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But there are limits that could hold wind back from growing

A new study from Harvard University's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences says that the generating capacity of large-scale wind farms isn't quite as high as scientists previously thought.

The study was led by Harvard applied physicist David Keith, who showed that we may not have access to as much wind power as once thought. Keith is an internationally renowned expert on climate science.

According to Keith's study, individual wind turbines each create a "wind shadow," which is where air is slowed by the drag on the turbine's blades. Wind farms with as many turbines packed into an area as possible but with just the right amount of spacing in between them are optimal for decreasing this drag.

However, the larger these wind farms are, the more they communicate and regional-scale wind patterns are even more important. Keith said previous generating capacity of large-scale wind farms ignored the drags and these wind patterns.

Keith's study said that the generating capacity of large-scale wind farms that are larger than 100 square kilometers could peak anywhere from 0.5 and 1 watts per square meter. Prior estimates put these figures at 2 to 7 watts per square meter.

“If wind power’s going to make a contribution to global energy requirements that’s serious, 10 or 20 percent or more, then it really has to contribute on the scale of terawatts in the next half-century or less,” said Keith.

But there are limits that could hold wind back from growing. Keith said that if wind were to exceed 100 terawatts, it would have a huge impact on global winds and eventually climate -- which could negatively affect climate more than doubling CO2.

“Our findings don't mean that we shouldn’t pursue wind power—wind is much better for the environment than conventional coal—but these geophysical limits may be meaningful if we really want to scale wind power up to supply a third, let’s say, of our primary energy,” said Keith. 

“It’s clear the theoretical upper limit to wind power is huge, if you don't care about the impacts of covering the whole world with wind turbines. What’s not clear—and this is a topic for future research—is what the practical limit to wind power would be if you consider all of the real-world constraints. You'd have to assume that wind turbines need to be located relatively close to where people actually live and where there's a fairly constant wind supply, and that they have to deal with environmental constraints. You can’t just put them everywhere.”

Keith concluded that we'll need to find sources for tens of terawatts of carbon-free power "within a human lifetime" in order to stabilize the Earth's climate.

“It’s worth asking about the scalability of each potential energy source—whether it can supply, say, 3 terawatts, which would be 10 percent of our global energy need, or whether it’s more like 0.3 terawatts and 1 percent," said Keith.

Source: Harvard University

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RE: Yet another reason to switch to nuclear
By casteve on 2/27/2013 11:04:19 AM , Rating: 5
Now, let us put it into context:

440 thousand bird deaths by wind turbines
1 billion deaths due to window collisions

3.7 billion killed by cats.

RE: Yet another reason to switch to nuclear
By Flunk on 2/27/2013 11:19:03 AM , Rating: 2
So, you're saying we can't have cats?

By freeagle on 2/27/2013 11:36:54 AM , Rating: 5
No, he's saying we should put cats on wind turbines

RE: Yet another reason to switch to nuclear
By Mint on 2/27/2013 11:19:14 AM , Rating: 3
I don't support wind power, but what you posted is a brilliant refute of a meaningless point with actual data.

Failure to put numbers in context is the #1 folly of the media, and thus the public is grossly misinformed. It's used to make neocons angry about EVs, make liberals angry about AGW inaction, make everyone think earmarks are a big part of their taxes, etc.

By maugrimtr on 3/1/2013 7:29:10 AM , Rating: 2
It doesn't let wind generation off the hook though. It's an industry in its infancy. What happens when it doubles and triples from its current size? How many endangered eagles are killed by window collisions anyway?

Yes, Fox used the numbers out of context and in their eagerness to paint wind as a problem neglected to know...real journalism, but their point is valid despite being poorly presented. Turbines do kill protected bird species and wind power companies are not held accountable for it.

I like the concept of renewable energy but we shouldn't kid ourselves. It has unwelcome side effects and there should be a motivation to reduce those.

RE: Yet another reason to switch to nuclear
By Theguynextdoor on 2/27/2013 11:49:39 AM , Rating: 4

Let's put it into context...

How many billion of windows are there in the world?

How many billion cats are their in the world?

Are cats no longer a part of the ecosystem?

