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.
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.