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Scientists: Wind could meet world power needs by 2030

Stanford, Delaware climate model show there's plenty of wind to meet energy demand

Wind holds enough energy to meet or exceed the world's total demand for power by 2030, according to new research from Stanford University and the University of Delaware.

Four million wind turbines, each 100 meters high, could supply well over half the world's power demand without significant negative effect on climate, said Mark Jacobson, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford and Cristina Archer, associate professor of geography and physical ocean science and engineering at the University of Delaware.

Jacobson and Archer would place half of the 4 million turbines over water. The remaining 2 million would take up a little more than one-half of 1 percent of the earth's land surface -- about half the area of Alaska.

Rather than put all the turbines in a single location, Archer and Jacobson said it would be best and most efficient to spread out wind farms in high-wind sites across the globe -- the Gobi Desert, the American plains and the Sahara, for example.

"We're not saying 'put turbines everywhere,' but we have shown that there is no fundamental barrier to obtaining half or even several times the world's all-purpose power from wind by 2030," Jacobson said.

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"The potential is there if we can build enough turbines.

"To get there, however, we have a long way to go. Today we have installed a little over 1 percent of the wind power needed," Jacobson said.

The professors' conclusions come from adaptations of three-dimensional, atmosphere-ocean-land computer modeling, which calculates the theoretical maximum wind power potential on the planet, accounting for wind reduction by turbines.

The model assumed wind turbines could be installed anywhere and everywhere, without regard to societal, environmental, climatic or economic considerations.

The new paper contradicts two earlier studies that said wind potential falls far short of the aggressive goal because each turbine steals too much wind energy from other turbines, and that turbines introduce harmful climate consequences that would negate some of the positive aspects of renewable wind energy.

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The new computer model provides a more sophisticated look than previously possible by separating winds in the atmosphere into hypothetical boxes stacked atop and beside one another. Each box has its own wind speed and weather. In their model, Jacobson and Archer exposed individual turbines to winds from several boxes at once, a degree of resolution earlier global models did not match.

"Modeling the climate consequences of wind turbines is complex science," said Jacobson.

"This software allows that level of detail for the first time."

The researchers were able to calculate the exposure of each wind turbine in the model to winds that vary in space and time. Additionally, the model accounts for the wind that gets claimed by the turbines. It then calculates the effect of these wind speed changes on global temperatures, moisture, clouds and climate.

Among the most promising things the researchers learned is that there is a lot of potential in the wind -- hundreds of terawatts. At some point, however, the return on building new turbines would plateau, reaching a level in which no additional energy could be extracted even with the installation of more turbines.

"Each turbine reduces the amount of energy available for others," Archer said. The reduction, however, becomes significant only when large numbers of turbines are installed, many more than would ever be needed.

"And that's the point that was very important for us to find," Archer said.

The researchers have dubbed this point the saturation wind power potential. The saturation potential, they say, is more than 250 terawatts if an army of 100-meter-tall wind turbines were placed across the entire land and water of planet Earth. Alternatively, if they were placed only on land (minus Antarctica) and along the coastal ocean, there is still some 80 terawatts available -- about seven times the total power demand of all civilization. Hypothetical turbines operating in the jet streams 6 miles up in the atmosphere could extract as much as 380 terawatts.

Jacobson and Archer's findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Research funding sources included the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration High-End Computing Program.

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Scientists: Wind could meet world power needs by 2030

Stanford, Delaware climate model show there's plenty of wind to meet energy demand

Uploaded: Wed, Sep 12, 2012, 10:34 am

Wind holds enough energy to meet or exceed the world's total demand for power by 2030, according to new research from Stanford University and the University of Delaware.

Four million wind turbines, each 100 meters high, could supply well over half the world's power demand without significant negative effect on climate, said Mark Jacobson, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford and Cristina Archer, associate professor of geography and physical ocean science and engineering at the University of Delaware.

Jacobson and Archer would place half of the 4 million turbines over water. The remaining 2 million would take up a little more than one-half of 1 percent of the earth's land surface -- about half the area of Alaska.

Rather than put all the turbines in a single location, Archer and Jacobson said it would be best and most efficient to spread out wind farms in high-wind sites across the globe -- the Gobi Desert, the American plains and the Sahara, for example.

