Current Issue

Mar. 23, 2011

Vol. 111, No. 9

Nuclear fusion's potential

In response to: President's Page

Published on March 23, 2011

Re: the Campus Notebook article on solar panels at Princeton (March 2), this is certainly a good thing to do. However, the fact that it takes 27 acres of solar panels to provide 5 percent of the University’s electrical energy underscores the extremely high land-use requirements of solar- and wind-power electrical generation. A normal-size conventional power plant generates about 1,000 times this amount. Over-simplifying no doubt to make the point, using the ratio of numbers in the article indicates that 40 or more square miles of land would have to be covered with solar panels to replace it.

So let’s not stop with installing solar panels. It is also true that Princeton is in a unique position with its Plasma Physics Laboratory to contribute to harnessing nuclear fusion to produce electricity. This may be the only massively effective alternative to ­continu­ing to burn fossil fuels. In her Feb. 9 President’s Page, President Tilghman had a great article about the PPPL. It is the PPPL that has the potential of making a world-changing contribution worthy of our great University.

Burke Baker III ’65
Jackson, Wyo.

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