Blowin' in the Wind

Every time someone talks about the world's need to move on from coal and oil as its main energy sources, the next sentence seems to be that "there is no magic bullet." No one source, they say, can take the place of the fossil fuels on which the modern world depends.

Or maybe there is one after all. Michael McElroy, a professor of environmental studies at Harvard, did an analysis of wind power with two colleagues, and here's what they report:

"...a network of land-based 2.5-megawatt (MW) turbines restricted to nonforested, ice-free, nonurban areas operating at as little as 20% of their rated capacity could supply >40 times current worldwide consumption of electricity, >5 times total global use of energy in all forms."

Forty times the electricity we currently use? That's a lot, and it's not asking that existing wind turbines become much more efficient (or that the wind blow any more consistently than it already does).

Their paper, in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is HERE, and it's worth a look. They do not claim wind is perfect -- people often dislike having turbines nearby, electric vehicles go limited distances, etc. -- but it's a brighter picture than other analyses have painted.

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