Researchers say ocean winds could power all of human civilization


What if the world's energy problems could be solved with one deep-sea wind farm?

In some areas, particularly the North Atlantic, ocean-based wind farms would be far more potent because the drag introduced by wind turbines would not slow down winds as much as they would on land.

A wind farm of such a magnitude i.e. three million square kilometres in the Atlantic Ocean will be sufficient for our energy needs, a study has shown.

The study found that such a huge wind farm could capitalize on low-pressure systems throughout the winter which more efficiently combine the upper atmospheric winds with the surface level winds, producing greater yields in wind farm power generation potential.

New research from the Carnegie Institution for Science has highlighted the "considerable opportunity" of developing offshore wind in the open ocean, which could generate up to three to five times as much energy as wind farms on land. Anna Possner and Ken Caldeira modeled the electricity generation rates of potential wind farms in open-ocean environments.

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Experts say this is because the wind speed is 70% higher in the sea than on land. Before the current wind power boom, researchers estimated that wind turbines on land could provide as much as 7 watts of power per square meter.

"We found that giant ocean-based wind farms are able to tap into the energy of the winds throughout much of the atmosphere, whereas wind farms onshore remain constrained by the near-surface wind resources", Possner explained. But recent modeling shows that land turbines probably will provide only 1 watt per square meter when installed at scale.

As more turbines are added to a wind farm, the combined drag from their turning blades effectively places a cap on the amount of energy from available moving air that can be converted to electricity.

The Independent reports that this is possible because more heat pours into the atmosphere above the North Atlantic Ocean.

Power generation from a vast North Atlantic wind farm would be seasonal, with output dropping to a fifth of the annual average during the summer, the scientists pointed out. Despite this, enough energy would still be generated to meet the electricity demands of all countries in the European Union.