When we talk about wind energy, we don’t specifically mention ocean winds. But global satellite maps from NASA promise a new hope. Nearly a decade of data from NASA’s QuikSCAT satellite gives us hope that we can harness ocean’s wind for energy generation. These maps can help in locating and planning the offshore wind farms for producing electric energy.
QuikSCAT, was placed in the orbit in 1999. It is detecting the speed, direction and power of winds near the ocean surface. A specialized microwave radar instrument named SeaWinds is gathering data continuously for QuikSCAT. This data will also help in predicting storms and reducing the inaccuracy in weather forecasts.
It is estimated that wind energy has the potential to provide 10 to 15 percent of future world energy requirements. But If we can make use of ocean areas with high winds for wind energy, they could potentially generate 500 to 800 watts of energy per square meter. Though it is slightly less than solar energy (which generates about one kilowatt of energy per square meter), wind power can be converted to electricity more efficiently than solar energy and at a lower cost per watt of electricity produced.
It seems that floating wind farms in the open ocean will soon be a reality. A number of wind farms are already operating worldwide. Ocean wind farms have less environmental impact than onshore wind farms. Those onshore wind farms’ noise disturbs sensitive wildlife in their immediate vicinity. Another advantage of onshore wind farm is they have generally stronger currents over the ocean than on land because there is less friction over water to slow the winds down. One more positive aspect is – there are no hills or mountains to block the wind’s path.
Ideally, offshore wind farms should be situated in locales where winds blow continuously at high speeds. The new research discovers such areas and presents clarifications for the physical mechanisms that produce the high winds.
The new QuikSCAT maps, will be helpful to the shipping industry by highlighting areas of the ocean where high winds could be dangerous to ships, allowing them to steer clear of these areas.