The World's #1 Renewable Energy Network for News, Information, and Companies.
Untitled Document

Powering Half the World with Wind by 2030

Last year, nearly 200,000 wind turbines met 2.5 percent of global energy needs. These numbers are impressive, but wind energy has the potential to pack an even bigger punch — according to a new study, wind could power half the world with clean energy by 2030.

Wind power is now the fastest-growing (and one of the cheapest) renewable energy sources — a status that had brought more rigorous investigation of its potential. The industry is growing so rapidly that 40.5 gigawatts (GW) of new wind power was brought on line in 2011, bringing the global total capacity up to 238 GW and helping to offset over 600 million tons of CO2 annually.

Given this growth, the authors, who published their study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, were curious about how much energy can wind produce?

A Wealth of Wind Energy

“More than we’ll ever need,” said Cristina Archer, co-author of the study and professor of geography and physical ocean science and engineering at the University of Delaware.

The study she worked on with Mark Z. Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University, calculated the saturation potential of wind turbines, defined as the point at which adding new turbines becomes counterproductive because, by extracting power, each additional turbine decreases the overall average of every turbine.

For wind, the study found, that point is very high, around 250 terawatts (TW) of power, which is tens of times greater than the entire world’s average power use.

After getting the saturation point, the researchers focused their attention on a more realistic scenario: how many wind turbines would be enough to meet half of our energy needs, which the authors estimated at about 5.75 TW, in a clean economy by 2030?

Four Million Turbines

According to their results, 4 million five-megawatt (MW) turbines operating at a height of 100 meters could provide over 7.5 TW of power, at no risk to the environment. “With four million turbines, the climatic effects are negligible,” Archer said, “which means that wind power is very safe.”

“As climate scientists,” Archer continued, “we are concerned about the environmental impacts of anything. We want to know what the consequences are, and we are very confident that of all the sources of energy, wind is one of the sources of energy with the least environmental impact.”

The study concluded “there is no fundamental barrier to obtaining half or several times the world’s all-purpose power from wind in a 2030 clean-energy economy.”

The calculations were done without regard to societal or economic considerations, and with parameters representing a mixture of onshore and offshore wind turbines — the latter of which Archer sees becoming more important to the future of wind.

Offshore wind “has all these hidden benefits that we need to tap into, which will make it more common in the future,” she says.

Although it’s more expensive now, using more offshore wind will lower costs in the future, because “it’s right there on the coasts, where the people are. It also tends to correlate better with the demand: offshore wind tends to peak in the afternoon, which is when people peak with demand for electricity.” Offshore sites also tend to be windier than onshore sites, “and this extra wind is extra dollars that can come in.”

Top image courtesy of GE Energy Financial Services.

Untitled Document

Get All the Renewable Energy World News Delivered to Your Inbox - FREE!

Subscribe to Renewable Energy World Magazine and our award-winning e-Newsletter to stay up to date on current news and industry trends.

 Subscribe Now



Climate Deal Gains With Brazil Pollution Plan and European Cash

Vanessa Dezem, Anna Edgerton and Alex Nussbaum, Bloomberg Brazil said it will seek to cut its global warming pollution by 37 percent while France and the U.K. pledged billions...

African Development Bank Seeks $55 Billion for Energy

Anna Hirtenstein, Bloomberg African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina, who took over this month, said he’s aiming to eliminate Africa’s...
wind energy

Interior Plans November Auction for Offshore New Jersey Wind Energy Rights

Wayne Barber U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Director Abigail Ross Hopper...

A Case Study in Energy-Transition Momentum

Tim King South Australia is clearly at the forefront of the global energy transition as it establishes a fast-moving model oth...


Fronius Shifting the Limits in Solar-Plus: It’s not just about products, it’s about solutions.

Fronius USA, who just recently launched the all-new Fronius SnapINverter line this past...

IREC Announces Changes in Regulatory Team

The Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC), a not-for-profit organization which for...

IREC Awarded New Funding to Advance Digital Credentials

The Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) proudly announces funding for an innovat...

$100 Discount on 5-day Advanced PV Project Experience Workhop

Upcoming 5-day Workshops: Nov. 7 - 11 Feb. 6 - 10


NY Gov. Cuomo Pledges to Create Carbon Market use Solar, Wind to reduce Climate Change

This week former Vice President Al Gore joined with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to sign the Under 2 MOU, a directi...
clean energy

In Clean Energy, The Truth Matters

A group of about 20 protesters gathered outside the Sheraton in Burlington, Vt., early on Oct. 8 as attendees arrived...

Industry Focus: Cleantech: 1366 Technologies joins Solarcity in New York

1366 is set to build a factory just up the road (OK, it is a long road – NYS Thruway) from Solarcity.  The...



Volume 18, Issue 4


To register for our free
e-Newsletters, subscribe today:


Tweet the Editors! @jennrunyon



Doing Business in Europe – in partnership with GWEC, the Global Win...

There is now 128.8 GW of installed wind energy capacity in the EU (appro...

JuiceBox Energy Certified Installer Class

JuiceBox Energy is rapidly building out its national certified installer...

Wind Operator Congress Europe

The UK’s only business-focused O&M event for the European wind...


Clean Energy Patents Maintain High Levels in First Quarter, Solar L...

U.S. patents for Clean Energy technologies from the first quarter of 201...

Fact Check: AWEA represents American wind power

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) is proud of its members for ...

Koch Professor drops his Koch title, still makes same errors plus s...

The Koch Professor’s title isn’t the only thing that’s...


Renewable Energy: Subscribe Now

Solar Energy: Subscribe Now

Wind Energy: Subscribe Now

Geothermal Energy: Subscribe Now

Bioenergy: Subscribe Now