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A new study by scientists at the Carnegie Institution and California State University identifies New York as a prime location for exploiting high-altitude winds, which globally contain enough energy to meet world demand 100 times over. The researchers found that the regions best suited for harvesting this energy match with population centers in the eastern U.S. and East Asia, but fluctuating wind strength still presents a challenge for exploiting this energy source on a large scale.

Using 28 years of data from the National Center for Environmental Prediction and the Department of Energy, Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology and Cristina Archer of California State University, Chico, compiled the first-ever global survey of wind energy available at high-altitudes in the atmosphere. The researchers assessed potential for wind power in terms of "wind power density," which takes into account both wind speed and air density at different altitudes.

"There is a huge amount of energy available in high altitude winds," says Caldeira. "These winds blow much more strongly and steadily than near-surface winds, but you need to go get up miles to get a big advantage. Ideally, you would like to be up near the jet streams - around 30,000 feet."

Several technological schemes have been proposed to harvest this energy, including tethered, kite-like wind turbines that would be lofted to the altitude of the jet streams. Up to 40 MW of electricity could be generated by current designs and transmitted to the ground via the tether.

Included in the analysis were assessments of high-altitude wind energy for the world's five largest cities: Tokyo; New York; Sao Paulo, Brazil; Seoul, South Korea; and Mexico City.

For more information, visit

SOURCE: Carnegie Institute For Science

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