The researchers arrived at the determination by calculating the maximum theoretical potential of wind power worldwide, taking into account the effects that numerous wind turbines would have on surface temperatures, water vapor, atmospheric circulations and other climatic considerations.
“Wind power is very safe from the climate point of view,” said Cristina Archer, associate professor of geography and physical ocean science and engineering at UD.
Archer and Stanford’s Mark Jacobson identified the maximum wind power potential by finding the saturation point where adding more turbines would fail to increase energy output. As the number of wind turbines increases over large regions, the amount of power generated at first increases proportionately – but then reaches a point of diminishing returns and eventually flattens out.
This “saturation wind power potential” is reached when too many turbines leave too little wind left behind to extract, interfering with the climate and leveling off the total energy output.
“They reduce the amount of energy available for others,” Archer said. “And that’s the point that was very important for us to find.”
The scientists concluded that the saturation wind power potential is greater than 250 terawatts (1 terawatt = 1012 W) globally and 80 TW over land and coastal ocean areas at 100 meters in the air, the height of most modern wind turbines. This potential far exceeds the global energy demands, Archer said.
“The result of this study suggests that there is no fundamental barrier to obtaining many times the world power demand for all purposes in a clean-energy economy from wind,” Jacobson said.
The saturation wind power potential, however, is a theoretical calculation and the researchers propose a “fixed wind power potential” for more practical applications. The fixed wind power potential is the maximum power that can be extracted by a given number of wind turbines as they are spread apart over increasingly larger areas.
Archer and Jacobson found that installing 4 million turbines could yield up to 7.5 TW, more than enough to power half the world’s power demand in 2030. They also showed that spreading wind farms out worldwide in windy locations would increase efficiency, as well as minimize costs and reduce overall impacts on the environment when compared to packing the same 4 million turbines in a few spots.
The work counteracts previous claims that the wind resource is small with damaging climate impacts. Last year, German researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry reported there to be a very low potential for wind with harmful effects similar in magnitude to doubling atmospheric carbon dioxide.
Puzzled by their conclusions, Archer and Jacobson set out to determine the resource at a global scale using a physical model to thoroughly address the many factors at play. They used a 3D atmosphere-ocean-land coupled model (GATOR-GCMOM) that extracts energy where the turbines would actually be located 100 m off the ground, instead of at the surface like the German study. Their high-resolution model addresses numerous factors, such as chemistry and water vapor content.
“The model is very complex and sophisticated,” Archer said. “It’s very, very reliable.”
The findings confirm that wind power is a viable component of a clean-energy economy. While wind power does alter the atmosphere when extracted at massive scales – decreasing wind speed at hub height and to a lesser extent at the surface, reducing the amount of water vapor and cooling the planet – the impacts are negligible at more practical scales of extraction, such as 7.5 TW.
At any scale, wind extraction impacts are less than damage from heat-generating combustion and nuclear reaction from fossil and fissile fuels. Wind turbines generate no significant heat, pollutants, soot or ozone.
“Everything comes at a price, but the price of wind power comes at a low cost in terms of climate impacts,” Archer said.
The research was funded by the National Science Foundation, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and NASA high-end computing.
Andrea Boyle Tippett | Newswise Science News
Further reports about: > German language > Max Planck Institute > Maximum > atmospheric carbon dioxide > atmospheric circulation > clean-energy economy > climate impact > climatic considerations > energy output > global energy demands > physical ocean science > water vapor > wind power > wind power potential > wind turbine > windy locations
Researchers use light to remotely control curvature of plastics
23.03.2017 | North Carolina State University
TU Graz researchers show that enzyme function inhibits battery ageing
21.03.2017 | Technische Universität Graz
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
23.03.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
23.03.2017 | Earth Sciences
23.03.2017 | Life Sciences