July 30, 2009

Is there enough wind resource to provide all of our electricity?


A peer-reviewed study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 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 >40 times current worldwide consumption of electricity, >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. "

This study doesn't address changes to the grid that would be needed to supply all of our electricity from wind and solar:

"...Wind power accounted for 42% of all new electrical capacity added to the United States electrical system in 2008 although wind continues to account for a relatively small fraction of
the total electricity-generating capacity [25.4 gigawatts (GW) of a total of 1,075 GW] ...Short et al. , using the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’sWinDs model, concluded that wind could account for as much as 25% of U.S. electricity by 2050 (corresponding to an installed wind capacity of 300 GW). "

But 25% is a good start.

See here the full study in PDF form.

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