The earth contains enough wind energy to meet all of humanity’s power needs if future technologies are able to tap into high-altitude winds, a new study says. Using models to quantify wind energy potential, researchers at
the Carnegie Institution for Science and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory calculated that more than 400 terrawatts of power could be extracted from the planet’s surface winds — which could be accessed with land- and ocean-based turbines — and more than 1,800 terrawatts could be generated by high-altitude winds using technologies that combine turbines and kites. Currently human civilization uses about 18 terrawatts of power. The researchers’ calculations, described in the journal Nature Climate Change, are based on geophysical limits, and do not take into account technical or economic limitations. The study said the effects of extracting enough wind power to meet current global demand would be minimal as long as turbines are scattered worldwide.