June 16, 2009

High-altitude wind study shows who's sitting pretty

Three of the world's largest cities -- New York, Tokyo and Seoul -- are sitting under veritable gold mines of energy.

Globally, there is enough wind energy at higher altitudes to power the world 100 times over thanks largely to the jet streams. An analysis of 37 years of data shows the best places and altitudes for harnessing the energy. The sweet spots are about 10,000 meters above four swaths of the globe: Japan, Korea and eastern China; the east coast of the US; southern Australia; and northeastern Africa.

The median wind power density at those spots is more than 10 kilowatts per square meter, which is 10 to 100 times greater than is available to surface-based wind turbines. Even at 500 meters, wind power density over the central United States is greater than half a kilowatt per square meter.

No one has figured out how to harness high-altitude winds, though a handful of startup companies are working on the problem.

Research paper:
Global Assessment of High Altitude Wind Power
Energies, published online May 26, 2009

Researchers' contact:
Cristina L. Archer

Related stories and briefs:
Satellite shows where the wind blows -- related research

Back to ERN June 29, 2009



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