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Can windmills allow us to consume (and, eventually, over-consume) the wind as a natural resource somewhat in the same manner that we are over-consuming many other natural resources?

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"Consuming wind energy" –  endolith Jul 13 '11 at 15:34

2 Answers 2

Wind is caused by differences in air pressure, where air flows from high pressure areas to low pressure ones. To "consume" all the wind would require air pressure to reach equilibrium, something that won't happen since the effects of solar heating and cooling from bodies of water constantly introduces differences.

The only effect you might observe if you saturate the environment with windmills is that the upwind ones will spoil it for the down-wind ones, just as a sailing ship can spoil the wind for any directly behind it.

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No, because as long as the sun shines, there'll be wind. That's what's meant by calling it a renewable resource.

Any wind moving now, will dissipate to low-grade heat within a few hours or days anyway - the winds of last year have all gone into heat death, and have been replaced by new winds, caused by new temperature differences caused by different solar radiation across the earth, and differential rates of heating between land and sea.

So a wind turbine doesn't really change the fate of the energy in any given wind - either the wind will turn to low-grade heat through friction; or it will get converted to electricity, consumed as electricity, and that end electricity use will, one way or another, almost always end up as low-grade heat, typically sooner rather than later.

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You do move the heatgeneration though from one place to another. –  BjornW Jul 8 '11 at 16:25
    
Ok, I can appreciate the answers. However, if wind is truly a plentiful and renewable, doesn't destroy the environment when harvested, what has driven man to build dependence upon other energy sources, which are costly to harvest, harm the environment when harvested, and when utilized? I understand that the are challenges with the storing of wind energy, but the efforts put toward other resources could certainly have resolved that issue by now. –  Michael Holm Jul 8 '11 at 17:57
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You ask an interesting question Michael, but one for which the explanation has precious little to do with physics, so it's off-topic for here. As for storage, and, more broadly, balancing variable wind, well that's a solved problem, and does have physics-related answers ... I'll leave it to you to find a way to phrase it and post it as a new question –  EnergyNumbers Jul 8 '11 at 18:18
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Questions of wind and storage are. But the question you asked - the one I was referring to - was "if wind is truly plentiful and renewable ... what has driven man to build dependence upon other energy sources...?" - and that's politics, economics, psychology, sociology, and other stuff –  EnergyNumbers Jul 8 '11 at 19:11
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@Michael you said it your self Wind is not reliable unless a good storage system is at hand, and the only, inefficient, storage systems of large scale would be pumping water up and generate electricity by the water falls. This can happen only in a few places. I have lived in a cottage where the only electricity was from a windmill in the 1970s, and the storage was two large truck batteries. There was enough power for a 12V freezer and some lights and a CB. Efficiency/cost of storage is the problem. Similarly with solar panels. –  anna v Jul 12 '11 at 15:49

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