A study suggests that wind farms in open ocean environments may be able to sustain higher electricity generation rates than wind farms on land. Wind turbines on wind farms continuously convert kinetic energy from surface winds into electricity. By removing kinetic energy from wind, turbines reduce wind speed, constraining the rate of electricity generation in wind farms. Several past studies indicate that the rate of electricity generation for large wind farms on land may be limited to approximately 1.5 watts per square meter. Anna Possner and Ken Caldeira modeled the electricity generation rates of potential wind farms in open-ocean environments. The authors identified the North Atlantic as a region where annual electricity generation rates could average more than 6 watts per square meter, despite seasonal fluctuations. Furthermore, the simulations suggest that, in certain areas of the ocean, atmospheric circulation patterns over the ocean allow wind farms to tap into the kinetic energy reservoir of the entire overlying troposphere, as opposed to the limited kinetic energy available at the ocean surface, thereby sustaining rates of wind power generation three times higher than those observed on land. According to the authors, if commercial-scale open-ocean wind turbines could be produced, open-ocean wind farms that are spread across approximately 3 million square kilometers could meet the current annual global energy demand of 18 terawatts.
Article #17-05710: "Geophysical potential for wind energy over the open oceans," by Anna Possner and Ken Caldeira.