Research report 2012 - Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry
The Earth as a power plant: The natural generation of renewable energy within the Earth system and limits to its use
Max-Planck Forschungsgruppe Biosphärische Theorie und Modellierung
SummaryThe Earth works like a power plant generating energy out of its planetary drivers. This energy maintains the winds in the atmosphere, ocean currents, and global biogeochemical cycles such as the hydrological cycle. The laws of thermodynamics set the limits to the rates by which these forms of energy are generated and thereby limit the forms of energy that could potentially be used as renewable energy. The global estimate shows that - except for solar and wind power - the natural generation rates of renewable energy are rather small and in the order of the human energy consumption.