Open-ocean wind farms


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 recent years, a growing body of research argues that the rate of generated power is limited to around 1.5 W m within large wind farms.

Another big catch for wind power over large swaths of the ocean is that we would need to learn how to maintain and install the turbines in extreme ocean environments. 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.

Till date, the wind energy is obtained through wind turbines which convert the kinetic energy of the wind into mechanical power, and then the generator converts this mechanical power to electrical.

"Are the winds so fast just because there is nothing out there to slow them down?" asked Caldeira.

Writing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, doctors Anna Possner and Ken Caldeira concluded: "On an annual mean basis, the wind power available in the North Atlantic could be sufficient to power the world".

MARIE HEUCLIN via Getty Images
MARIE HEUCLIN via Getty Images

To try and answer that question Possner and Caldeira created complex modelling tools which compared land-based wind farms in Kansas with theoretical wind farms that would be built far out in the ocean.

As a result, more energy is drawn from the atmosphere than over land, which helps to combat the problem of turbine drag.

The study found that such a huge 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.

While in the winter, North Atlantic wind farms could provide sufficient energy to meet all of the civilization's current needs, in the summer such wind farms could merely generate enough power to cover the electricity demand of Europe, or possibly the United States alone. "Will sticking giant wind farms out there just slow down the winds so much that it is no better than over land?"

Scientists analyzed the feasibility and advantages of building wind farms in the North Atlantic. Many practical factors will probably make the whole concept more complex, including the lack of technology that can capture ocean-based wind energy at that scale.