A new study says the potential of wind energy around the world is much higher than what either wind industry groups or government agencies have been estimating.
This story in the New York Times says a Harvard University study shows that the U.S. could end up being the big leader in wind power:
Using data from thousands of meteorological stations, the Harvard team estimated the world wind power potential to be 40 times greater than total current power consumption. A previous study cited in the paper put that multiple at about 7 times.
In the lower 48 states, the potential from wind power is 16 times more than total electricity demand in the United States, the researchers suggested – significantly greater than a 2008 Department of Energy study that projected wind could supply a fifth of all electricity in the country by 2030.
While remote regions of Russia and Canada have the greatest theoretical potential, the Harvard study pointed out that there are real gains to be made in high-emission nations, especially China, which has been rapidly constructing coal plants. “Large-scale development of wind power in China could allow for an 18-fold increase in electricity supply relative to consumption reported for 2005,” the Harvard study said.
The findings are “further validation of what we’ve been saying – that the United States is the Saudi Arabia of wind,” said Michael Goggin, an electricity industry analyst for the American Wind Energy Association.
The authors based their calculations on the deployment of 2.5- to 3-megawatt wind turbines situated either in accessible rural areas that are neither frozen nor forested, or relatively shallow offshore locations. They also used a conservative 20 percent estimate for capacity factor, a measure of how much energy a given turbine actually produces.
Study authors point out that other wind energy forecasts were based on 50- to 80-meter turbines. They say that turbines could be as large as 100 meters and based their estimates on the larger possible generators.