Wired: If wind turbines were installed at 13% of 8,000 sites monitored by Stanford researchers, we could be sucking 72 terawatts of electricity out of the atmosphere — five times the world’s energy needs, which was roughly 14 terawatts in 2002. Lots of caveats and codas to that of course, but the potential is pretty inspiring.
Music: Shelly Manne :: Tommyhawk
4 Replies to “72 Terawatts of Raw Wind Power”
IMHO, wind and solar have spot uses but are not a complete energy solution. No matter what energy source you decide you like, there are major drawbacks. Of course fossil fuels add heat and (worse) greenhouse gasses and other pollutants into the environment. Nuclear fuels have a small, but very dangerous waste byproduct and they also do put heat into the environment as most energy sources will. Wind and solar suffer from the reverse problem. They can not be a comprehensive solution because large arrays of solar panels or large wind farms significantly alter weather patterns by absorbing heat and energy from the Earth’s climate. In the case of solar, a large panel array in Death Valley would take out so much heat that the valley would cloud over. Wind and solar probably make up a *part* of the complete energy solution and are best as smaller and more scattered (spot) solutions. Hydro is not worth pursuing at all as there is no form of energy that greater ruins the environment (short-term). It’s not clear fusion will ever be containable and sustainable – at least not in the next 20 – 50 years. Our best bet is frankly nuclear. While there is only (at present) a 30 year or so horizon on fissionable materials, there is an almost inexhaustible supply of uranium in the Earth’s ocean which is also renewable effectively giving us a billion year supply. This would require technology to be developed to extract the uranium and it would also require plants all over the globe to properly process enough ocean water to do it. There would be plenty of problems concerning security of such plants, control of the plants, and transportation of the materials, oh and the nagging problem of waste disposal. This is not a quick fix either obviously. We have a couple hundred years of coal but we need to make it burn a lot cleaner although there are a lot of promising technologies to do just that if our politicians can be made to force them onto the industry. You know, I like a lot of things about the Green party but I could never join them because of their stance on nuclear. They and like-minded individuals have killed the development of nuclear power in this country (meaning the USA) over the past 20 years. We will be facing a very real energy crisis very very soon. I suspect energy will be THE issue of the next 20 years if it isn’t already (arguably, the Iraq war and the war on terrorism have to do with protecting energy interests). Incidentally, isn’t it amazing that a single gallon of fossil fuel (gasoline) can propel a 2000 lb. vehicle at 60 mph for around 30 miles? Even more impressive is how much energy you get out of nuclear fuels which produce several orders of magnitude more energy pound for pound. We need to start today funding the development of and planning for the implementation of the replacement for fossil fuels or our children will be facing tough times if not ourselves.
Except when it’s calm.
While hydro has its problems, there are the more recent experiments involving generation from ocean waves. Wavegen set up that much ballyhooed generator on the coast of Scotland, but there are also offshore designs that I’ve read about, like this one.
Hey Sean –
Actually, there’s a pretty major sea-change occurring within the Green party, towards acknowledgement that nuclear may be the only feasible way to stop burning fossil fuels soon. I think you’d be impressed if you read up on some of the more recent “heresies” pronounced by major figures in the Green Party. I’ve posted on that topic twice in the past few months:
here and here