Atlantic wind farms could provide 'civilization-scale power'

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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.

The research was supported by the Fund for Innovative Climate and Energy Research and an Carnegie Institution for Science endowment. This presents an enticing opportunity for generating renewable energy through wind turbines. Meaning they can only extract as much energy comes down to the level of the wind turbine from the upper levels of the atmosphere.

Recent studies show that land-based wind farms will only provide 1.5 watts of power per square meter, not 7 watts as previously estimated.

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

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In theory, those speeds mean there's five times as much energy blowing around over water than there is over land, but whether that would translate to electricity production gains was another question. "In the summer such wind farms could merely generate enough power to cover the electricity demand of Europe, or possibly the United States alone".

However, Possner and Caldeira's computer models, which compared the productivity of a large Kansas wind farm to an open-ocean equivalent, suggested that the drag introduced by turbines would not slow down winds as much as they do on land.

New research from the Carnegie Institution for Science says offshore wind farms situated in the North Atlantic have the potential in the winter to provide sufficient energy to meet all of civilization's current needs. This heats air and causes it to rise, which leads to low pressure cyclones that force the efficient transfer of kinetic energy from the upper atmosphere to the surface of the ocean. It suggests that floating wind farms and other similar ocean-based setups could be the next innovation in wind energy. 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.

"Wind speeds over open ocean areas are often higher than those in the windiest areas over land, which has motivated a quest to develop technologies that could harvest wind energy in deep water environments".