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Wind is Sun's heat transformed into kinetic energy through the greatest solar collector currently available, Earth's atmosphere. Wind total power isestimated between 1 700 and 3 500 TeraWatt; by comparison, the whole mankind primary energy needs are estimated at approx. 14 TW.Wind energy is not uniformely distributed, but mainly found in the higher layers of the troposphere at the mid latitudes of both North and South hemispheres. The most favourable altitude in term of wind power is, quite difficult to exploit, at approx. 10 000 m (32 800 ft), where average windspeeds can exceed 45 m/s (equal to 162 km/h or 100 mph). The graphic below shows ten years of data at 250 hectoPascal (measure ofatmospheric pressure, equal to millibar) equivalent to approx. 10 400 m of altitudeFrom these heights, wind speed and energy decrease moving towards the ground, the layers of air giving back heat through friction between themand with the orography of the Earth's surface. In the below graphic at 500 hPa (approx. 5 600 m of altitude) average wind speeds are alreadysignificantly reduced.

At 80 m above the ground, the hub height representative of the latest generation of wind turbines, the global average wind speed is estimated at4.6 m/s, not enough for economical wind power generation; at 10 m above the ground is even lower, estimated at 3.3 m/s (see Evaluation ofglobal wind power, Cristina L. Archer - Mark Z. Jacobson, Journal of Geophysical Research – Atmospheres, 2005).

But to break free from the ground and to reach altitude winds is already very beneficial at 800 m, the height representative of a Kite Gen powerplant, where the average wind speed is estimated by Kite Gen Research at 7.2 m/s. At this altitude wind power, as shown by the following table, isalmost 4 times the amount available to wind turbines.

AltitudeWind speedWind power

mm/sW/m

8007.2205

804.658

103.322

Every point on the Earth surface, on average, 800 m above it, has enough wind power to be exploited

windspeed.gif

windfarm.jpg

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copyright 2007 Centre for Application of Renewable Energy 
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