Global wind power potential: Physical and technological limits
Cite: De Castro C. et al. 2011. Global wind power potential: physical and technological limits. Energy Policy. Doi:10.1016/j-enpol.2011.06.027
Received 5 November 2010; accepted 13 June 2011. Available online 29 June 2011.
This paper is focused on a new methodology for the global assessment of wind power potential. Most of the previous works on the global assessment of the technological potential of wind power have used bottom-up methodologies (e.g. Archer and Jacobson, 2005, Capps and Zender, 2010, Lu et. al., 2009). Economic, ecological and other assessments have been developed, based on these technological capacities. However, this paper tries to show that the reported regional and global technological potential are flawed because they do not conserve the energetic balance on Earth, violating the first principle of energy conservation (Gans et al., 2010). We propose a top-down approach, such as that in Miller et al., 2010, to evaluate the physical-geographical potential and, for the first time, to evaluate the global technological wind power potential, while acknowledging energy conservation. The results give roughly 1TW for the top limit of the future electrical potential of wind energy. This value is much lower than previous estimates and even lower than economic and realizable potentials published for the mid-century (e.g. DeVries et al., 2007, EEA, 2009, Zerta et al., 2008).
The global assessment of the technological potential of wind power to produce electricity, based on the top-down approach, shows quite different results to those of previous works. The technical assessment potential that has been obtained is one or two orders of magnitude lower than those estimated by other authors. This means that technological wind power potential imposes an important limit on the effective electric wind power that could be developed, against the common thinking of no technological constraints by economic, ecological or other assessments.
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