Wind Energy, Perú and the Energy Challenge

Our co-founder Alvaro was invited by the University Agraria de La Molina in Lima, Perú to give a talk on wind energy.  He gave a talk for engineering, environmental science and policy students, describing the world’s energy situation and some exciting trends in wind energy.  The talk can be found below as a zoomable presentation to give a better overview of the proportions involved. For instance, … Perú would need to run its hydroelectrical plants (60% of its electricity) for 2,200 years to match a year of world oil consumption!  Or all the small wind turbines ( below 100 kW) of the world running for about 150,000 years.   With these orders of magnitude it’s pretty clear that the world faces an incredible challenge to substitute fossil fuels.  As global citizens, we need to explore all possible avenues renewable energy can offer whether it’s small, medium and large scale.  And we need to understand that whatever technologies we adopt they will have an impact (in our back yard or in someone else’s).  At renooble we believe small scale renewables help us appreciate our energy needs, their impact and why being more efficient and responsible will eventually be the only option.
However it is still encouraging to look at the trends and macro-perspective.  The world’s wind energy potential could be greater than what is provided yearly by fossil fuels.  The world consumes yearly 150 units of energy (Peta Watt Hours for those interested). Large wind produced in 2011 between 0.3 – 0.4 of these units.  However this is doubling every 4 years approximately.  And small wind is growing even faster at something like 20% – 25% per year (in the midst of the financial crisis).  But is there enough wind for everyone?  If we tried to tap most of the wind energy in the world we could obtain between 100 – 1000 of those same units of energy.  This big range comes from the uncertainties in the calculation.  How many places in the world have wind speeds above 6.5 m/s? How far apart should we place the turbines? Will turbines get more efficient? When we take some energy out of the wind, will the upper layers of the atmosphere replenish this energy? If so how fast? etc, etc.  [Lu,McElroy 2009UD-Archer Article 2012TOD Article ReviewJacobson-Archer (2012)].
But if there is enough wind, a more pressing question is if we can afford it.
Fortunately the trend look promessing here too.  Large wind in some countries is producing electricity as low as £0.06 GBP/kWh (you probably pay your utility something in between £0.13 – £0.18 GBP/kWh).  And even though small wind is still catching up, the price of wind energy has been dropping exponentially since the 80s at nearly 14% per year.
The students came away with one message:  The challenges may be great, but the opportunities for companies, households and institutions to save money and change our fossil fuel lifestyle are massive.

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