Where Does The Wind Come From and How Much Energy is There?

Brian Hurley, M.Sc.

2008 Conference Paper Synopsis: The source of the wind is the sun.  The winds come from the suns energy falling on the earth’s surface, giving rise to heating of the atmosphere.    This leads to convection currents in the atmosphere, ie the movement of air due to changes in its density and pressure. We can gain an understanding of how global circulation works by developing simplified models of the processes that produce the global system. The physical drivers of the wind at a global scale and at the level of a wind farm are examined.

Sources giving estimates of the total quantity of energy in the atmosphere are reviewed. The portion of this available for electricity generation are investigated using different assumption, and comparisons are made with current electricity demand for the globe, and for major regions.   One estimate of the world’s wind resources is that there is 50,000 TWh/year available on land.  The world’s electricity consumption was about 18,000 TWh/year for 2005.

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