Study shows North Atlantic wind farms could power the whole world

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

Vast wind farms in the North Atlantic could tap enough power to power the entirety of human civilisation, researchers have claimed.

Researchers at the Carnegie Institution for Science have discovered something rather remarkable about wind farms - we've apparently been doing it wrong. Land-based turbines themselves slow the air reducing the amount of energy subsequent rows of turbines can generate.

Still, there's an overarching message in the study: Open oceans boast a huge potential for providing the world with an alternative energy source, and while covering all of Earth's oceans with wind turbines is remarkably impossible, it's still promising.

The study found that such a enormous wind farm could capitalize on low-pressure systems throughout the winter which more efficiently combine the upper atmospheric winds with the surface level winds, producing greater yields in wind farm power generation potential.

"Are the winds so fast just because there is nothing out there to slow them down?" asks Ken Caldeira, co-author of the new study. This limit occurs, because on land many natural and human structures are present which creates friction and this eventually slows down the wind speed.

"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", said Caldeira, as The Washington Post reports.

The study used computer models which compared the total output of huge onshore wind farms in Kansas with the potential output of an equivalent-sized wind farm floating in the Atlantic ocean. This is largely due to the fact that large amounts of heat pouring out of the North Atlantic Ocean and into the overlying atmosphere, especially during the winter.

A new research paper boldly suggests that one monumental floating wind farm in the north Atlantic could theoretically power our entire civilization. The rate of electricity generation in large wind farms containing multiple wind arrays is, therefore, constrained by the rate of kinetic energy replenishment from the atmosphere above. "The advent of this innovative technology will allow us to harness powerful wind speeds at much greater depths".

This property of open ocean wind means operators could pack turbines closer together and generate more than 6W/mon average, the simulations found.

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