Scientists from the Carnegie Institution of Science released a paper in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) of the United States of America” stating that offshore wind turbines could provide enough energy to power the world. Researchers used simulations comparing hypothetical large wind farms in Kansas and the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean and found the latter produced three times as much energy as the land-based windfarm.
Scientists Claim That Offshore Wind Could Power the World
After getting such results from their simulations, researchers Anna Possner and Ken Caldeira sought explanations. Earlier research had already established that there was an upper limit to the amount of energy that land-based wind farms could produce. Obstacles like mountains or tall buildings cause friction that slows down the wind. The turbines extract energy from the wind to convert into electricity, leaving less energy for neighboring turbines to collect and slowing the wind further.
As there are fewer obstacles at sea, the wind’s speed can be as much as 70 percent higher than that of wind on land. In addition, storms replenish the wind’s energy by transferring energy from high altitudes to the surface. As a result, off-shore turbines can collect far more energy than those based on land.
In the simulation, the researchers compared the abilities of the two hypothetical wind farms to produce sufficient energy for both the US and China. They found the land-based wind farm could produce enough to power one country, but not both. The North Atlantic windfarm, by contrast, could power both countries – and have some energy left over. The researchers then ran a simulation to determine how big an off-shore wind farm would have to be in order to produce the 18 terawatts (18 trillion watts) needed to power the world, and they found the off-shore wind farm would need to cover three million square kilometers, an area bigger than Greenland.
The researchers admit that we do not currently have the technology to install a wind farm in the deep ocean – but we can and have installed them in shallow waters. The Norwegian company Statoil is already experimenting with deep-water facilities by constructing a floating wind farm off Scotland’s coast.
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