Calculating Environmental Benefits from Using Gulf Stream Turbines

            The United States, with the world’s largest economy, is also the world’s largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions.  With just 4 percent of the World’s population, the US accounts for 24 percent of the total carbon emissions.  Quantitatively, the most important is carbon dioxide, released into the atmosphere whenever fossil fuels are burned. 

Every kilowatt-hour of electricity that is generated by water or wind can replace that same unit of electricity that is generated by burning fossil fuels. The burning of fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides into the atmosphere.  According to a study done in the UK, typical emissions per kilowatt-hour are as follows: carbon dioxide, 860 grams; sulfur dioxide, 10 grams, and nitrous oxides, 3 grams.  The actual amounts of the pollutants released would depend on the type and quality of the fossil fuels burned, as well as on the efficiency of the power plant.  For instance, although the burning of natural gas would emit virtually no sulfur dioxide, the emissions of the other two gases can be high, with the carbon in the CO2 that is a major cause of global warming coming from the natural gas, and the nitrogen in the nitrous oxides that causes smog coming from the combustion air. 

Though the nitrous oxides can be removed from the stack gases, the CO2 presents a major problem.  This problem can only be solved by separating the CO2 from the stack gases and sequestering the carbon by injecting the CO2 deep under ground or by combining the carbon in the gas with limestone to convert the carbon dioxide into environmentally safe bicarbonates.  All of the sequestering technologies will increase the costs of the power and will consume energy.  In contrast, the Gulf Stream Turbines and wind turbines will produce no CO2 .   


When the capacity factors for both the wind and the Gulf Stream water turbines are entered into the equation, the environmental benefits from using properly placed water turbines become obvious.  The preceding graph compares the reductions in the annual CO2 emissions using water and wind turbine units having 1,200 kW of rated capacity, corrected for their capacity factors (CF) to those quantities of CO2 that would have been emitted by fossil fuel plants having the same rated capacity.  The graph compares the generating units in terms of the tons of CO2 per year that would be emitted by fossil fuel power plants producing the same amount of power. Because the Gulf-Stream turbines would not require nearly as much “spinning” operating reserve as the more unreliable wind turbines, there would actually be greater differences in favor of the Gulf-Stream turbines than the graph shows.

            Previously we calculated that it would require 175,000 turbines in a 5.5 mph current to have a generating capacity of 218,750 megawatts, equal to the capacity of all the existing and planned gas and oil-fired power plants to the year 2005.  With each Gulf Stream Turbine producing 1,250 kW of power and operating at an 80 percent capacity factor, each unit would reduce the CO2 emissions by 10,078 US tons per year from that that would have been produced if that same power had been generated by a fossil fuel plant.  If we multiply the 10,078 tons for a single Gulf Stream turbine unit by the 175,000 units in the system, the total amount of CO2 reduction would come to a whopping 1,763,672,702 US tons.  According to Our Ecological Footprint, (Wacklermagel & Rees, 1996), a forest absorbs about three US tons of CO2 per acre of trees per year.  If one acre of forest can absorb 3 tons of CO2 per year, to absorb that much CO2 would require 918,580 square miles of forestland.  That is an area equal to all of those states that are colored green in the map below.      

            The EPA and five other federal agencies, using National Science Foundation data, say that global warming is likely to cause serious damage.  The US study predicted drastic climate changes in the coming decades stifling heat waves, disappearance of some coastal marshes, disruptions in agriculture and much more.  Moreover, the study asserted these changes would most likely be caused by human activity.  Using the Gulf Stream Turbines would provide an excellent and very inexpensive way for the US to greatly reduce CO2 emissions without causing a negative impact on our economy or the environment.  Not only can these turbines reduce the CO2 emissions directly by replacing fossil-fuel power generation, they can also reduce them indirectly by producing electricity and hydrogen to power vehicles.