Sunday, May 22, 2005

Wind Power Map of the World

Via Alt-e and WorldChanging:
For the first time in a NASA-funded study, researchers from Stanford have produced a map that identifies locations around the world where the wind is strong enough to generate electricity. The best place apparently is the North Sea region in Northern Europe for the strong winds. The southern tip of South America and the Australian island of Tasmania also recorded significant and sustained strong winds at turbine blade height. I wonder where India figures, but with a total estimated capacity of just 40 GW (Indian Govt figures) it cannot be very close to the top.

While world-wide electricity usage was less than 1.8 terawatts, the potential for generating electricity from winds was estimated to be 72 terawatts. One terrawatt is equal to a trillion watts and it would take hundreds of nuclear reactors to produce that much power. The Dabhol thermal power plant at full capacity would produce about 2 gigawatts, so you would need 500 such projects.

There are problems with wind energy too, but a lot of those problems are to do with placement of turbines. The study suggests that offshore installations are likely to be more efficient than more inland ones. The biggest wind turbines in the world generate about 5MW of power, and you would need less than 200,000 of these to serve electricity to the whole world in 2004.