Wind power could supply world's electricity
* New Scientist issue 2714. 24 June 2009
WIND patterns of the past are providing optimistic news about future energy supplies. It seems global winds are easily up to the job of supplying the world's electricity needs.
Previous projections for wind power simply rely on estimates of average annual wind speeds around the world today. Accurate predictions for future wind patterns are not available, so for more detailed information, Michael McElroy of Harvard University and colleagues turned to atmospheric models normally used by climate scientists and weather forecasters. They used these to recreate wind speeds and patterns from the past 30 years, using data from aircraft, balloons, rocket launches and surface measurements. "We have the best available wind information for the entire world, every 6 hours, with a spatial resolution of 50 by 66 kilometres," says McElroy.
This new approach has the best available wind information for the entire world
The team's model suggests that the top 10 carbon dioxide-emitting countries, except possibly Japan, could generate all of their current and projected electricity needs from onshore wind turbines that are already commercially available.
In the US, for example, this would take a network of wind farms involving just 2 or 3 turbines per square kilometre over 13 per cent of the country (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, http://www.pnas.org/content/106/27/10933).