Global wind map pinpoints top sites for wind farms

American researchers have come up with map to help planners choose key sites for wind turbines after measuring wind speeds at over 8,000 locations around the world.

Christina Archer and Mark Jacobson of Stanford University believe their map shows that from wind power alone the world can generate more than enough energy to meet its needs.

The NASA-funded report was published this month in the Journal of Geophysical Research
And showed North America to have the greatest potential for wind power with consistent winds around the Great Lakes and coastal regions while the strongest winds were also found in Northern Europe, along the North Sea corridor, the southern tip of South America and Tasmania.

“The main implication of this study is that wind, for low-cost wind energy, is more widely available than was previously recognised,” said Ms Archer.

“The methodology in the paper can be utilised for several applications, such as determining elevated wind speeds in remote areas or to evaluate the benefits of distributed wind power.”

The paper estimates that around 72 terawatts of wind power could be harvested around the globe, dozens of times the world’s energy usage in 2000.

It does acknowledge, however, the practical obstacles standing between aspirations and reality, not least of which would be maintaining the huge number of turbines necessary for such a utopian project.

The mapping research will, however, assist in locating farms in regions known for strong and consistent winds and paves the way for further investigation.

Ms Archer said: “It is our hope that this study will foster more research in areas that were not covered by our data, or economic analyses of the barriers to the implementation of a wind-based global energy scenario.”

The research was backed by NASA and Stanford University’s Global Climate and Energy Project.

by Sam Bond

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