Wind Energy from the Ocean Could Power the World

Recently, there was brand new research posted that claims the oceans have more wind energy potential that we could ever imagine. In fact, there are referring to it as “civilization scale power”. However, this statement comes with a few assumptions. We have to be willing install an enormous number of wind turbines into the sea, and secondly, we have to create ways to get them installed in harsh ocean environments.

Taking Wind Energy to the Next Level

It is not very likely that man could build open ocean turbines on anything with that scale. In fact, this might have an effect on the Earth’s climate according to the new research. However, the basic message here remains as recognizing that wind energy from open oceans has massive potential. This reinforces the notion that wind farms which float on top of extremely deep waters, may very well be a huge step in taking wind energy technology to the next level.

“I would look at this as kind of a greenlight for that industry from a geophysical point of view,” said Ken Caldeira from the Carnegie Institution for Science which is located in Stanford, Calif. This study, which was posted in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was directed by Carnegie scientist Anna Possner, who worked alongside of Caldeira.

Wind Energy Limitations

The study has also considered prior research which concluded that there is most likely an upper limit for the amount of wind energy a wind farm located on land can create. These limits are attributed to the fact that land structures create friction which will reduce the wind speed. This is also the case because an individual wind turbine will extract some of its wind energy transforms that into power that can actually be used. Thus, this leaves less energy for the other turbines to gather and collect.

“If each turbine removes something like half the energy flowing through it, by the time you get to the second row, you’ve only got a quarter of the energy, and so on,” reasoned Caldeira.

However, the ocean is totally different. To begin with, wind speeds on the open ocean could be up to 70 percent higher than those located on land. However, the encouraging part of all this is something called wind replenishment. This new study discovered that over mid-latitude oceans, storms constantly move very powerful wind energy downward to the ocean’s surface from higher altitudes. This means that this ocean wind energy upper limit is much higher.

“Over land, the turbines are just sort of scraping the kinetic energy out of the lowest part of the atmosphere, whereas over the ocean, it’s depleting the kinetic energy out of most of the troposphere, or the lower part of the atmosphere,” Caldeira pointed out.

The new study compared theoretical wind farms of almost 2 million square kilometers which were located either over the United States or located over the open Atlantic Ocean. And it found that even if we were to cover most of the central United States with wind farms, it would still not be enough to power China and U.S., which will require a capacity of around 7 terawatts annually (terawatt = trillion watts).

However the North Atlantic could possibly energize those two big countries and even a few more. The potential wind energy that could be collect from over the ocean is “at least three times as high.”