Scientists at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California, analysed the total planetary Martian wind potential using a cutting-edge Mars global climate model and discovered that wind speeds at certain proposed landing sites are fast enough to provide a “stand-alone” or “complementary” energy source to solar or nuclear power.
“It’s really exciting that by combining potential wind power with other sources of energy, we open up large parts of the planet to explore and to these really scientifically interesting zones that the [scientific] community may have previously discredited due to energy requirements,” said Victoria Hartwick, a research scientist at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California.
On Mars, wind power may easily complement solar arrays
Due to Mars’s relatively thin atmosphere in comparison to the Earth’s, researchers had previously dismissed wind energy as a potential source of energy for upcoming missions.
“The most difficult obstacle for wind energy on Mars is that even rapid winds don’t carry a lot of force,” Hartwick told Space.com.
Despite its low atmospheric density, wind power is unusually considerable, according to simulations of wind turbine power output demonstrations across parts of the Mars surface. This may easily serve as a backup for solar arrays, supplying electricity at night and during significant dust storms.
Recently developed wind turbines that can generate power from sluggish winds and operate in remote and harsh environments may one day be helpful on Mars.
13 regions were found with stable wind resources
Hartwick and his colleagues used information about Mars, including complex details about its landscape, heat energy, dust levels & solar radiation, at different levels in the originally designed global climate model for Earth. The same model was used to stimulate different wind speeds across the planet at different times of the day and night, seasons and even years.
They assessed how much electricity four different wind turbines could create on Mars, including the 300-kilowatt Enercon E3, which has a 100-foot-diameter (33-meter) rotor, and the 5 kilowatt Aeolos V, which has a 15-foot-diameter (4.5-meter) rotor.
Martian power was highest at night, which meant it could readily compensate for solar power. Wind power was seen to be strong during dust storms and throughout the winter seasons. “We were able to find 13 broad zones with stable wind resources,” Hartwick told Space.com.
Incredibly surprising findings that require further research
It was discovered that 40 of the 50 potential Martian landing sites had wind speeds that may provide some power. According to Space.com, at three locations, the wind speeds may provide 24 kilowatts for more than 35% of the year, which would be enough to power a six-crew team.
At the other seven sites, wind power could provide more than 50 percent of the total energy needed during winter or dust storms. Even if wind energy is only used for scientific instruments, it could be used for 30 sites.
Future research will be needed to investigate the kind of wind turbines that can run smoothly under Martian conditions.