Enough Wind to Power Global Energy Demand 20x

A Vestas wind turbine. Image credit: Vestas
A Vestas wind turbine. Image credit: Vestas

Near-surface winds could provide more than 20 times today’s global power demand

There is enough energy available in winds to meet all of the world’s demand. Atmospheric turbines that convert steadier and faster high-altitude winds into energy could generate even more power than ground- and ocean-based units. New research from Carnegie’s Ken Caldeira examines the limits of the amount of power that could be harvested from winds, as well as the effects high-altitude wind power could have on the climate as a whole. Their work is published September 9 by Nature Climate Change.

Led by Kate Marvel of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, who began this research at Carnegie, the team used models to quantify the amount of power that could be generated from both surface and atmospheric winds.

Surface winds were defined as those that can be accessed by turbines supported by towers on land or rising out of the sea. High-altitude winds were defined as those that can be accessed by technology merging turbines and kites.

The study looked only at the geophysical limitations of these techniques, not technical or economic factors.

Using models, the team was able to determine that more than 400 terrawatts of power could be extracted from surface winds and more than 1,800 terrawatts could be generated by winds extracted throughout the atmosphere.

Today, civilization uses about 18 TW of power. Near-surface winds could provide more than 20 times today’s global power demand and wind turbines on kites could potentially capture 100 times the current global power demand.

At the level of global energy demand, wind turbines might affect surface temperatures by about 0.1 degree Celsius and affect precipitation by about 1%. Overall, the environmental impacts would not be substantial. “Looking at the big picture, it is more likely that economic, technological or political factors will determine the growth of wind power around the world, rather than geophysical limitations,” Caldeira said.

Journal reference: Nature Climate Change
Provided by Carnegie Institution for Science

Read more at Phys Org.news

The northern plains has been called the “Saudia Arabia of wind energy” by the US Department of Energy, and rightly so when you look at the wind energy potential in the region. Here’s a report by WindToday.net that lists US states for wind energy potential. The top 11 states in order include: North Dakota (#1), Texas, Kansas, South Dakota, Montana, Nebraska, Wyoming, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Iowa and Colorado.

2 thoughts on “Enough Wind to Power Global Energy Demand 20x”

  1. Wind power is great, but not everyone wants in their back yard. There have been several areas in Calif where wind farms were planned, but were cancelled because of local and environmental opposition. What I see is a major hypocrisy. Green proponents want environmentally safe and renewable energy, so long as they don’t have to look at it, listen to it or have it supposedly interfere with their recreation. Solar and wind are the future, but they are not impact free. The green movement needs to realize that it takes more then advocating for something to make it a reality. You have to be willing to live with the technology. As with other topics, both social and political, some people think their great ideas are wonderful so long as they impact someone else.


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