[Paleopsych] Stanford: New global wind map may lead to cheaper power supply

Steve Hovland shovland at mindspring.com
Fri Jun 10 14:00:38 UTC 2005

Stanford researchers have produced a new map that pinpoints where the 
world's winds are fast enough to produce power. The map may help planners 
place turbines in locations that maximize power harnessed from winds and 
provide widely available low-cost energy. After analyzing more than 8,000 
wind-speed measurements to identify the world's wind-power potential for 
the first time, Cristina Archer, a former postdoctoral fellow, and Mark Z. 
Jacobson, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, 
suggest that wind captured at specific locations, if even partially 
harnessed, can generate more than enough power to satisfy the world's 
energy demands. Their report appears in the May Journal of Geophysical 
Research-Atmospheres, a publication of the American Geophysical Union.
"The main implication of this study is that wind, for low-cost wind energy, 
is more widely available than was previously recognized," said Archer, now 
a researcher at the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.
The researchers collected wind-speed measurements from approximately 7,500 
surface stations and 500 balloon-launch stations to determine global wind 
speeds at 80 meters (300 feet) above the ground surface, which is the hub 
height of modern wind turbines. Using a new interpolation technique to 
estimate the wind speed at hub height, the authors reported that nearly 13 
percent of the stations had average annual wind speeds strong enough for 
power generation.
Wind speeds of 6.9 meters per second (15 miles per hour) at hub height, 
referred to as wind power Class 3, were found in every region of the world. 
Some of the strongest winds were observed in Northern Europe, along the 
North Sea, while the southern tip of South America and the Australian 
island of Tasmania also featured sustained strong winds. North America had 
the greatest wind-power potential, however, with the most consistent winds 
found in the Great Lakes region and from ocean breezes along coasts. Ove  
rall, the researchers calculated hub-height winds traveled over the ocean 
at approximately 8.6 meters per second and at nearly 4.5 meters per second 
over land (20 and 10 miles per hour, respectively).
The authors found that the locations with sustainable Class 3 winds could 
produce approximately 72 terawatts. A terawatt is 1 trillion watts, the 
power generated by more than 500 nuclear reactors or thousands of 
coal-burning plants. Capturing even a fraction of those 72 terawatts could 
provide the 1.6 to 1.8 terawatts that made up the world's electricity usage 
in 2000. Converting as little as 20 percent of potential wind energy to 
electricity could satisfy the entirety of the world's energy demands.
The study, supported by NASA and Stanford's Global Climate and Energy 
Project, may assist in locating wind farms in regions known for strong and 
consistent breezes. In addition, the researchers suggest that the inland 
locations of many existing wind farms may explain their inefficiency.
"It is our hope that this study will foster more research in areas that 
were not covered by our data, or economic analyses of the barriers to the 
implementation of a wind-based global energy scenario," Archer said.

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