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Floating Ocean Wind Turbines Could Power The Entire World, Researchers Say

12 October 2017

In a statement to HuffPost UK, Emma Pinchbeck, RenewableUK's Executive Director said: "The UK is the world leader in offshore wind and we have just built the first floating wind farm off the coast of Scotland". 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".

However, it would enable people to access substantial amounts of energy and more effectively than onshore wind turbines.

Based on their results, the scientists determined that wind farms built in the area would have a higher maximum force than those on land. As Caldeira puts it: "Will sticking giant wind farms out there just slow down the winds so much that it is no better than over land?"

Doctors Anna Possner and Ken Caldeira from the Carnegie Institution for Science at Stanford University pointed out wind speeds over the ocean are on average 70 per cent higher than over land, the Independent reported. This limit occurs, because on land many natural and human structures are present which creates friction and this eventually slows down the wind speed. However, during the summer months the same turbines would likely only produce enough power to support Europe or possibly the United States.

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

By focusing on the North Atlantic, Possner and Caldeira found that the drag introduced by wind turbines would not slow winds down as much as they do on land, due largely to the tremendous amounts of heat pouring out of the North Atlantic Ocean into the upper atmosphere - especially during the winter. "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", says the abstract of the article. This contrast in surface warming along the USA coast drives the frequent generation of cyclones or low-pressure systems, that cross the Atlantic and are very efficient in drawing the upper atmosphere's energy down to the height of the turbines. That means, on an annual mean basis, the wind power available in the North Atlantic could be sufficient to power the world.

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.

Floating Ocean Wind Turbines Could Power The Entire World, Researchers Say