A study from Carnegie Institution for Science, led by Kate Marvel of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has revealed that there is enough wind power to meet all of the world’s energy demands. The US team say that with the help of airborne wind turbines—those that convert steadier and faster high-altitude winds into energy—the planet would be able to generate even more power than with ground- and ocean-based units alone.
Carnegie’s Ken Caldeira, who aided Kate Marvel on the project, explained that high-altitude wind power could have a massive effect on the world’s renewable energy needs. Using models, the Carnegie team were able to quantify the amount of power that could be generated from both surface and atmospheric winds. They also looked at the geophysical limitations of these techniques to find which were the most efficient.
The team’s research found that turbines create drag, or resistance, which removes momentum from the winds and tends to slow them. However 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 would not generate more electricity.
Combining their assorted research, 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.
Currently, the planet only uses about 18 TW of power, but by harnessing near-surface winds this could increase the rate of wind power by more than 20 times today’s global power demand. Also the use of wind turbines on kites could potentially capture 100 times the current global power demand!
“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.
via Science Daily