A new study has concluded that if humans built turbines in the open ocean, they could generate more energy than they already do in the land. In fact, if humanity decides one day to construct hundreds of these turbines despite the environment of the sea, this energy could be used to generate “civilization scale power.”

In a paper published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the researchers, Carnegie’s Anna Possner and Ken Caldeira, suggest that wind turbines could get five times more energy that turbines over land can generate. It would be a great and unique opportunity if one day humans find the way to appropriately place these wind turbines and find new sources of renewable energy.

It is unknown if the winds in the ocean could work to convert and increase the amounts of electricity. What is sure is that wind farms in the sea could generate way much more power than over land.

Around 70 percent more energy generated in the ocean

Previous research suggests that there’s an actual upper limit of energy that wind turbines can produce. Due to the natural and human structures on land, the wind strikes, and losses speed and power. Also, every wind turbine takes part of the energy it generates to transform it into electricity we can use — leaving less energy for the turbine to collect.

Wind farms generate more power, Offshore wind power renewable energy
An offshore wind farm. Image credit: Shutterstock

Possner and Caldeira’s sophisticated modeling tools compared a theoretical wind farm of over 2 million square kilometers located over the U.S. (centered on Kansas) to another farm located in the open Atlantic Ocean. The researchers concluded that even if they built a farm so large to cover the entire lands of central US, it wouldn’t reach the enough amount of energy the US and China need – which is around seven terawatts annually, understanding that a terawatt is equivalent to a trillion watts.

“I would look at this as kind of a greenlight for that industry from a geophysical point of view,” said Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, California. “If each turbine removes something like half the energy flowing through it, by the time you get to the second row, you’ve only got a quarter of the energy, and so on.”

The researchers assured that when there’s a storm in the ocean, the winds in the higher altitudes pass through the mid altitudes and transfer powerful energy to the winds on the surface. Thus, increasing the upper limit of energy a wind turbine can generate by at least 70 percent.

“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 reported by The Washington Post.

However, it would be very difficult –if not impossible– for us to create turbines in the open sea due to the hard and unpredictable environment in the ocean. In fact, the researchers said this could even affect Earth’s climate.

Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences