Geophysical potential for wind energy over the open oceans

Last modified: 
December 16, 2019 - 12:00pm
Type: Journal Article
Year of publication: 2017
Date published: 10/2017
Authors: Anna Possner, Ken Caldeira
Journal title: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Pages: 201705710
ISSN: 0027-8424

Wind turbines continuously remove kinetic energy from the lower troposphere, thereby reducing the wind speed near hub height. 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. In recent years, a growing body of research argues that the rate of generated power is limited to around 1.5 W m−2 within large wind farms. However, in this study, we show that considerably higher power generation rates may be sustainable over some open ocean areas. In particular, the North Atlantic is identified as a region where the downward transport of kinetic energy may sustain extraction rates of 6 W m−2 and above over large areas in the annual mean. Furthermore, our results indicate that the surface heat flux from the oceans to the atmosphere may play an important role in creating regions where sustained high rates of downward transport of kinetic energy and thus, high rates of kinetic energy extraction may be geophysical possible. While no commercial-scale deep water wind farms yet exist, our results suggest that such technologies, if they became technically and economically feasible, could potentially provide civilization-scale power.

Freely available?: 
Yes
Summary available?: 
No