“A new perspective on climate science and wind power“ (May 5, 2011). Anthony Watts adds a stock photo of a wind turbine to his copy-and-paste of Dr. Roger Pielke Sr. blog post hailing “a new perspective” on wind power. Apparently there isn’t as much wind power available as some people think. Perhaps the “new perspective” is that we should stop wasting our time on any of them dumb alternative energies.
I have to ask, why the un-ending denialist hate-on for renewable energy? Conceptually it’s completely independent of efforts to address global warming. Shouldn’t free-thinking libertarians be proud of man’s ability to take what he wants from the world around him? I guess they’re fixated on the “oppression” of people who own oil company stocks. I wonder who led them down that path? Also, why are they so determined to consider each renewable energy source in complete isolation? We don’t have to choose between wind power and solar. Each renewable energy source will contribute to our needs, it’s the cumulative generation that matters.
Pielke first draws our attention to Miller, Gans and Kleidon (2011), who use “a simple back-of-the-envelope estimate to illustrate the natural Earth system process hierarchy that could result in wind power extractability from the atmospheric boundary layer” to estimate that available wind power is “in the range of 18–68 TW and are notably less than recent estimates that claim abundant wind power availability.” We forgot friction! Everyone’s been doin’ it wrong. Dump those computers and go back to your envelopes, everyone.
In fact, Wikipedia tells us that current wind power generation is about 196 GW (0.2 TW) and accounts for 2.5% of total electrical generation. So even the pessimistic estimate Pielke likes shows that, in theory, wind power could entirely meet our global electrical needs. The same Wikipedia entry tells us that the conventional available wind power estimates range from 72-1700 TW, which means that Miller et. al. are merely pegging the low-end of existing estimates. How is this a “new perspective” on wind power?
Next Pielke also points out a paper one of the above authors, Axel Kleidon (submitted PDF here), that he seems to suggest deprecates renewable energy. But Kleidon is really identifying the limits of available energy and advocating efficient conversion of renewable energy sources:
The only sustainable way to meet the increasing needs for free energy by human activity would seem to use human technology in such a way that it would enhance the overall ability of the earth system to generate free energy.
I wonder if those who argue that “man is too insignificant to impact our climate” like this quote from Kleidon’s submitted paper:
it is evident that human activity as an earth system process is far greater and significant in comparison to natural processes than what it would seem using other, more traditional measures.
Pielke’s post seems more like a chance for him to show the polite response of the paper authors to his correspondence.
Just got through working up a factoid on wind – an average wind turbine offsets as much CO2 (from U.S. energy mix) as 3,000 to 10,000 acres (1,200 to 4,000 hectares) of forest absorb…
Tom Gray, Wind Energy Communications Consultant