Wind farms on Mars could power future astronaut bases
Although the air on Mars is thin, the winds there are strong enough to generate power that can support missions to the Red Planet, a new study finds.
The atmosphere on mars it’s very thin compared to Earth’s, possessing only about 1% of the density, so winds there only carry about 1% of the force of our planet. As such, researchers have long ignored wind power there as a viable source of power for missions.
“The biggest challenge for wind power on Mars is that even fast winds don’t have a lot of force,” Victoria Hartwick, a research scientist at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California, told Space.com.
However, recently scientists have focused on creating wind turbines that can operate in extreme locations and extract power from even slow winds. Both factors could be useful in the construction of useful wind turbines in MarsHartwick and his colleagues noted in a new study.
Related: Perseverance Mars rover discovers how demons and winds fill the skies of the Red Planet with dust
If wind power could prove useful on the Red Planet, it could play an important role that other forms of energy do not. For example, the amount of power from solar power varies throughout the day, seasons, and latitudes, and dust storms can prevent it from working. Though the nuclear energy can provide a continuous source of power, poses risks such as meltdowns and long-term waste disposal.
After wind resource analyst Clara St. Martin described state-of-the-art modeling techniques used to discover prime areas for wind turbines in landHartwick and his colleagues wanted to see what might happen if they applied similar methods to global models of the Martian climate.
The researchers found that they “could comprehensively assess the potential for wind power over the entire surface and year-round of Mars,” Hartwick said.
Hartwick and his colleagues calculated how much power four different wind turbines could generate on Mars. These included commercial-scale machines such as the 300-kilowatt Enercon E3, which has a 100-foot (33-meter) diameter rotor, and the 5-kilowatt Aeolos V, which has a 15-foot (4.5-meter) diameter. ) rotor.
The researchers found that Martian wind energy is maximized at night, revealing that it could help offset solar energy. Wind power was also strong during the dust storms and during winter seasons at polar and mid-latitudes, periods when solar energy is weakest. “We were able to identify 13 broad regions with stable wind resources,” Hartwick said.
The scientists found that of the 50 proposed landing sites on Mars, the wind speed at 40 of the sites could provide at least some useful power. At three sites, the wind speed could generate 24 kilowatts, enough to sustain a crew of six, for more than 35% of the year. In another seven, wind power can supply more than 50% of the total power needed during the winter months or in times of high dust. If wind power is needed only for scientific instruments, it could prove useful for 30 other sites.
In general, when combined with solar panels, wind turbines on Mars could increase the amount of time power exceeds estimated mission requirements from about 40% for solar panels alone to more than 60-90% when Wind power is used on a large fraction of the Martian surface.
“This means that some really scientifically interesting regions that might have been previously ignored due to power constraints could be accessible for human missions if wind turbines can be used,” Hartwick said.
The scientists encourage future research to investigate wind turbines that could operate efficiently in Martian conditions and extract more power from the Martian winds. “We really hope that many groups will use this research as a starting point for their own work,” Hartwick said.
The scientists detailed their findings (opens in a new tab) December 19 in the journal Nature Astronomy.
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