Researchers say ocean winds could power all of human civilization

Shane McGlaun - Oct 10, 2017
Researchers say ocean winds could power all of human civilization

If you have ever been to a beach anywhere, you know that the wind blows constantly onto the land from the water. Researchers published a report this week that claims there is so much wind energy potential over the oceans that it could be used to generate “civilization scale power.” The catch is that we would need to put ugly wind turbines all along the coast over huge areas of the sea.

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 scientists who conducted the research say that wind energy gathered from floating wind farms over very deep ocean waters could be the next big step for wind energy technology.

The study notes that wind energy gathered on land has an upper limit due to how structures on the land, both natural and manmade, can slow wind speeds. Land-based turbines themselves slow the air reducing the amount of energy subsequent rows of turbines can generate. The ocean, on the other hand, has a much higher limit.

Wind speeds on the ocean can be as much as 70% higher than on land. 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.

The study compares two theoretical wind farms with one centered on Kansas in the US measuring 2 million square kilometers. On land, that wind farm would be unable to power the U.S. and China. A wind farm of the same size over the North Atlantic could power those two countries and then some. The crux is the scientists found that the potential energy over the ocean is three times higher than land given the same area. We talked about the Sea Horse project last month that aimed to use the motion f the ocean, rather than wind, to generate electricity.

SOURCE: The Washington Post

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