Wind Farms In The North Atlantic Could Power Up The World?

12 October, 2017, 00:36 | Author: Hope Soto
  • Statoil's floating wind turbines surrounded by ships at dusk

Now researchers from the Carnegie Institute for Science have published research suggesting that offshore wind turbines might be able to create enough energy to provide "civilization-scale power". Part of the reason wind farms on land can only produce so much energy is that they extract energy from wind that comes from the upper atmosphere.

Still, there's an overarching message in the study: Open oceans boast a huge potential for providing the world with an alternative energy source, and while covering all of Earth's oceans with wind turbines is remarkably impossible, it's still promising.

Another big catch for wind power over large swaths of the ocean is that we would need to learn how to maintain and install the turbines in extreme ocean environments.

Based on their results, the scientists determined that wind farms built in the area would have a higher maximum force than those on land. According to new research from Carnegie's Anna Possner and Ken Caldeira, there is considerable opportunity for generating wind power in the open ocean, and particularly the North Atlantic.

Power generation from a giant North Atlantic wind farm would be seasonal, dropping significantly during the northern hemisphere summer. At onshore facilities, each turbine weakens the power generation potential of each additional turbine downwind of it in a phenomenon known as a "wind shadow".

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In theory, those speeds mean there's five times as much energy blowing around over water than there is over land, but whether that would translate to electricity production gains was another question.

Using modeling tools, the team compared the productivity of large Kansas wind farms to theoretical massive open-ocean wind farms. Because of this, a team of researchers set out and established that wind farms located in the North Atlantic might actually be capable of powering the entire planet.

By focusing on the North Atlantic, Possner and Caldeira found that the drag introduced by wind turbines would not slow winds down as much as they do on land, due largely to the tremendous amounts of heat pouring out of the North Atlantic Ocean into the upper atmosphere - especially during the winter.

"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", says Anna Possner, co-author of the study.

This property of open ocean wind means operators could pack turbines closer together and generate more than 6W/mon average, the simulations found.

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