One study, conducted by Carnegie Institution for Science and published in “Nature Climate Change,” focused on the total planetary availability of wind power. The first line in the study says it all: “There is enough power in Earth’s winds to be a primary source of near-zero-emission electric power as the global economy continues to grow through the twenty-first century.”
Both studies looked solely at the global geophysical limits of wind power: is there physically enough wind on planet Earth to make wind power a dominant form of energy creation? The answer is a resounding yes.
“The available wind resources are much larger than that needed to supply the world’s power,” authors Mark Jacobson of Stanford University and Cristina Archer of the University of Delaware write in the study, which appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “This renewable resource could easily satisfy the global human energy demand.”
The scientists used a computer weather model to show that there is enough wind to exceed the total demand by several times, even after accounting for reductions in wind speeds caused by the turbines.
The studies are by two different U.S. science teams and were published in separate journals Sunday and Monday. They calculate existing wind turbine technology could produce hundreds of trillions of watts of power. That’s more than 10 times what the world now consumes.
But the research looks only at physics, not finances. Others note it would be too costly [without government subsidies like the oil industry receives] to put up all those wind turbines and transmit energy to all consumers. As the Carnegie Institution of Science notes, “It is likely that wind power growth will be limited by economic or environmental factors, not global geophysical limits.”