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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 danjw1 on 2/27/2013 11:28:22 AM , Rating: 2
But, Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant incident, has pretty much stopped the development of new nuclear power plants. I this is unfortunate, that one bad actor is stopping an entire industry; But, those are the facts on the ground. I do hope that a thorium reactors are a big part of our future power sources as it promises to be cleaner, safer and thorium is an abundant resource.

RE: Yet another reason to switch to nuclear
By tng on 2/27/2013 2:59:28 PM , Rating: 1
Peer reviewed studies are just now starting to be published on the effects that Fukushima has had on the US.

Last I heard that in the US, areas that were got rain at the wrong time shortly after the incedent, show greatly increased deaths of infants and people with compromised immune systems. The figure was I think that 16000 people have died here in the US.

Need to find the link to that study.

By Strunf on 2/28/2013 7:45:23 AM , Rating: 2
It's the chaos theory... but then again we could have the same result depending on a guy sneezing or not in Japan.

Anyways I really doubt the effects of the incident would be seen shortly after, not when the radioactive material (like dust) would have to travel all the way to the US, if that was the case then everyone along the path would also be poisoned at a much higher rates.

By tng on 2/28/2013 12:48:10 PM , Rating: 2
Need to find the link to that study.
OK found the original stuff I was looking at for the "peer reviewed" study... Turns out it is complete crap. The CDC link that was provided went to something that really had no connection to what this guy was talking about.

Guess I should be more careful.

By johnsmith9875 on 3/4/2013 1:46:24 AM , Rating: 2
Fukushima Daiichi demonstrates that even a technologically sophisticated nation like Japan has a hard time making nuclear power safe.
When reactor #3 exploded, showering a 1km area with plutonium laden MOX fuel pieces, at that point its safe to say that nuclear power will never become safe. the line between safe and disaster is far too thin and even with additional safety design changes to the original USA designed reactor, it simply wasn't enough.
With 3rd world nations looking into getting reactors, imagine the accidents that could happen!

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