Permitting Process Knocks Wind out of Wind Energy
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In theory, there’s a huge amount of wind power available on the earth’s surface and even more so in the upper atmosphere. How much? Twenty-two hundred terawatts according to a new study. That's more than 100 times the power used by all humans right now.
But huge amounts of energy would only be generated if turbines were placed everywhere on the planet – and also up in higher altitudes – to capture all the available wind energy. As Wonkblog’s Brad Plumer points out, the 2200 terawatt number exists only in theory:
As Kate Marvel, a researcher at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory who led the study, explains, this paper mainly looks at the maximum potential of wind power. “We were looking at the geophysical limits, of what the Earth could handle,” Marvel says. “We didn’t necessarily restrict our study to what was feasible.”
To be realistic, Plumber refers to a Department of Energy report that estimates that “wind power could, at most, provide 20 percent of U.S. electricity by 2030.”
While there are multiple technical and operational issues that need to be addressed for wind to be able to provide that much of our electricity, we can only move in that direction if more turbines are built and more transmission lines are constructed. That’s where a major challenge lies, because it’s not easy to build energy projects. The U.S. Chamber’s Project No Project documents an assortment of renewable energy (including wind) and transmission line projects that were delayed or killed by local organizers and environmental groups who used the broken permitting process to stop progress toward American energy security.
Fix that, and wind energy will be in a better position to play a more significant role in America’s energy mix.