Alternative Energy

Published on July 8th, 2009 | by Jennifer Lance

New York-Style Winds Could Power the World 100 Times Over

Scientists have discovered that New York City is a “prime location for exploiting high-altitude winds.”  In fact, a recent study by the Carnegie Institution and California State University found that globally, high-altitude winds like those over New York City could together meet the current energy needs of the world “100 times over”.  After studying 28 years of data, the scientists found the “highest wind power densities over Japan and eastern China, the eastern coast of the United States, southern Australia, and north-eastern Africa,” according to Cristina Archer, of the California State University, Chico.

Image by acnattaWinds like those over NYC could power the world

Winds like those over NYC could power the world

Wind power density refers to “both wind speed and air density at different altitudes”. Sky Windpower Corporation explains how wind measurements are taken:

At major airports and air stations all over the world wind velocity, direction, temperature and dew point measurements are made by balloons released at midnight and noon each day. Data is transmitted back to the ground for readings made every few hundred meters as the balloon rises.

High altitude winds contain the greatest amount of energy. Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology and coauthor of the study explains:

There is a huge amount of energy available in high altitude winds. 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.

Caldeira has also been identified by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the top 100 “Agents of Change”, specifically earning the number 36 slot.

Of course, there are risks to high altitude wind generators like kites from lightning, and the authors warn wind power “requires substantial infrastructure”.  Still the thought that we can use the wind above our cities to power our energy needs is exciting to consider.  I think it would add an interesting element to the skyline to see wind kites soaring above the Big Apple.

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3 Responses to New York-Style Winds Could Power the World 100 Times Over

  1. John Doe Engineer says:

    First of all, your “article’s” title is an impressively hyperbolic in asserting that the winds above New York City have enough energy to power the entire world 100x over.

    The goal is to capture the wind energy at 30,000ft.? This is just as feasible as saying we can capture the thermal energy at the center of the earth. Access is prohibitive.

    The main drawback to the suspended wind turbine generators concept is the struggle of generating capacity versus weight. This problem has traditionally resulted in very low generating capacities, making it exceedingly difficult to realize a feasible cost of energy.

    This article borders on sensationalism. You should do more research in the future to fully understand the reality of the content your article. Perhaps get the opinion of someone who is an expert on the topic, there are plenty of them in the renewable industry.

  2. Well Doe says:

    Brother John!

    First off, the “100 times over” is not about the winds above New York, but rather the winds… “such as those above New York”. So RTFA again before you discuss the “hyperbolic” nature of the claim. It’s entirely reasonable.

    Secondly, creating the means to access wind energy at 30,000 feet isn’t prohibitive so much as it’s an unanswered engineering challenge. Many means exist, such as a “space elevator” either as an tensile orbital structure, or using inflatable technology, or some type of ultra-large high-altitude blimp / weather balloon. Since this technology has lifted (human!) cargo as high as 100,000 feet, using it to generate power is nothing more than an exercise in scale. See

    I’m not holding my breath yet, but as an engineering challenge, it’s by no means more difficult than transporting a few 200 lb men to the moon. It takes money. The real issue that of resource procurement, and that’s a political process, not a technical one.

  3. Ron says:

    No problem all we have to do is build something like The Eiffel Tower but only 28 times taller, then the very top will be at the 30,000 ft mark. Then just build a platform from there and just worry about hurricanes, and lightning strikes, planes, snow, jet stream, and occasional possible shooting star.

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