New Studies Show Wind Could Power The Earth Alone

Wind Power World Study
Two new studies say Earth has more than enough wind to power the entire world.

´╗┐One study, conducted by Carnegie Institution for Science and published in "Nature Climate Change," focused on the total planetary availability of wind power. The first line in the study says it all: "There is enough power in Earth's winds to be a primary source of near-zero-emission electric power as the global economy continues to grow through the twenty-first century."

Both studies looked solely at the global geophysical limits of wind power: is there physically enough wind on planet Earth to make wind power a dominant form of energy creation? The answer is a resounding yes.

"The available wind resources are much larger than that needed to supply the world's power," authors Mark Jacobson of Stanford University and Cristina Archer of the University of Delaware write in the study, which appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "This renewable resource could easily satisfy the global human energy demand."

The scientists used a computer weather model to show that there is enough wind to exceed the total demand by several times, even after accounting for reductions in wind speeds caused by the turbines.

How many turbines? About 4 million, each operating at a height of 100 meters, would provide more than half of the world's power demands.

The authors propose that half would be on land, and half on oceans. On land, the authors say it's best to spread out the wind farms in high-wind areas across the globe, such as the Gobi Desert, the American Great Plains, or the Sahara Desert.

The studies are by two different U.S. science teams and were published in separate journals Sunday and Monday. They calculate existing wind turbine technology could produce hundreds of trillions of watts of power. That's more than 10 times what the world now consumes.

Their computer model was admittedly theoretical, and assumed that the turbines could be installed anywhere and everywhere, without regard to societal, environmental, climatic or economic considerations.

But the research looks only at physics, not finances. Others note it would be too costly [without government subsidies like the oil industry receives] to put up all those wind turbines and transmit energy to all consumers. As the Carnegie Institution of Science notes, "It is likely that wind power growth will be limited by economic or environmental factors, not global geophysical limits."

"Wind is unaffordable, unreliable, and uncompetitive without subsidies," says David Kreutzer, a research fellow with the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.  "Even at a small scale, wind costs more than getting electricity from a conventional source," he says.

Based on these studies do you feel the wind industry should receive government subsidies comparable to what the oil industry receives in order to compete economically?


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