News Worms
News Worms

Floating Ocean Wind Turbines Could Power The Entire World, Researchers Say

"In the winter, North Atlantic wind farms could provide sufficient energy to meet all of civilisation's current needs", said the report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Wind turbines in the open ocean could in theory intercept more than five times as much energy as wind turbines over land.

"Are the winds so fast just because there is nothing out there to slow them down?" asked Caldeira.

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. How would humans even develop, install, and maintain ocean-based wind turbines at such a grand scale?

In fact those ocean-based wind farms were able to generate as much as three times more energy than their land-based counterparts.

Stanford's Carnegie Institution for Science Department of Global Ecology researchers are behind this new theoretical study.

"The real question is", Caldeira said, "can the atmosphere over the ocean move more energy downward than the atmosphere over land is able to?"

Researchers Anna Possner and Ken Caldeira note a growing body of evidence showing that onshore farms are limited to a maximum of 1.5W per square metre, whereas open ocean farms in areas of high atmospheric turbulence might achieve rates of 6W, especially in the North Atlantic "convergence zone" where tropical and arctic air masses meet. For one, wind strength varies depending on what season it is.

By siting a wind farm in the often inhospitable North Atlantic the turbines could exploits its ocean winds that draw on a huge amount of energy created by heat pouring on the sea surface.

Power generation from a giant North Atlantic wind farm would be seasonal, dropping significantly during the northern hemisphere summer. This contrast in surface warming along the US coast drives the frequent generation of cyclones or low-pressure systems, that cross the Atlantic and are very efficient in drawing the upper atmosphere's energy down to the height of the turbines. What they found is that certain parts of the open ocean provide "considerably higher power generation rates".

The study is a "green light" for operators to invest in suitable open ocean technology like floating turbines, said Caldeira, who claimed the main challenge to commercially successful open ocean farms is the low cost of oil and gas.


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