New study highlights big offshore wind opportunities in North Atlantic

Wind speeds are on average 70% higher over the Earth's oceans than over the land – but it's not quite that simple

Wind speeds are on average 70% higher over the Earth's oceans than over the land – but it's not quite that simple

Writing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, doctors Anna Possner and Ken Caldeira concluded: "On an annual mean basis, the wind power available in the North Atlantic could be sufficient to power the world". At onshore facilities, each turbine weakens the power generation potential of each additional turbine downwind of it in a phenomenon known as a "wind shadow".

Scientists have been wondering just how much power a wind turbine located far offshore could actually produce.

The study by the Carnegie Institution for Science at Stanford University in California has calculated a wind farm spanning three million square kilometres - roughly the size of India - and based in the North Atlantic ocean could generate "civilisation scale power".

As expected, the results showed a significant gap between land-based and sea-based wind energy.

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

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If humans could somehow find a way to install wind turbines on open oceans, they would be able to provide the world's entire power needs, according to a new study.

Using modeling tools, the team compared the productivity of large Kansas wind farms to theoretical massive open-ocean wind farms.

In tapping into wind as an energy source, the United States 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.

"Wind power generation over some ocean areas can exceed power generation on land by a factor of three or more" by leveraging far more atmospheric kinetic energy transported downwards over the oceans than is possible over land.

"The real question is", Caldeira continued, "can the atmosphere over the ocean move more energy downward than the atmosphere over land is able to?"

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In addition, the study identified that drag caused by wind turbines would not slow down winds in the North Atlantic Ocean as much as they would on land due to the large amount of heat that is released from the ocean into the atmosphere.

Interestingly, their research found that the tremendous amount of energy generated in their models was incredibly seasonal.

Wind power production in the deep waters of the open ocean is in its infancy of commercialization.

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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