DailyDirt: Windmills Of All Sizes
from the urls-we-dig-up dept
Alternatives to fossil fuels are pretty well known, but it's hard to beat the short term returns from burning hydrocarbons that are pumped out of the ground -- which is why fossil fuels still make up about 80% of our energy supply. One of the most environmentally-friendly energy sources comes from wind turning some turbines to generate electricity, and wind power has been growing rapidly in the last few years. In 2010, wind power generated about 2.5% of worldwide electricity usage (about 430 TWh), up from just 0.1% in 1997 and projected to hit 8% by 2018. If you're interested in the creation of energy out of thin air, here are just a few links to check out.
- Extremely small windmills less than 2 mm in diameter could be used to power mobile devices. These tiny windmills could also be fabricated by the thousands on large sheets to be placed on the sides of tall buildings, too, but the researchers who made the first prototypes don't mention if it would actually be cost effective to do so. [url]
- On the other side of the spectrum, windmill blades ~1,000 feet in diameter could be generating electricity at a 20 megawatt scale in the next few decades. Commercial turbine blades have grown from diameters of just 50 feet in the 1980s to diameters of nearly 500 feet now. [url]
- The energy-generating capacity of large wind farms might have a lower limit than once thought. If the entire Earth could be covered in wind farms, some estimates say over 100 terawatts of energy could be produced, however, it wouldn't be easy to build wind farms at even a small fraction of that scale without running into significant problems. Still, wind energy is one of the most scalable renewable sources of energy known, but it could have an upper limit of just a few percent of our total energy consumption requirements. [url]