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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: Hydrogen is cheaper
By Ringold on 9/11/2012 11:10:33 PM , Rating: 3
Nuclear plants are not cheap, no one would suggest otherwise! Then again, Exxon and others spend tens of billions on individual oil projects, so accumulating that sort of capital for individual projects is by no means beyond the ability of markets.

However, nuclear waste management SHOULD be trivial. Jesus, drill an extremely deep hole in decently hard rock, several miles down, with technology that already exists, stuff it down, pour some concrete in behind it, backfill in some rock, and there you go. Radioactive waste, stored until hell freezes over, miles below the water table. By the time tectonics or erosion gets to it, it'd be inert. If future humans get to it by mistake, then they're idiots that went to a lot of trouble just to re-discover what radiation sickness is.

Or, put it on a ship. Sail ship over underwater trenches. Push it overboard. A few unfortunate fish on the way down, and then it'd be securely at rest somewhere no humans are ever likely to go. The only thing stopping reasonable solutions from being done is FUD from the greens/leftists.

Fuel, if you're familiar with the issue, is also a non-issue. It's not mined because Russia, as I understand it, dumped huge amounts on the market some years back. Once prices bounce high enough, mining will resume; there's tons of shuttered uranium mines in the US alone. Could also switch to abundant thorium, or reprocess fuel to a large degree. No matter what, fuel input costs are a tiny part of nuclear plants operation costs.

Feel free to try again, though!

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