World Wind Energy

L. David Roper
6 April, 2016

Landscape Destruction due to Energy Extraction


Wind-energy installations have been growing at a fast pace. This is an attempt to project wind-energy installations into the future.

Two good sources of information about wind energy are:

  1. (wind installations in Gigawatts from 1997 to 2010 [estimated from information about planned installations])
  2. (estimate of 70 Terrawatts possible wind-energy consumption)

I use the data from those sources in this calculation.

Fit to the Data

For the last decade world wind-energy growth has been exponential. Of course, at some future time it has to level off. It is estimated that the final power obtained from wind could be as high as 72 Terrawatts (1012 watts) (Ref. 2). For 24% of time utilization (see below), this corresponds to about 154,000 Terrawatt-hours of energy production per year. The hyperbolic-tangent function is a good function for fitting physical data that start off exponentially and approach an asymptote exponentially, such as is expected for wind energy.

The fits given here involve fitting the hyperbolic-tangent function,


by varying its three parameters to the estimated wind-energy consumed in Terrawatt-hours each year. The consumption values for each year were estimated from the 2008 data given in Ref. 1 that 260 Terrawatt-hours were produced from 121.188 Gigawatts of installed wind turbines at the end of year 2008. This corresponds to the turbines operating at design maximum 24% of the time (1000*260/121.188/365.4/24=0.24). (Of course, most of the time they operate at less than design maximum; i.e., they operate more than 24% of the time at different capacities.)

Wind energy is in such an early stage of exponential growth that fitting the yearly installation data does not determined the eventual amount to be installed. The estimated maximum power of 72x1012 watts at 24% output would yield 154x1015 watts per year. I assume that 25% of that will all that will be possible, or about 38.5 x1015 watts per year.

This shows the fit to the wind-energy-installation data of Ref. 1. ("Data" for 2010 is estimated from information about planned installations.)

This shows the estimated wind energy with the energy available from crude-oil extraction.

In a previous study I assumed that the asymptotic world energy consumption could be about 12 kW per person, with an asymptotic world population of 8.3x109 people. (12 kW per person is about the current energy consumption in the United States now, 2009.) This corresponds to an asymptotic energy consumption of about 850,000 Terrawatt-hours per year. Thus, the 154,000 Terrawatt-hours estimated maximum wind-energy production per year is about 18% of the assumed total energy consumption in that previous study and the 188,000 Terrawatt-hours would be 22%.


Some rough estimates have been given for future world wind-energy consumption. It will be interesting to see in the coming decades how much wind-energy production increases.


World Renewable Energy

L. David Roper Interdisplinary Studies

L. David Roper,
6 April, 2016