Sunday, 17 December, 2017

Open-ocean wind farms

Statoil's floating wind turbines surrounded by ships at dusk Researchers say ocean winds could power all of human civilization
Angelo Anderson | 12 October, 2017, 00:39

The team claimed farms spread over approximately 3,000,000km- bigger than Argentina but a tiny fraction of the 107,000,000km Atlantic Ocean - could theoretically generate 18TW (terawatts), which they said is equivalent to total global energy demand.

Still, there's an overarching message in the study: Open oceans boast a huge potential for providing the world with an alternative energy source, and while covering all of Earth's oceans with wind turbines is remarkably impossible, it's still promising. "These wind turbines have a lot of moving parts which need to be maintained", he said.

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.

The research, published by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was conducted by Carnegie's Anna Possner and Ken Caldeira.

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In tapping into wind as an energy source, the USA has for decades lagged behind Europe and United Kingdom, which are home to the largest offshore wind farms in the world, including the London Array and the Netherlands' Gemini wind farm. This presents an enticing opportunity for generating renewable energy through wind turbines.

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. 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. 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. 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.

This property of open ocean wind means operators could pack turbines closer together and generate more than 6W/mon average, the simulations found. 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.

While open water wind turbines are still very much in their infancy, there is hope that this research will provide strong incentives for companies to start developing the technology at a faster rate.

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