Print 63 comment(s) - last by johnsmith9875.. on Sep 16 at 9:37 PM

Researchers estimate there's potential for 1,800 TW of wind power

Using advanced computer simulations, researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Carnegie Mellon University studied how much power could be feasibly extracted from atmospheric wind and what the effects on climate would be.

Many think that high-altitude wind could offer dramatic cost savings over ground-based wind by tapping into powerful currents like the jet stream.  Indeed the team, led by LLNL researcher Professor Katherine Marvel, found that while surface winds could only theoretically yield 400 terawatts of annual power production, high-altitude winds could yield up to 1,800 terawatts.

That's 100-times the current global power consumption of approximately 18 terawatts.

High-altitude winds could be captured by using gas-filled inflatables (or kites) with turbines mounted on them.  One factor the team did not look at was price.  Price remains an issue for high-altitude wind harvest, as helium -- the most convenient gas for floaters -- is growing scarce.

The current research focused more on the environmental impact.  As wind turbines slow the air travelling over them, as they harvest its mechanical energy, they can have a climate impact.  But the team estimates that if they were well distributed, even at 1,800 terawatts, the impact would only be a 0.1 degree Celsius change in temperatures and a 1 percent change in precipitation.

Simulation climate
Researchers' models indicate that atmospheric wind harvesting may not have a serious adverse impact on the climate. [Image Source: Nature Climate Change]

This indicates that assuming costs can be worked out, high-altitude wind shouldn't have much of an adverse impact on the global climate.  Of course, such models are prone to error, so it's best to take the study with a grain of salt.

The work, funded by the Carnegie Institution of Science, is published [abstract] in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Climate Change.  Ken Caldeira, CMU professor and the paper's senior author, comments [press release], "Looking at the big picture, it is more likely that economic, technological or political factors will determine the growth of wind power around the world, rather than geophysical limitations."

Sources: Nature Climate Change, Eurekalert

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RE: Incomplete study not worth mentioning
By EricMartello on 9/10/2012 8:41:39 PM , Rating: 2
Wind power sure isnt perfect, but personally I find strip mining, oil spills or coal plants spewing pollution into the air much more of an eyesore.

Oil spills happen infrequently and coal plants are not spread across hundreds of miles of plains lands...that, plus modern coal plants are able to reduce toxic emmissions though the use of catalysts.

Wind turbines do have a detrimental effect on birds, but its nothing compared to the amount of bird deaths resulting from pets, cars, aircraft, building collisions, pollution, and habitat loss due to mining and logging.

That's because we have not erected wind turbines in the proportion that would be required to equal the electricity produced by a handful of coal or nuclear power plants...but proportionately they are more detrimental because the windy areas that these turbines must be placed happens to be right in the path that many migratory birds fly.

There is no magic bullet, but business as usual isn't the answer either.

Nuclear power is the most viable electricity generating option we have. It has some risks, but the risks are manageable and its operational impact on the environment is minimal aside from their massive water requirements.

RE: Incomplete study not worth mentioning
By StevoLincolnite on 9/11/2012 11:40:32 AM , Rating: 2
Nuclear power is the most viable electricity generating option we have.

Not for all Applications and all areas.
You can't just drop a Nuclear reactor in the middle of a desert without any water for instance.

This is why the Driest continent on earth (Australia) doesn't use any Nuclear power, it can't afford the millions of litre's of water usage a day.

The next best thing is to use a mish-mash of power generation technologies where they are best suited, Geothermal where-ever possible, Wind+Solar for a little bit of a boost in under-served areas, Nuclear where you have ample water supplies etc' etc'.

RE: Incomplete study not worth mentioning
By Ringold on 9/11/2012 3:03:32 PM , Rating: 2
FWIW, most Middle East countries plan to invest heavily in civilian nuclear power as a hedge against their fossil energy reserves. I'm aware they have some powerful rivers throughout the region, but I wouldn't call them awash in water, either. Australia's problem I imagine is more political, like the Germans.

RE: Incomplete study not worth mentioning
By johnsmith9875 on 9/11/2012 5:34:41 PM , Rating: 2
Middle eastern nations have plenty of solar power options. I suspect their Nuclear ambitions have little to do with power generation and more to do with offsetting Israel's nuclear dominance in the region.

The Saudis didn't buy 50 Chinese CSS-2 East Wind MRBM's for nothing...

By Ringold on 9/11/2012 11:23:54 PM , Rating: 2
Depends; Turkey buying modern, almost proliferation-proof, commercial reactors probably don't intend it that way.

It's when they want to develop nuclear power from scratch, on their own rather just buying, say, AP1000s or CANDUs, that we need to raise an eyebrow.

By EricMartello on 9/11/2012 10:35:24 PM , Rating: 2
You can't just drop a Nuclear reactor in the middle of a desert without any water for instance.

Right; I did mention the massive water requirements of nuclear power plants as their one major drawback...however you could conceivably build inland nuclear power plants by creating a reservoir and/or an aqueduct from an ocean, lake or river.

I don't think the limitations facing nuclear power are technical so much as they are social or political issues - a lot of people still oppose nuclear power and protest anything to do with developing more nuclear power plants despite modern reactors being safer than ever.

By johnsmith9875 on 9/16/2012 9:37:40 PM , Rating: 2
Nuclear power only generates 20% of our total energy needs, but it gives us 100% of our scary evacuation scenarios.

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