I often hear about wind energy as a replacement for fossil fuels. But how big is the potential of wind energy anyway?
Wind energy has great potential
There is more than enough wind to supply the entire earth with energy. Recently, Utrecht University has conducted the most extensive research into the potential of wind energy that has been undertaken to date. The researchers divided the earth's surface into 66,000 cells and calculated the potential of the wind for each cell. Urban areas, waters, mountains and nature reserves were disregarded. It turned out that 20 percent of the earth has enough wind to be able to use it. The total potential is 96 petawatt hours, which is roughly equivalent to six times the annual worldwide consumption. In some areas in Canada, the potential is more than 30 times the annual consumption, but even here in Western Europe we can get twice as much energy from the wind as we need.
Technology already exists
The technology to use wind energy already exists, but it is of course expensive to build and use sufficient wind turbines. If the full global potential were used, electricity would cost 25 times as much as now. It will become more manageable if we suffice with the wind energy required to meet the current energy needs. In that case the energy costs only double that of now. An area as large as Saudi Arabia would then be covered with windmills.