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12 October 2017, 12:38 | Rodolfo Wallace
Wind speeds are on average 70% higher over the Earth's oceans than over the land – but it's not quite that simple
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, according to the researchers. According to new research from Carnegie's Anna Possner and Ken Caldeira, there is considerable opportunity for generating wind power in the open ocean, and particularly the North Atlantic.
But extracting efficient energy from wind involves more than putting turbines in the path of gale-force winds. Wind turbines on wind farms continuously convert kinetic energy from surface winds into electricity.
In fact those ocean-based wind farms were able to generate as much as three times more energy than their land-based counterparts.
Wind speeds on the ocean can be as much as 70% higher than on land.
The study used computer models which compared the total output of huge onshore wind farms in Kansas with the potential output of an equivalent-sized wind farm floating in the Atlantic ocean.
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The two conducted research on the efficiency of wind turbines on land as well as the wind out at sea to determine that during the winter months in the North Atlantic region the winds at sea might be strong enough to power civilization.
Power generation from a giant North Atlantic wind farm would be seasonal, dropping significantly during the northern hemisphere summer. Wind speeds are, on average, much higher over ocean than they are over land, which means that theoretically wind farms in the open ocean could capture five times more energy than wind farms on land.
"Over land, the turbines are just sort of scraping the kinetic energy out of the lowest part of the atmosphere, whereas over the ocean, it's depleting the kinetic energy out of most of the troposphere, or the lower part of the atmosphere", said Caldeira, as The Washington Post reports. Over land, those winds tend to stay up high, but over the ocean - and paticularly over the North Atlantic - surface warming of the seawater brings them down to within reach of the turbines.
Wind power production in the deep waters of the open ocean is in its infancy of commercialization.
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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