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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 Paj on 2/27/2013 12:59:27 PM , Rating: 2
Governments are not businesses. You could put a businessman in charge of an economic portfolio, sure, but you dont want one running a country. Those who study economics, politics or law make better choices.

Not every single government activity has to make a direct profit in order to be valuable for society.

RE: Yet another reason to switch to nuclear
By GotThumbs on 2/27/2013 2:20:40 PM , Rating: 2
Not every single government activity has to make a direct profit

Agreed, but when the government INVESTS in companies (AIG, chrysler, solyndra, ....wouldn't it be nice if they at least tried to break even, come out ahead or at least not looking like twits?

I'm not speaking about government profiting...but being more efficient in it's operations and thus saving US money by taxing those of US who do pay taxes by taxing US less.

Best Wishes,

By tng on 2/27/2013 2:53:39 PM , Rating: 5
I think that while making sure that GM, Chrysler, Solyndra and others are good investments/loans and we get our money back, that really is not what government is for.

I also think that in the effort to become more "business like" our government has let corporate interests have to much of a say in decision making.

The US is in danger not from some cabal, the Trilateral commission or CFR looking to make it a one world government, but from places like GE, JP Morgan Chase, and the like that are looking out for corporate interests.

You did notice that GE paid no taxes on ~14 billion Dollars income? That is purely because the tax codes were written so they could take advantage, that crap has to stop.

By Paj on 2/28/2013 8:16:37 AM , Rating: 2
Indeed, but you cant predict external market events. A big part of the failure of Solyndra was due to 2 things - natural gas becoming much cheaper, and the massive investment the Chinese govt made in their domestic solar industry, which brought prices crashing down.

Businessmen make shoddy deals all the time. Trading of dodgy securities was one of the contributing causes to the GFC, purely in the pursuit of profitability. When governments spend money in the market, they are held to far higher standards than some hotshot Wall St banker chasing a bonus.

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