WIND FARMS COULD MEET
Wind power could generate more than enough sustainableelectricity to meet global energy needs, according to new research.
Scientists at Stanford University have produced a world map that plotswind power potential for the first time.
They say that harnessing even 20 percent of that energy would produceeight times more electricity than the world consumed in 2000.
"The main implication of this study is that wind, for low-cost windenergy, is more widely available than was previously recognized," saidCristina Archer, formerly of Stanford's Department of Civil andEnvironmental Engineering.
Archer and colleague Mark Jacobsen collected wind-speed measurementsfrom 7,500 surface stations and 500 balloon-launch stations todetermine wind speeds at 80 meters (300 feet) -- the height of modernturbines.
They found average wind speeds capable of generating power -- upwardsof 6.9 meters per second, or 15 miles an hour -- in 13 percent of thestations and in all regions of the globe.
North America had the greatest potential for wind energy withconsistent winds found in the Great Lakes region and along both thenorth-eastern and north-western coasts.
Some of the strongest winds were found in northern Europe in the NorthSea, off the southern tip of South America and around the Australianisland of Tasmania.
Wind is already the fastest growing source of energy in the world,with average annual growth of 34 percent over the past five years. Butit currently produces just 0.54 percent of electricity used.
Installed annual capacity at the end of 2003 stood at 39,000megawatts, or 39 million watts.
Germany produced almost 40 percent of that total, with wind powercontributing 20 percent of its overall electricity supplies.
But Archer and Jacobsen, whose research is published in the Journal ofGeophysical Research-Atmospheres, estimate that locations withsustainable winds could produce approximately 72 terawatts -- or 72trillion watts -- a year.
It would take more than 500 nuclear power stations to generate aterawatt and in 2000 the world consumed just 1.8 terrawatts in total.
Critics of wind power say that densely packed wind farms would beneeded to capture an acceptable level of energy, spoiling their localenvironment and posing a threat to bird life. They also say that windsare unreliable and that back-up sources of energy would still benecessary.
But the pair said they hoped the study would help planners to identifygood locations for wind farms, particularly in developing countries.Currently many farms are located inland, where winds are intermittent.
Tom Gray of the American Wind Energy Association told Nature that themap was of interest to the wind power industry.
"From the early days, there has been an issue with where the resourceis," he said.
Written by: Cable News Network
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