"On an annual mean basis, the wind power available in the North Atlantic could be sufficient to power the world".
However, Possner and Caldeira's computer models, which compared the productivity of a large Kansas wind farm to an open-ocean equivalent, suggested that the drag introduced by turbines would not slow down winds as much as they do on land.
The study notes that wind energy gathered on land has an upper limit due to how structures on the land, both natural and manmade, can slow wind speeds.
Still, there's an overarching message in the study: Open oceans boast a huge potential for providing the world with an alternative energy source, and while covering all of Earth's oceans with wind turbines is remarkably impossible, it's still promising.
Finally, wind turbines need to be created to withstand high wind speeds.
In fact those ocean-based wind farms were able to generate as much as three times more energy than their land-based counterparts.
According to the research, the majority of energy captured by large wind farms originates high up in the atmosphere and is transported downwards to the surface where the turbines are able to generate the energy from the strong winds.
The study is backed by the grants from the Fund for Innovative Climate and Energy Research and the Carnegie Institution for Science. 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".
"The real question is", Caldeira continued, "can the atmosphere over the ocean move more energy downward than the atmosphere over land is able to?" However, during the summer months the same turbines would likely only produce enough power to support Europe or possibly the United States. Over land, those winds tend to stay up high, but over the ocean - and paticularly over the North Atlantic - surface warming of the seawater brings them down to within reach of the turbines. "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.
"Although 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", they write. This heats air and causes it to rise, which leads to low pressure cyclones that force the efficient transfer of kinetic energy from the upper atmosphere to the surface of the ocean.