Jet Stream Wind Power as a Renewable Energy Resource

“Jet streams are regions of sustained high wind speeds in the upper atmosphere and are seen by some as a substantial renewable energy resource. However, jet stream motion is associated with very small generation rates of kinetic energy to maintain the high wind velocities, and it is this generation rate that will ultimately limit the potential use of jet streams as a renewable energy resource. We have calculated that the maximum sustainable extraction from jet streams of the global atmosphere is about 7.5 TW. This estimate is about 200-times less than previous estimates and is due to the fact that the common expression for instantaneous wind power merely characterizes the transport of kinetic energy by the flow, but not the generation rate of kinetic energy.”

Climate change

“We also find that when maximum wind power is extracted from the jet streams, it results in significant climatic impacts due to a substantial increase of heat transport across the jet streams in the upper atmosphere. This results in upper atmospheric temperature differences of >20 °C, greater atmospheric stability, substantial reduction in synoptic activity, and substantial differences in surface climate. We conclude that jet stream wind power does not have the potential to become a significant source of renewable energy.”

Jet stream wind power as a renewable energy resource: little power, big impacts. Earth System Dynamics, November 2011.