How much Energy can Wind Supply Worldwide?

As of the end of 2004, there were over 47,000 megawatts of generating capacity operating worldwide, producing some 100 billion kilowatt-hours each year—as much as 9 million average American households use, or as much as a dozen large nuclear power plants could generate. Yet this is but a tiny fraction of wind’s potential.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the world’s winds could theoretically supply the equivalent of 5,800 quadrillion BTUs (quads) of energy each year–more than 15 times current world energy demand. (A quad is equal to about 172 million barrels of oil or 45 million tons of coal.)

The potential of wind to improve the quality of life in the world’s developing countries, where more than two billion people live with no electricity or prospect of utility service in the foreseeable future, is vast.

More reading:
A study (“Wind Force 12”) performed by Denmark’s BTM Consult for the European Wind Energy Association and Greenpeace found that by the year 2020, wind could provide 12% of world electricity supplies, meeting the needs of 600 million average European households.

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