Ocean Wind Turbines More Powerful than Land Installations

A study by researchers at the Carnegie Institution for Science located in Stanford, California, suggests that enough energy for the entire civilization can be generated by harnessing wind power over the world’s oceans. This hypothetical situation would be achieved by installing and maintaining wind turbines across massive stretches of the oceans. While this is certainly an interesting prospect given critical concerns about nonrenewable fuel sources, it may not be feasible. Expenses and logistics aside, the massive grid created by wind turbine installations of this sort may contribute to climate change.

However, experts point out that the core findings of the study emphasize the geophysical potential of wind turbines on oceans over land installations of wind farms. Prior studies have shown that the energy generated from wind turbines on land and other physical structures may have a maximum limit. Friction from surrounding physical structures or masses may contribute to decreased wind speeds, affecting the amount of energy actually generated from the installation. Another factor imposing a limit on energy output would be the fact that the wind turbine itself uses up some of the energy to drive itself, leaving less wind energy for adjacent installations, resulting in declining energy down the line.

Apparently, this phenomenon is different for wind turbine farms installed over water. To begin with, wind energy over the oceans is higher by as much as 70 percent compared to wind speeds over land. Researchers found that on open oceans, surface drag is minimal while kinetic energy is enhanced by storms that continuously transfer high energy from higher altitudes closer to the ocean surface. As a result, wind energy potential is higher over the open oceans because winds are tapping into the kinetic energy in the troposphere. The study cited that it takes 7 trillion watts to power all of the U.S. and China. It would take 18 terawatts to power the entire world, which would require ocean installations covering 3 million square kilometers.