of this position paper:

1. The ordering of national priorities. Even the US has a finite budget. A balance must be achieved to use our financial, intellectual and material resources to preserve national defense, start the construction of alternative energy sources and greatly expand R&D in this field. I suspect that to implement all the recommendations in this article the annual expenditures would be comparable to the current defense budget using both public and private funds. At the same time our commitment to existing social services such as medical care, social security and welfare will have to be maintained.

2. Plan and implement a National Alternative Energy Program. This organization must coordinate private and public spending on a huge scale regardless of short-term energy cost fluctuations; it must have plenipotentiary authority not seen since WWII. Individuals and corporations are motivated by self interest; the organization must ensure private self interest is not in conflict with the national goal, that is, the lobbyists must be kept at bay. A realistic assessment of remaining fossil fuel reserves must be prepared in conjunction with a plan for timely introduction of alternative sources.

A Plan of Immediate Action:

Final Thoughts

The era of cheap energy is ending. It brought the population of the USA, and many other countries, a standard of living never before seen in history. With clear thinking, a national will, and lots of money we can overcome our addiction for fossil fuel and build a society that will maintain the way of life we have come to regard as normal. If we don't, our children will look back on the last hundred years as a golden age. It is very important to ensure that money and effort invested in an alternative infrastructure truly solve the problem, I suspect that some of the green alternatives now heavily promoted enhance only the public's 'feel-good' factor and will not withstand rigorous engineering evaluation. I find on discussing this problem with members of the general public that there is complete disbelief that a crisis is looming. In the appendix I show two scenarios showing the scale of what is involved in the future if :
1) if 20 % of present day electrical generation is provided by wind turbines and
2) 20% of US autos are powered by electricity drawn from the grid. The estimates are approximate, secondary factors, such as losses, are not included.

There always seems to be a tendency to believe reserves are bigger than they are. This is rather like what happened to the Atlantic cod; for decades fishermen, governments and the public believed (or pretended to) that the cod supply was inexhaustible, and then the stocks collapsed to zero. When pressed about where the oil will come from in the future, people tell me 'they' will fix it. Who are 'they'? They are the engineers, scientists, entrepreneurs, businessmen and the government who must cooperate to ensure the alternatives are in place when the oil companies tell us the 'The well is dry'. The proposal to greatly increase the energy supplied by electricity using nuclear reactors may seem drastic to many, but there is no other technology that can supply the scale of energy needed in a 'clean' manner. I wish there was another solution. The other option is to greatly reduce per capita energy consumption by mandated or voluntary means, increased cost, or shortages; some combination of which may well occur.

I must acknowledge many useful discussions with friends and colleagues, particularly members of the Brookhaven Retired Employees Association; however the opinions expressed are my own.



1) Estimate of Wind Farm Size
Objective: Estimate number of wind turbines to provide 20% of US electricity.
1. Electrical Energy use is 3.7x 109 MWh/yr (statistic from yr 2006)
2. Average rating of turbines is 2 MW. This is considerably higher than present practice, which is less than 1 MW.
3. The load factor is 25%, based on reported European experience.
4. Transmission facilities exist to support these generators.
5. Estimate is based on average load, in practice meeting peak demands will require more units.

20% of annual use is 3.7x 109 x 0.2, = 0.74x 109 MWh/yr
Energy from single turbine is 2x 8.7x 0.25x 103 = 4.4x 103 MWh/yr
Number required is 740x 106 / 4.4x 103 = 168x 103

I suspect that 20% of yearly electrical energy use from a renewable resource such as wind turbines represents the most optimistic goal that could be hoped for. Technical factors such as the intermittent nature of the power generated will limit the total contribution that can be expected. Finding windy sites for about 168,000 wind turbines will not be easy. Public objections based on aesthetic considerations will be common. A 2 MW turbine will have a blade diameter of about 220 ft, the size of a 20 story building. In practice big turbines don't perform as well as smaller in light wind conditions. The 2 MW size is probably a good average assuming future development is aimed at larger machines.

2) Use of automobiles powered from the electrical grid
Objective: Estimate increase in electrical demand if 20% of cars run on electricity.
1. Number of autos is 150x106.
2. Average mileage is 13x103 miles/yr
3. Average speed is 40 mph, yielding 325 h/yr running time.
4. Average shaft horse power is 50, or 38 kW.

Above assumptions correspond to an annual energy use of 1.24x 104 kWh per year at the shaft per auto. Assuming a charge cycle efficiency of 50%, the electrical load is 25 MWh/yr.