Now how many bil - erh...million wind turbines are in the world? Now muliply that by the number that it would take to get to at least a billion, which is the ultimate goal of to meeting power demands. Now muliply that by the number of deaths of births. Oh but don't forget that it's no linear, because the higher number of turbines mean greater density, which leads to higher rate of deaths.

Your 'context' is on par with saying, well Stalin killed 30million of his own people, why's everyone making a big deal that Hitler killed ONLY 6 million people that he didn't even like!

The point is, you can refute the findings as insignificant, but it is. Wind turnbines aren't going away any time soon and there are plans for much much more. But that doesn't mean we should stop thinking of ways to make them safer.

RE: Yet another reason to switch to nuclear
By Mint on 2/27/2013 11:58:45 AM , Rating: 1
Your 'context' is on par with saying, well Stalin killed 30million of his own people, why's everyone making a big deal that Hitler killed ONLY 6 million people that he didn't even like!
You are obviously sorely lacking in ability to process context as well.

A 1/5 is a slightly different fraction than 1/10,000, genius.

By Theguynextdoor on 2/27/2013 12:02:09 PM , Rating: 1
Yeah, way to go, high-five on completly missing the point!

RE: Yet another reason to switch to nuclear
By Theguynextdoor on 2/27/2013 12:12:33 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, way to go, high-five on completly missing the point!

I mean, the OP only compared data from something that exists in the BILLIONS to something that barely over a million exists (Now put that in fractions math genius) and then compares it to another statistic that is a part of the ecology before wind turbines and people existed and you'll see my 'context' is just as ridiculous as his. I mean half a million birth deaths caused by humans is a not a big deal, and 30 million human deaths wasn't a big deal to Stalin, why should 6 million be a big deal for anyone else?

By Theguynextdoor on 2/27/2013 12:14:20 PM , Rating: 2
Damn it, I keep misspelling birds. LoL.

RE: Yet another reason to switch to nuclear
By Mint on 2/27/2013 3:28:48 PM , Rating: 1
First of all, asshole, a human life is worth a more than a bird's. It's a joke that you're even making this comparison.

Secondly, 6 million deaths is a lot in context . It's 60%+ of jews, and even ~2% of the European population. Both figures are orders of magnitude larger than 1/10,000th of natural deaths, which would be about 400/yr. The latter would NOT have started a world war.

Your analogy is therefore complete garbage.

By Theguynextdoor on 2/27/2013 4:09:22 PM , Rating: 3

I don't know if you're just dense or you just like making asinine comments.

I know 6 million deaths is a lot. And I know it is out of context, that is my point . Since you want to play this little statistics game, let's break it down.

He's belittling the fact that 440k bird deaths from wind turbines. That's almost 1 bird death for EVERY 2 WIND TURBINES, that's also data collected ONLY from the wind farms not even small industrial buildings. There are over ~200 billion windows in existance around the world. Now do the math. How is the data that out of context and not important. Another important fact that is also overlooked is that the birds being killed are not small birds that are normally killed by windows and cats, but medium to large sized birds whom do not produce en masse.

Now *think* about what would happen if we produced 1 billion wind turbines. I don't think I can explain it any more simply then this. That 1/10000 isn't quite the same now is it? This is a problem. To say that this is insignificant is to the same as saying 6 million deaths is nothing to 30 million deaths, I mean clearly the 30 million deaths should be looked at first! That is the point that the OP is trying to refute and I am pointing out his folly.

Second, I am really am laughing that you are taking this so personally and think I really am a souless human because I made this comparison. Go ahead and assume I am an asshole to compare human life to a bird's (I'm not, but you already clearly missed that point).

Look, I don't know who you are and what you done for your fellow human, therefore I cannot judge you on that. But I can say that I am not the best human being, but I know and my friends know what I am and what type of person I am. I'm just not understanding why you're so butthurt about my response to the OP's post, or maybe is it because you took it personally that you and him both tried to claim that your "data" makes his meaningless, when in truth it only makes it more serious.

So cheers mate, go ahead and downrate my posts and bury it to oblivion. But remember, that just like the point you both were making, you need to dig deeper.

By Reclaimer77 on 2/27/2013 3:35:03 PM , Rating: 2
That's not "context", that's a freaking retarded comparison.

Last time I checked "cats" weren't man-made. In fact the only thing keeping the common house cat from taking over the world, is man.

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