Enough Wind to Power Global Energy Demand: New Research Examines Limits, Climate Consequences

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.

Turbines create drag, or resistance, which removes momentum from the winds and tends to slow them. As the number of wind turbines increase, the amount of energy that is extracted increases. But at some point, the winds would be slowed so much that adding more turbines will not generate more electricity. This study focused on finding the point at which energy extraction is highest.

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 maximum levels of power extraction, there would be substantial climate effects to wind harvesting. But the study found that the climate effects of extracting wind energy at the level of current global demand would be small, as long as the turbines were spread out and not clustered in just a few regions. 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.

Comments

Ok... so since 1911, we had the ability to completely transition to geothermal for baseload planet-wide by 1929... with wind being used as supplement.

Today... atmospheric wind tech can meet more than enough for the entire planet... with negligible impact while tapping into only 1% of geothermal energy supply would produce enough to meet our requirements for thousands of years.
Couple it with orbital solar collectors (or just ground solar power)...

My my... just how stupid can the world get to continuously push for dangerous technologies that contaminate the environment?
Oh right... because of the moronic notion of 'profit'.

Here Here! Nice one Deksman!

Thank you.
It is nice to be informed about such things.
:-)
Humanity wasted one opportunity after the next.
We could have transitioned to a resource based economy 100 years ago with the technology we had back then (which was more than enough to produce abundance).

And the things I mentioned for that era are nothing more than tip of the iceberg.

Before the turn of 20th century, Tesla patented a highly efficient wifi power transfer technology [up to 90% if I'm not mistaken] while he demonstrated a working and less efficient version [up to 40%] in 1891 if I'm not mistaken).

Consider that today's power grid efficiency is about 30% to 45% (on par with Tesla's first generation of wifi power transfer technology which he perfected only years later).

We also perfected recycling technologies in the late 19th century, giving us the ability to break matter down into base elements and reconstitute it into something else, or convert it into alternative energy source - which could have been used immediately to harvest ALL of the landfills on the planet to create man-made materials/resources/tools/technology (for every single person on the planet - there's an overflow of trash on the planet today which can be used for exactly this - and creation of all those geothermal power plants, orbital/ground solar collectors, atmospheric wind turbines, etc - without the need of extracting materials from the Earth.

Extracting electricity from wind was already doable back then which is why I mentioned it could have been used as a supplement to geothermal, and let's not forget that EV cars already existed in the 20th century - which could have been powered by Tesla's wifi power transfer technology (negating most of the battery inefficiencies - although that would have been overcome either way in a relatively short amount of time had it been actively worked on - and it probably was, just never released).