"We're not saying 'put turbines everywhere,' but we have shown that there is no fundamental barrier to obtaining half or even several times the world's all-purpose power from wind by 2030," Jacobson said.

"The potential is there if we can build enough turbines.

"To get there, however, we have a long way to go. Today we have installed a little over 1 percent of the wind power needed," Jacobson said.

The professors' conclusions come from adaptations of three-dimensional, atmosphere-ocean-land computer modeling, which calculates the theoretical maximum wind power potential on the planet, accounting for wind reduction by turbines.

The model assumed wind turbines could be installed anywhere and everywhere, without regard to societal, environmental, climatic or economic considerations.

The new paper contradicts two earlier studies that said wind potential falls far short of the aggressive goal because each turbine steals too much wind energy from other turbines, and that turbines introduce harmful climate consequences that would negate some of the positive aspects of renewable wind energy.

The new computer model provides a more sophisticated look than previously possible by separating winds in the atmosphere into hypothetical boxes stacked atop and beside one another. Each box has its own wind speed and weather. In their model, Jacobson and Archer exposed individual turbines to winds from several boxes at once, a degree of resolution earlier global models did not match.

"Modeling the climate consequences of wind turbines is complex science," said Jacobson.

"This software allows that level of detail for the first time."

The researchers were able to calculate the exposure of each wind turbine in the model to winds that vary in space and time. Additionally, the model accounts for the wind that gets claimed by the turbines. It then calculates the effect of these wind speed changes on global temperatures, moisture, clouds and climate.

Among the most promising things the researchers learned is that there is a lot of potential in the wind -- hundreds of terawatts. At some point, however, the return on building new turbines would plateau, reaching a level in which no additional energy could be extracted even with the installation of more turbines.

"Each turbine reduces the amount of energy available for others," Archer said. The reduction, however, becomes significant only when large numbers of turbines are installed, many more than would ever be needed.

"And that's the point that was very important for us to find," Archer said.

The researchers have dubbed this point the saturation wind power potential. The saturation potential, they say, is more than 250 terawatts if an army of 100-meter-tall wind turbines were placed across the entire land and water of planet Earth. Alternatively, if they were placed only on land (minus Antarctica) and along the coastal ocean, there is still some 80 terawatts available -- about seven times the total power demand of all civilization. Hypothetical turbines operating in the jet streams 6 miles up in the atmosphere could extract as much as 380 terawatts.

Jacobson and Archer's findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Research funding sources included the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration High-End Computing Program.

— Palo Alto Weekly staff

Comments

Creationist
Cuernavaca
on Sep 12, 2012 at 11:54 am
Creationist, Cuernavaca
on Sep 12, 2012 at 11:54 am
3 people like this

Pssh, Science. What has science ever done for us? Well, maybe it has done some good, but when it points out things that go against the platform of my "don't think, follow along with what we tell you" political party, well then I must draw the line.
Drill baby drill! Drill baby drill! Drill baby drill!....


steve
Old Mountain View
on Sep 12, 2012 at 2:32 pm
steve, Old Mountain View
on Sep 12, 2012 at 2:32 pm
3 people like this

I believe in Unicorns and pots of gold at the end of rainbows.
I believe that if we would just hug the world it would hug us back.
I believe that there is such a thing as something for nothing.
I believe in the "Yes we can", and the "Hope and Change".






Steve
Sylvan Park
on Sep 12, 2012 at 3:01 pm
Steve, Sylvan Park
on Sep 12, 2012 at 3:01 pm
3 people like this

Imagine the vast energy available to us, if we could only harness the hot air generated by our civic leaders.


Croc Dundee
another community
on Sep 12, 2012 at 3:46 pm
Croc Dundee, another community
on Sep 12, 2012 at 3:46 pm
3 people like this

"The potential is there if we can build enough turbines."
This reminds of the answer to the puzzle:
How many pieces of string would it take to reach the moon?
One, it it was long enough.


Creationist
Cuernavaca
on Sep 13, 2012 at 7:24 am
Creationist, Cuernavaca
on Sep 13, 2012 at 7:24 am
3 people like this

Exactly steve, another Unicorn pipe dream...just like evolution and a woman's hidden ability to shut down her body and prevent impregnation during a legitimate rape. Science will NEVER help solve our energy issues. Drill Baby Drill! Drill Baby Drill!


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