atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,

#3574: Wind power will save us!

Arse Technica headlines that post thus: "Taking wind power to the (extreme) limit" and has, as the lede, "We could supply all our energy needs without altering the global climate."

Then a picture of some windmills, with this caption: "Four million of these distributed across the planet could meet half of our electricity needs."

Which is it, all, or half? Well:
Long story short: we could supply all our power needs for the foreseeable future from wind, all without affecting the climate in a significant way.
...except, of course, that taking power out of the wind will change weather patterns, which will change climate.

A couple guys did a study:
Their goal was to determine a maximum geophysical limit to wind power—in other words, if we extracted all the kinetic energy from wind all over the world, how much power could we generate?
It turns out that if you have magic windmills that violate the Laws of Thermodynamics you can extract 2,200 terawatts of power from wind. That's if you extract all the energy from the motion of the air, which is physically impossible.

Okay, so in practical terms you can only extract 60% of the kinetic energy from wind, so in fact there are 1,300 exploitable terawatts of wind energy. Our civilization uses about 18 terawatts of energy in various forms.

To get that kind of power from wind, you need to put turbines 100 meters up to get ground-level winds, and then you need to get more turbines into the jet stream.

Ten kilometers up.

That's a windmill on a stalk six miles high. How do we build a tower that high? Anyone got any ideas?

Way down at the end of the article we start talking about the actual environmental impact of this idiocy:
...[I]f we extract wind power at the geophysical limit—removing all of the available kinetic energy from the wind—there are significant impacts on the climate. With only ground turbines, the average global temperature would increase by a few degrees Celsius, while high-altitude turbines would lead to a global cooling of more than ten degrees.
Yeah, guess what? "A few degrees celcius" is what they say is happening right now, which meand WIND POWER CAUSES GLOBAL WARMING and is emphatically NOT "climate-neutral".

Go back and re-read the lede: "We could supply all our energy needs without altering the global climate." Emphasis added because it appears to me that this isn't the way to do it. This is therefore misleading at best--if you want to give them the benefit of the doubt--but to me this is just a plain old-fashioned lie.
At the much more reasonable power levels of simply meeting global demands, both studies reported minimal environmental impacts. Local temperatures could change around 0.1 degrees Celsius, while local precipitation could be affected by about 1 percent.
The "simply meeting global demands" bit means meeting the current figure of 18 TW of power usage.

None of this, however, jibes with what we've experienced with regards to wind power. 100 MW of installed wind turbines only generate 20 MW of electricity, and countries which have placed a serious emphasis on switching to wind power experience power shortages.

It's not efficient, it's not green, and it doesn't save the environment. Wind power is most assuredly not going to save us.

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