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47 Gigawatts

The Global Wind Energy Council released figures showing that wind power added 7,976 megawatts to the global power production in 2004, bringing the total to 47,317 megawatts -- just over 47 gigawatts of wind power, worldwide. Germany ranks first in national wind capacity, at 16.6 GW, Spain second at 8.3 GW, and the US third at 6.7 GW. 72 percent of new wind installations in 2004 were in Europe, 16 percent in Asia, and only 6 percent in North America.

Renewable Energy Access has more details.


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WorldChanging has reported that the Global Wind Energy Council released figures showing that wind power added 7,976 megawatts to global power production in 2004, bringing the total to 47,317 megawatts - just over 47 gigawatts of wind power, worldwide... [Read More]

Comments (12)


Whoa. That's like enough power to travel back through time 39 times.


What percentage is that of world consumption, I wonder? I tried to calculate this below but I tend to get dizzy when dealing with quadrillions so I may have this wrong.

This page here http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/international/total.html#IntlConsumption claims that the world consumed 411 quadrillion BTUs during 2002.

If we generate 47GW continuously, that's 411720 Gigawatt-hours per year. 1 kWh = 3413 BTU. So wind power produced 1.405 quadrillion BTUs = about 1 quarter of 1%.

Your calculation is for total energy consumption. I think electricity is about 35-40% of total energy used. However, since the average production of wind energy is only 1/3 of capacity, it looks like your answer 1/4% is pretty accurate for wind as a percentage of electricty produced as well.

By the way below is some info from a recent IAEA (International Atomic Energy Administration) press release. Note that they are forecasting a rise of 63 gigawatts in nuclear capacity over the next 15 years. If wind can keep up its current pace of 8 gigawatts per year then it would add 15 X 8 or 120 gigawatts.

"The IAEA forecasts stronger growth in countries relying on nuclear power, projecting at least 60 more plants will come online over the next 15 years to help meet global electricity demands.
Based on the most conservative assumption, the report estimates around 430 gigawatts of global nuclear capacity in 2020, up from 367 gigawatts today. This translates into just over 500 nuclear power plants worldwide by 2020. It represents a slight rise in nuclear power's share in the world electricity market, from 16 to 17 percent, reversing previous downward estimates. Today, some 30 countries produce electricity using nuclear power. Worldwide 441 nuclear plants are in operation and 27 are being built."

John Norris:


We don't. Wind farms are normally costed at 30% output, so it's more like 0.42 quads of wind energy or 1/10th of 1% of total :(

[Here in the UK, the average for oil/coal usage is only about 50% of capacity however.]

So, to replace conventional with wind we would need to cut consumption by a factor of 10 and increase wind capacity by a factor of 100. Or cut consumption in half and increase wind by a factor of 500 (ie 50,000%). Etc. Not impossible, but also non-trivial.

-- John

John Norris:

PS: Last time I looked (about a year ago) big wind was coming in at about $1M per MW, installed. Replacing all current energy usage (not just electricity) with wind would take 1000 fold increase in capacity, ie approx 47,000 GW. This is $47 trillion, which by some strange coincidence is almost exactly the global GDP for 2002 (via Nationmaster & CIA). Also, as a reference figure, total US debt (government, personal, corporate) is around $33 trillion, IIRC.

-- John


A couple of things... why are you trying to replace all energy usage with wind as opposed to its current usage... producing electricy?

Second, there appears to be some disconnect in your numbers. Worldwide, there is somewhere in the neighborood of 2,800 GW of generating capacity for electricity currently. Electricity is about 35-40% of total energy usage. So I don't know how you got 47,000GW for total energy usage. It seems like your numbers are off by a factor of 10.

We have some handy energy conversions at altenergyaction.org:


1 TW-yr (1000 GW run continuously for a year) is equivalent to about 30 quads, so in principle 400 quads (rough annual world energy consumption) is about 13 TW, continous.

However, there's an important caveat there - most of the 400 quads consumed is done so quite inefficiently, through combustion of one sort or another - that 400 quads represents relatively "low quality" energy. Electric energy such as you obtain from wind, for example, is much higher quality, and produces useful work with only tiny losses. A 1 GW (electric) coal-fired or nuclear power plant actually typically consumes coal or nuclear fuel at an energy equivalent rate of about 3 GW (33-34% efficiency). This is the heat rate factor that can make these energy discussions so confusing.

Typically, when converting electric generation to Btus for comparison with other energy use (for example oil used in transportation), the initial heat content of the fuel is what's compared, not the electric power generated. Hydro, wind, and solar don't have any "initial heat content", and their electric production is sometimes simply multiplied by a factor of about 3 to make the comparison useful. But people play with these numbers a lot...

Anyway, the 13 TW continuous required to supply world energy is roughly equivalent to about 4-5 TW of electric power; actual world production of electricity is about 1.9 TW (electric)/year, and dividing that 1.9 by the 4 - 5 electric equivalent gets you the roughly 35-40% of energy use quoted.

See our current energy use comparison here for some more (and historical) numbers:


So in principle we only need 4 - 5 TW of electric energy (or 4000 - 5000 GW) to supply world energy right now. With wind's roughly 30% capacity factor that would require about 13-16,000 GW of wind installations, or somewhat under $20 trillion - if you could find enough suitable locations.

But future demand for energy may be much higher - energy demand could double by 2025 and quadruple by 2050, relative to the 400 quads used in 2000. See more notes on this here:


John Norris:

Hi Joe, sticking with total energy for a minute, if Edwin is right and total energy = 411 quads/year at 1312 BTU/kWH, then annual energy consumption = 120,457,209,847,597 kWh. Divide by hours in a year to get power capacity at 100% utilization = 13,750,823,042 kW or 13,750 GW. Now given wind utilization of 30%, wind capacity required is 13,750 / 0.3 = 45,833 GW.

Now, if only 35% of the 411 quads is electricity then wind power required to replace that is approx 16,000 GW.

As to your other point, EIA data for 2002 show 3,465 GW of generating capacity. At 50% utilization that would give 5.8 quads or 13% of total energy use, not the 35-40% you are suggesting. It seems your numbers are off by a factor of 3 :)


-- John

Actually wind is about 1/2 of 1% of global electricity production at this point. If you want me to bore you all with the calculation, I can.


I was estimating my electricity numbers based on US numbers. However, I have looked up the world numbers.

They can be found at the following locations:

Energy used to produce electricity Worldwide in 2001 - 160.5 quads


Total World Energy usage in 2001 - 402 quads

Total energy usage for electricity 160.5/402 = 39.9 %
It looks like a pretty good estimate to me. :)

Look to Arthur's comment for further explanation on why your calculations don't work.

Arthur -

Thanks for all the info, I like your website.

I am a big believer in and hopeful for more efficiency.

Currently we burn coal at 33% efficiency to light an incandescent bulb in a stoplight for 24 hours/day. The bulb in the stoplight can be replaced with LED lighting that is 80-90% more energy efficient and the electricty can be produced from natural gas at twice the efficiency of coal. Obviously, this is an extreme example but there are many other areas where we can obtain drastic improvements.

So, I'm hoping for a world in 2050 that uses close to the 400 quads that we currently use and one where wind,solar and nuclear production is much higher.

and one where wind,solar and nuclear production is much higher.

Thumbs down to nuclear.


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