Offshore wind farms have powerful advantage over land-based turbines, study finds

10 October, 2017, 20:26 | Author: Oscar Goodwin
  • Statoil's floating wind turbines surrounded by ships at dusk

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

As more turbines are added to a wind farm, the combined drag from their turning blades effectively places a cap on the amount of energy from available moving air that can be converted to electricity.

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 whole world can be powered by a single offshore wind turbine farm in the North Atlantic, reports actualno. The scientists also note that storms over the mid-latitude oceans regularly transfer wind energy down to the surface from high altitudes making a much higher upper limit on how much energy wind turbines can capture than on land. "That heat creates contrasts in temperatures... which brings more wind energy down to the surface where the wind turbines are".

In some areas, particularly the North Atlantic, ocean-based wind farms would be far more potent because the drag introduced by wind turbines would not slow down winds as much as they would on land.

According to the authors, if commercial-scale open-ocean wind turbines could be produced, open-ocean wind farms that are spread across approximately 3 million square kilometers could meet the current annual global energy demand of 18 terawatts.

The reason for this is that North Atlantic winds tap into a huge reservoir of energy created by heat pouring into the atmosphere from the ocean surface. "Will sticking giant wind farms out there just slow down the winds so much that it is no better than over land?"

Carnegie Institution for Science researchers Anna Possner and Ken Caldeira set out to determine the potential for offshore wind energy on the open ocean and found that in one scenario, open ocean-based offshore wind farms could generate at least three times more power than large wind farms on land.

Wind power production in the deep waters of the open ocean is in its infancy of commercialization. Scientists, however, state that wind power from the North Atlantic would be seasonal, falling to 1/5 of the average annual rate in the summer.

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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