Biofuels, Solar and Wind as Renewable Energy Systems

pp 133-151

Wind Power: Benefits and Limitations

  • Andrew R.B. FergusonAffiliated with11 Harcourt Close Henley-on-Thames RG9 1UZ

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Wind turbines have a potential benefit insofar as they have a power density that matches coal, at least according to one measure. Set against this is the uncontrollable nature of their output. This means that without a suitable method of storing output, wind power can satisfy only about 10{%} of total energy demand. This limit applies to all uncontrollables collectively, with the slight exception that in places using a lot of air conditioning, photovoltaics could be used to help satisfy peak electrical demands.

The basic problem of uncontrollables would resolve if a suitable method of storing electricity could be found. The severe limitations of hydro, hydrogen storage, and vanadium batteries are explored. A storage system that would be both efficient and significant in size, at least in the USA, is Compress Air Energy Storage (CAES), but more experience of this is needed before it can be properly assessed.

Assessment becomes even more difficult when looking ahead to the time when all fossil fuels are scarce, because at present there appears to be no satisfactory solution to the ‘liquid’ fuel problem, yet the process of manufacturing, installing, and maintaining wind turbines and the associated transmission lines would be very difficult without the help of liquid fossil fuels. In the USA, any likely gain from the use of wind power is likely to be overtaken by the present population growth of at least 1.4% a year.


Population growth power density storage uncontrollables wind