Saturday, June 27, 2009

Wind Could Generate 40 Times Current Worldwide Consumption of Electricity

A paper published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds that a global network of wind turbines could supply more than 40 times current worldwide consumption of electricity. See Xi Lu, Michael B. McElroy, and Juha Kiviluoma, "Global potential for wind-generated electricity," PNAS 2009.

Here is the executive summary from that paper:
The potential of wind power as a global source of electricity is assessed by using winds derived through assimilation of data from a variety of meteorological sources. The analysis indicates that a network of land-based 2.5-megawatt (MW) turbines restricted to nonforested, ice-free, nonurban areas operating at as little as 20% of their rated capacity could supply greater than 40 times current worldwide consumption of electricity, greater than 5 times total global use of energy in all forms. Resources in the contiguous United States, specifically in the central plain states, could accommodate as much as 16 times total current demand for electricity in the United States. Estimates are given also for quantities of electricity that could be obtained by using a network of 3.6-MW turbines deployed in ocean waters with depths depths less than 200 m within 50 nautical miles (92.6 km) of closest coastlines.
This study pushes wind power to its maximum capacity, doing away with reasonable assumptions such as limits imposed by manufacturing capacity and the current electric grid. See Ars Technica (providing a technical review of the paper). However, this does not make the study less reliable since it is looking at maximum potential wind energy not technological or economically feasible wind energy. For policy makers the hope is that technology will catch up with potential.

For wind energy developers, Hawaii is well on its way to increasing wind power capacity. See Maui Wind Energy Producer Proposes Expansion and High Resolution Wind Resource Maps Show 92 MW Energy Potential for Oahu. Hawaii has adopted several laws to ease land use decisions and encourage investment in wind power facilities, for example:
  • HRS Section 235-12.5, which provides a tax credit for wind-powered energy systems;
  • HRS Sections 205-2 and 205-4.5, which allows wind generated energy production for public, private, and commercial use and wind machines and wind farms on state classified agricultural lands;
  • HRS Section 269-101, allows wind turbines to participate in net energy metering programs, which allows utility users to sell net electricity they generate back to the electric grid; and
  • HRS Chapter 201N, providing a renewable energy facility siting process.
For more on energy related issues, see Energy.

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