In my last blog, I commented on the gap that the decline in key traditional oil supplies will leave in global energy supply over the next 20 years – potentially the equivalent of 60+ million barrels of oil per day.

Today I came across a recently published article in the journal Energy Policy entitled Global Wind Power Potential: Physical and Technological Limits which answers the question of how much of that gap could potentially be plugged by wind power.

The answer seems to be less than had been previously predicted – Carlos de Castro et al.’s calculations “give roughly 1 TW for the top limit of the future electrical potential of wind energy.”  The sheer numbers of turbines required to go beyond 1 TW, de Castro et al. suggest, could lead to a “wind park effect and wake effect on a global scale, making new and old installed parks less efficient.”

While 1 TW is considerably more than the 0.045 TW of capacity today, it is considerably less than earlier papers which had suggested that 6-7 TW might be possible.

By comparison, current levels of all energies consumed are around 17TW and so realistically unless the total global demand for energy reduces significantly, wind power will only ever be able to supply a very modest proportion.

Article Ref: de Castro, C., et al., Global wind power potential: Physical and technological limits. Energy Policy (2011), doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2011.06.027