Monday, 11 December, 2017

Atlantic wind farms could provide 'civilization-scale power'

Wind speeds are on average 70% higher over the Earth's oceans than over the land – but it's not quite that simple Wind speeds are on average 70% higher over the Earth's oceans than over the land – but it's not quite that simple
Sammy Stanley | 12 October, 2017, 00:38

A deep-sea wind farm of the size of India can solve world's power problems.

The research was supported by the Fund for Innovative Climate and Energy Research and an Carnegie Institution for Science endowment. Land-based turbines themselves slow the air reducing the amount of energy subsequent rows of turbines can generate.

Low-pressure systems at sea, which happen during winter, are able to harness energy from both high- and surface-level winds, meaning the turbines can maintain their wind speed and power output, and cope with the effects of other turbines' wind shadows.

The study found that such a 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. In doing so, they found that the wind currents blowing over the area are capable of generating some 70 percent higher speed than those breezing over land. 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".

"Despite the strong seasonally varying geophysical limit imposed by the atmosphere, we still find that even the smallest wind farm considered in this study would generate sufficient electric power to meet the demand of the European Union in 2015 for 10 out of 12 months of the year", the paper says.

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

In the North Atlantic, in particular, the drag introduced by wind turbines would not slow down winds as much as they would on land. This is largely due to the fact that large amounts of heat pour out of the North Atlantic Ocean and into the overlying atmosphere, especially during the winter. 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. The authors identified the North Atlantic as a region where annual electricity generation rates could average more than 6 watts per square meter, despite seasonal fluctuations.

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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