Researchers say ocean winds could power all of human civilization

Statoil's floating wind turbines surrounded by ships at dusk

The team claimed farms spread over approximately 3,000,000km- bigger than Argentina but a tiny fraction of the 107,000,000km Atlantic Ocean - could theoretically generate 18TW (terawatts), which they said is equivalent to total global energy demand. Now researchers from the Carnegie Institute for Science have published research suggesting that offshore wind turbines might be able to create enough energy to provide "civilization-scale power". In doing so, they found that the wind currents blowing over the area are capable of generating some 70 percent higher speed than those breezing over land.

On average, wind speeds are higher over ocean than over land.

Well new research from Carnegie's Anna Possner and Ken Caldeira suggests that this could in fact be possible and it's all thanks to wind. 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".

The pair set to work using modelling tools to compare the energy generation of a theoretical open-ocean wind farm with a wind farm in Kansas.

Which raises the question, would wind farms over the ocean suffer these same constraints or would the atmosphere be able to move more energy downward over the ocean?

Possner said: "We found that giant ocean-based windfarms are able to tap into the energy of the winds throughout much of the atmosphere, whereas windfarms onshore remain constrained by the near-surface wind resources". In recent years, a growing body of research argues that the rate of generated power is limited to around 1.5 W m within large wind farms. This heats air and causes it to rise, which leads to low pressure cyclones that force the efficient transfer of kinetic energy from the upper atmosphere to the surface of the ocean.

A massive deep-sea wind farm in the North Atlantic covering an area the size of India could potentially power the entire world, research has shown.

Interestingly, their research found that the tremendous amount of energy generated in their models was incredibly seasonal. That means, on an annual mean basis, the wind power available in the North Atlantic could be sufficient to power the world. The huge wind power resources identified by the Possner and Caldeira study provide strong incentives to develop lower-cost technologies that can operate in the open-ocean environment and transmit this electricity to land where it can be used.