For 20% of US autos this corresponds to a load of 0.75 x109 MWh/yr.
US generation is 3.7x109 MWh/yr, thus increase demand is 0.75/3.7 or 20%.
Cost per auto at 10¢ per kWh is $2,500 per year. For comparison the annual cost of gas at $2/gal and 23mi/gal is about $1100.

Eric Forsyth was a member of the scientific staff at Brookhaven National Laboratory for 35 years. He served as Chair of the Accelerator Development Department and manager of the Power Transmission Project. In 2007 he received the Herman Halperin Award from the Institution of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) for his research on advanced power transmission systems. Since he retired in 1995 he has sailed his yacht Fiona to both Polar Regions to investigate personally the effect of climate change. He has also sailed twice around the world where his observation of social changes in many countries aroused his interest in the future of energy production.

December 2008
Eric Forsyth is pleased to announce that the Green Ocean Race has been accepted as a trademark by the United States Patent and Trademark Office!


May 2008


February 2008


There is considerable competition for sponsorship these days. Well-known companies receive thousands of requests for sponsorship every year. Many now work through an internet sponsor site that imposes a standard format for the requests, reviews the event or cause and forwards them to the corporation which in their opinion would be most interested. In the past two months the following companies have been approached with detailed formal proposals to support the Green Ocean Race, some using the website 'Sponsorwise'.

1. Areva (French manufacturer of nuclear reactors and sponsor of several ocean races)--no reply.
2. Environmental Defense Fund--no reply.
3. General Motors--replied, but they're not interested in the GOR.
4. Toyota North America--replied and suggested a more detailed submittal.
5. Motorola (sponsors some boats in ocean races)--Replied with a "no interest" in the GOR.
6. Cadillac Motors (developer of the Provoq hybrid/electric)--no reply
7. Google--no reply.

Any suggestions on possible sponsors gratefully received.

Although the purpose of the website is to promote the GOR I am inevitably getting a good deal of feedback about the looming energy crisis. I can recommend two videos for those seriously interested in our energy future:

1. A CRUDE AWAKENING, made by Basil Gelpke and Ray McCormack, Lava Productions, AG, Switzerland. This fascinating video covers the history of oil exploitation, prediction of oil reserves and the future. Numerous interviews are conducted with geologists, scientists, Arabian ministers and even a US Congressman.

2. NOBODY'S FUEL, made by Douglas Lightfoot, visit . Mr. Lightfoot suggests that securing a sustainable energy future is even more important than climate change. He reviews various alternative energy sources and proposes that a crucial step is to develop fast breeder reactors.

Both videos are sobering and agree that we have little time left to solve the problem if we are to avoid severe disruption to our accepted way of life. Google the titles for more information, I believe the videos can be ordered from the makers or from Netflix.

January 2008


At the age of 51, Francis Joyon is once again the fastest solo yachtsman around the world, having completed his non-stop record attempt in 57 days, 13 hours, 34 minutes and 6 seconds. He has shattered the previous record, held since 2005 by the British yachtswoman, Ellen MacArthur by 14 days, 44 minutes and 27 seconds. Joyon and the 97-foot IDEC trimaran crossed the finishing line off Brest on Sunday 20th January 2008 at 00h39'58. Onboard IDEC, Francis Joyon covered more than 26,400 nautical miles at an average speed of 19.09 knots. Throughout the passage, IDEC sailed “cleanly," without the use of any fossil fuel (no engine), generating its own energy with a wind turbine and solar panels.

Francis Joyon becomes the only solo sailor in the world to have established the non-stop single-handed round the world voyage record aboard a multihull on two occasions (first set in 2004). Additionally, Joyon’s passage achieved the second best time ever for sailing around the world, including crewed voyages! Joyon surpassed the crewed record set by Steve Fossett’s giant Cheyenne (58 days, 9 hours and 32 minutes in April 2004), with only the crew of Bruno Peyron’s maxi-catamaran Orange II still holding the outright record in just over 50 days.

Joyon's Site

View Photos Here

Curmudgeon’s Comment: Joyon’s program was criticized early on by the English speaking press, as his sponsor apparently did not see the need to translate their daily updates from French. However, as the success of his effort became imminent, the updates started coming in English too. Now, his team has provided a blow-by-blow account of Joyon’s record-setting voyage…in English.

Read here


November 2007
Captain Forsyth manned a desk a desk at the annual convention of the Seven Seas Cruising Association in Melbourne, Florida, November 9 through 11, 2007. He caught the attention of visitors by running past cruise videos on the laptop and passed out flyers containing the details of the proposed race.