How Mid-Ocean Wind Farms Could Power The Whole Of Civilisation

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.

However, it would enable people to access substantial amounts of energy and more effectively than onshore wind turbines.

A new study, conducted by the Carnegie Institution for Science at Stanford University, California, suggests it could.

The study found that such a very big 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.

As a result, more energy is drawn from the atmosphere than over land, which helps to combat the problem of turbine drag. While no commercial-scale deep water wind farms yet exist, our results suggest that such technologies, if they became technically and economically feasible, could potentially provide civilization-scale power.

Other main challenges include turbine maintenance and the logistical and economic difficulties of transferring electricity thousands of miles to shore said Stephen Wyatt, research director at ORE Catapult, the UK's innovation and research centre for wind, wave and tidal energy. 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.

The scientists compared the efficiency of a wind turbine on land versus one offshore.

They explain that wind speeds are an average 70 percent greater over the Earth's oceans than on land. Meaning they can only extract as much energy comes down to the level of the wind turbine from the upper levels of the atmosphere.

The reason for this is that North Atlantic winds tap into a huge reservoir of energy created by heat pouring into the atmosphere from the ocean surface.

The scientists added: 'Nevertheless, even in the relative calm of summer, the upper geophysical limit on sustained wind power in the North Atlantic alone could be sufficient to supply all of Europe's electricity'. "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.

Vanessa Coleman

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