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

Statoil's floating wind turbines surrounded by ships at dusk

Researchers say ocean winds could power all of human civilization

Though such a vast engineering project would face huge challenges, it would provide enough sustainable energy to meet the whole planet's electricity needs, scientists say.

"Wind power generation over some ocean areas can exceed power generation on land by a factor of three or more" by leveraging far more atmospheric kinetic energy transported downwards over the oceans than is possible over land.

"Are the winds so fast just because there is nothing out there to slow them down?" asks Ken Caldeira, co-author of the new study. They also found that drag introduced by the wind turbines in the North Atlantic would not slow down the winds as much as they would on land.

When stretched over oceans, wind turbines could produce three times as much power compared to when they're placed on land, the study suggests. According to the authors, if commercial-scale open-ocean wind turbines could be produced, open-ocean wind farms that are spread across approximately 3 million square kilometers could meet the current annual global energy demand of 18 terawatts.

Other studies have estimated that there is a maximum rate of electricity generation for land-based wind farms, and have concluded that this maximum rate of energy extraction is limited by the rate at which energy is moved down from faster, higher up winds. This presents an enticing opportunity for generating renewable energy through wind turbines.

"The real question is", Caldeira continued, "can the atmosphere over the ocean move more energy downward than the atmosphere over land is able to?" This heats air and causes it to rise, which leads to low pressure cyclones that force the efficient transfer of kinetic energy from the upper atmosphere to the surface of the ocean. By GCR staff0 CommentsA wind farm in the middle of the North Atlantic would be five times as efficient as one onshore and could provide limitless low-priced energy, says a paper published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Interestingly, their research found that the tremendous amount of energy generated in their models was incredibly seasonal.

Wind farms in the open ocean can generate far more renewable energy than those on land, possibly enough to power the whole world, said a United States study on Monday, 9 October.

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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