Wind farms on Mars could power future astronaut bases
A new study finds that although the air on Mars is thin, the winds there are strong enough to generate energy that could support missions to the Red Planet.
The atmosphere on Mars is very thin compared to Earth’s, only about 1% thick, so the winds there only carry about 1% of our planet’s force. As such, researchers have long ignored wind power there as a vital source of energy for missions.
“The biggest challenges with wind power on Mars is that even fast winds don’t carry a lot of force,” Victoria Hartwick, a research scientist at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California, told Space.com.
Recently, however, scientists have focused on creating wind turbines that can operate in extreme locations and extract power even from slow winds. Both factors may be useful for building useful wind turbines on Mars, Hartwick and her colleagues point out in a new study.
Related: The Perseverance rover on Mars is discovering how demons and winds fill the sky of the Red Planet with dust
If wind energy proves beneficial on the Red Planet, it may play important roles that other forms of energy do not. For example, the amount of energy from solar energy varies throughout the day, the seasons, and across latitudes, and dust storms can prevent it from working. Although nuclear power can provide a continuous source of energy, it has risks such as placing radioactive materials near human habitats and long-term waste disposal.
After wind resource analyst Clara St. Martin described recent modeling techniques used to discover key regions for wind turbines on Earth, Hartwick and her colleagues wanted to see what might happen if they applied similar methods to global models of Martian climate. .
The researchers found that they “can assess wind energy potential comprehensively across the entire surface and throughout the entire Martian year,” Hartwick said.
Hartwick and his colleagues calculated the amount of energy that four different wind turbines might generate on Mars. These included commercial-sized machines such as the 300-kilowatt Enercon E3, which had a 100-foot (33 m) diameter rotor, and the five-kilowatt Aeolos V engine, which had a 15-foot (4.5 m) diameter. ) vertigo.
The researchers found that the energy of the Martian wind doubles at night, revealing that it can help offset solar energy. Wind power has also been strong during global dust storms and during polar and mid-latitude winters, the periods when solar power is weakest. “We were able to identify 13 large areas with stable wind resources,” Hartwick said.
Scientists have discovered that of the 50 proposed Mars landing sites, wind speeds at 40 could provide at least some useful energy. At three locations, it can generate 24 kilowatts of wind—enough to support a team of six—for more than 35% of the year. In another seven, wind energy can provide more than 50% of the total energy needed both during the winter months and during times of dust. If wind power is only needed for scientific instruments, it could be useful for 30 other sites.
Overall, when combined with solar arrays, wind turbines on Mars could increase the amount of time power exceeds estimated mission requirements from about 40% for solar arrays alone to more than 60 to 90% when wind power is used across much of the Martian surface. .
“This means that some scientifically interesting areas that may have previously been overlooked due to energy limitations may be available for human missions if wind turbines can be used,” Hartwick said.
Scientists encourage future research to investigate wind turbines that may operate efficiently under Martian conditions and extract more energy from the Martian winds. “We really hope that many groups will use this research as a starting point for their own work,” said Hartwick.
Scientists explain in detail their findings (Opens in a new tab) Dec. 19 in Nature Astronomy.
Follow us on Twitter @employee (Opens in a new tab) or on Facebook (Opens in a new tab).
#Wind #farms #Mars #power #future #astronaut #bases