Research revealing ocean areas where winds could produce wind energy has been published in Geophysical Research Letters, funded by NASA's Earth Science Division, which works to advance the frontiers of scientific discovery about Earth, its climate and its future.
Scientists have been creating maps using nearly a decade of data from NASA's QuickSCAT satellite.
QuikSCAT, launched in 1999, tracks the speed, direction and power of winds near the ocean surface. Data from QuikSCAT, collected continuously by a specialized microwave radar instrument named SeaWinds, also are used to predict storms and enhance the accuracy of weather forecasts.
Wind energy has the potential to provide 10% to 15% of future world energy requirements, according to Paul Dimotakis, chief technologist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). If ocean areas with high winds were tapped for wind energy, they could potentially generate 500 W to 800 W of energy per square meter, according to Liu's research. Dimotakis notes that while this is slightly less than solar energy (which generates about 1 kW 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.