It’s always dangerous to evaluate how many news reporters wrote about any given scientific study, particularly if you’re relying on Google News, but I can’t find anything about a recent study that seems pretty significant:
Xi Lu of Harvard and colleagues report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that the overall potential for production of wind energy could supply our current electricity more than 40 times over.
Now, clearly, there are some caveats in order. Lu’s calculations represent the output of a network of 2.5-megawatt wind turbines smothering everything on Earth that’s not water, forest, covered in ice or inhabited by humans. Given wind turbines’ environmental downsides and eyesore issues, that’s obviously not something we’d want to do.
Still, the study gives pause when you consider just how big wind could be. The 40-times-over estimate contemplates replacing electricity alone. If one were to look at how Lu’s envisaged network could do when those units are translated into replacing all our energy use, the numbers say it could produce more than five times our *total* energy use. That’s massive.
So, what if we put wind turbines on only1/50th of the aforesaid non-water, non-ice, non-human-covered parts of terra firma?
And what about U.S. needs alone? The authors say:
Resources in the contiguous United States, specifically in the central plain states, could accommodate as much as 16 times total current demand for electricity in the United States.
The authors go on to say that if were were to deploy an array of 3.6-megawatt wind-power stations across the oceans, the numbers get even bigger.
Bottom line: Best not to blow off wind power despite its drawbacks.