According to a study authored by a joint team of researchers from the University of Delaware and Stanford University's School of Engineering, if world governments committed to a comprehensive renewable energy program – with a special focus on wind power – global electricity needs could be entirely green before the year 2030.
The report, published in the industry journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, centered on the calculation that by that year, total energy consumption will reach eleven-and-a-half terawatts per year. While this number seems staggering at first, the group of scientists estimate that there are enough viable wind power sites around the world that, if developed, would more than meet these requirements. In fact, with coordinated effort output could exceed demand several times over.
The authors, led by Stanford University's Mark Jacobson, conceded that current electricity generation methods may, at max capacity, produce roughly half of the world's needs. However, they argued that the way that wind power is currently approached – by building ever-bigger turbines – is surprisingly short-sighted.
Instead, they propose that researchers and scientists examine ways to capture wind from higher elevations. A recent experiment conducted by Altaeros Energies of Massachusetts utilized a prototype inflatable turbine that coasted to an altitude of 350 feet before the machine was activated. It successfully generated more power than it utilized, and further tests will put larger turbines up to 1,000 feet. Up there, the company said, winds are both stronger and steadier.
As the saying goes, necessity breeds invention. With the world on the cusp of greater demand for power, energy companies may start to see the benefit of moving toward this kind of large-scale renewable energy project.