Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Wind Power

Earth has more than enough wind to power the entire world, at least technically, two new studies find. The research looked only at the physics, not finance so others noted that it would be too costly to put up all the necessary wind turbines and build a system that could transmit energy to all consumers.

The studies are by two different U.S. science teams  calculated that existing wind turbine technology could produce hundreds of trillions of watts of power. That's more than 10 times what the world now consumes. Wind power doesn't emit heat-trapping gases like burning coal, oil and natural gas. But there have been questions, raised in earlier studies, about whether physical limits would prevent the world from being powered by wind. The new studies showed potential wind energy limits wouldn't be an issue.

Money would be.

"It's really a question about economics and engineering and not a question of fundamental resource availability," said Ken Caldeira, a climate scientist at the Palo Alto campus of the Carnegie Institution for Science. He is a co-author of one of the studies that appeared in the journal Nature Climate Change. Caldeira's study finds wind has the potential to produce more than 20 times the amount of energy the world now consumes.

Mark Jacobson, a Stanford University professor of civil and environmental engineering wrote the other study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It shows a slightly lower potential in the amount of wind power than Caldeira's study. But he said it still would amount to far more power than the world now uses is or is likely to use in the near future. If there were 100 new wind turbines for every existing one, that could do the trick. Jacobson said start-up costs and fossil fuel subsidies prevent wind from taking off.

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