Vast and efficient ocean wind farms 'could power human civilisation'

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Charlie Zender, a physicist at the University of California, praised the theoretical potential of the research but said the "relevance to energy policy is low" citing the extremely high construction, operation and maintenance costs of building floating wind farms which would be further compounded by the density of turbines required in the research.

Researchers at the Carnegie Institution for Science have discovered something rather remarkable about wind farms - we've apparently been doing it wrong. This presents an enticing opportunity for generating renewable energy through wind turbines. The energy that turbines tap into starts as faster winds at higher altitudes, which are brought down towards the surface.

Based on their results, the scientists determined that wind farms built in the area would have a higher maximum force than those on land. They informed that although there is a lot of wind flowing over Earth's land, it has an upper limit. "Will sticking giant wind farms out there just slow down the winds so much that it is no better than over land?"

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

Computer simulations showed that wind turbines in the North Atlantic would be able to generate at least four times more energy per square metre than their counterparts on land.

In tapping into wind as an energy source, the USA has for decades lagged behind Europe and United Kingdom, which are home to the largest offshore wind farms in the world, including the London Array and the Netherlands' Gemini wind farm.

In the North Atlantic, in particular, the drag introduced by wind turbines would not slow down winds as much as they would on land, the researchers found.

"There is something special about some ocean environments and there are places like the North Atlantic where the Gulf Stream and all of its heat is pouring into the atmosphere", said Caldeira. "The rate of electricity generation in large wind farms containing multiple wind arrays is, therefore, constrained by the rate of kinetic energy replenishment from the atmosphere above", says the abstract of the article.

Interestingly, their research found that the tremendous amount of energy generated in their models was incredibly seasonal. The researchers predict that annual electricity-generation rates in the North Atlantic ocean could hit more than 6 watts per square meter.