What’s wrong with the third sentence quoted below?
Duke Energy Renewables and Colorado Springs Utilities are developing a new solar energy generating facility in Colorado Springs.
With more than 220,000 solar panels on about 700 acres, the new Palmer Solar project will generate 60 megawatts of electricity for Colorado Springs Utilities’ customers. It generates enough electricity to power approximately 22,000 homes per year.
Yes, it jumps off the page at you. The words “per year” should not be there. (You can see the original article here.)
What the writer seemingly mixes up is a thing, and a rate at which the thing happens. It’s like mixing up miles with miles per hour.
In the context of consumer electric power, what the writer might be mixing up is “power” and “energy”.
There are dozens of enormous photovoltaic array electric power generation projects being built right now at various locations across the US. More than one of the projects exceeds a square mile in area. I clicked around to read some of the news stories about these solar projects, and I saw that quite often a writer would try to explain this same kind of thing — the approximate number of residential homes that could be powered by the solar project. And I was disappointed to see this same “per year” mistake having happened over and over again.
Here is but one more of many other examples of this that I found when clicking around in the news:
A large 375-megawatt solar farm is currently being developed for a 2,100-acre plot 10 miles southwest of Lima in Auglaize County. …
A facility of that size would be able to power the equivalent of 55,000 homes per year, or all of Allen County, by harnessing solar energy with an extensive grid of solar panels.
I suppose what must be going on is a three-step process. First, a company that gets such a project going decides to announce the launch with a press release, and the easiest way to do this is to crib from some earlier press release by the same company or by some other company that launched an earlier solar-array project. And in that earlier press release, the “per year” mistake was made, so the mistake gets replicated mutatis mutandis. Second, the press release is received at newspapers and other media outlets, and a reporter massages the press release into a news article. The mistake is preserved. Third, the editor at the newspaper or other media outlet snoozes through the mistake. So the mistake once again reaches the eyes of readers.
There is a recognized term “innumeracy” that is a counterpart to “illiteracy”. Just as an illiterate person is one who cannot read or write, an innumerate person is one who cannot handle numbers competently. The way it ought to be is that there should be very little innumeracy around us, just as there should be very little illiteracy around us. Things like this newspaper article, however, remind me that innumerate people surround us. They write press releases for solar-array developers, they somehow hold jobs as newspaper reporters, and, I guess as reminders of the Peter Principle, they get promoted from reporter to editor.
And, I despair to think, get elected to Congress and get appointed to many positions of authority.
I trace this learning failure to high school math class or high school science class. I guess by now more than a generation has come and gone during which many or even most high school students somehow slip through and graduate without ever being forced to learn what I think of as basic math skills and basic calculation skills. Some of this is not even math, it is just terminology. One cannot and ought not to attempt to compare the magnitude of a thing with the magnitude of the rate at which a thing happens or the rate at which a thing is produced or the rate at which a thing is consumed. Rates and things are different.