Wind Turbines Offer The Potential To Generate Electricity And Sequester Carbon Dioxide Simultaneously
Wind turbines offer the potential to generate electricity and sequester carbon dioxide simultaneously. Wind turbines, according to computer models, have been shown to pull polluted air from above a city or chimney into their wake. More carbon dioxide will reach the equipment that can extract it from the air.
At a conference of the American Physical Society's Division of Fluid Dynamics on November 21 in Indianapolis, the researchers aim to explain their simulations and a wind tunnel test of a scaled-down system.
Reducing the quantity of carbon dioxide people release into the atmosphere might help mitigate climate change, but it wouldn't be enough on its own. Direct air capture devices, which remove some CO2 from the atmosphere, might be a part of the answer.
However, the vast majority of the CO2 released by these types of facilities - factories, power plants, and urban areas - tends to be concentrated at heights that are inaccessible to ground-based equipment designed to remove it.
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Clarice Nelson, a mechanical engineer at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, says, "we’re looking into the fluid dynamics benefits of utilizing the wake of the wind turbine to redirect higher concentrations" down to carbon capture systems.
As big wind turbines that make power turn, they cause turbulence that pulls air down into their wakes, says Luciano Castillo, a mechanical engineer at Purdue. It is an effect that can make it possible to capture carbon dioxide, especially near big cities like Chicago.
Mechanical engineer Luciano Castillo, also of Purdue, explains that when enormous wind turbines whirl, they create turbulence that pushes air down into the wakes behind them. This effect may concentrate CO2 to a level that is easier to deal with, making capture a possible solution, especially near big cities like Chicago.
The beauty is that [around Chicago], you have one of the best wind resources in the region, so you can use the wind turbine to take some of the dirty air in the city and capture it. Wind turbines don’t require the cooling that nuclear and fossil fuel plants need. So not only are you producing clean energy, you are not using water.
- Luciano Castillo, mechanical engineer at Purdue University
Even with tax credits and potentially selling the CO2, there’s a huge gap between the value that you can get from capturing it and the actual cost that comes with powering capture with energy that comes from other sources. Our method would be a no-cost added benefit to wind turbine farms.
- Clarice Nelson, mechanical engineer at Purdue University
Nicholas Hamilton, a mechanical engineer at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo., who was not involved in the new studies, speculates that many factors, such as the interactions the turbine wakes have with water, plants, and the ground, will affect CO2 transport by real-world turbines.
Devices that can extract carbon dioxide straight from the air are now being tested by several universities and tech companies. The technique is effective, but current demonstration projects are both costly and power-hungry.
Filters or liquid solutions are used by the systems to remove the carbon dioxide from the air that is blasted over them. Once the filters are full, the carbon dioxide must be released, which requires electricity and heat. The procedure requires a carbon-free energy source to generate net zero emissions.
To do this, the biggest operational direct air capture facility in operation today makes use of waste heat and renewable energy. The Icelandic plant injects carbon dioxide into the rock underneath it, combining with the basalt to form a mineral called calcite. The use of wind turbines in offshore locations might facilitate a similar procedure.
If offshore wind turbines were paired with direct air capture systems, they could store collected carbon dioxide immediately under the sea bottom, eliminating the need for expensive pipeline infrastructure and providing an instantaneous supply of clean energy from surplus wind power. How these systems fare in maritime environments is now being investigated by scientists.
The use of direct air capture is only getting started on land, and any adaptations needed to make it work in the water would have to be substantial. But plans should be made now to ensure that wind power projects are built near places that store carbon and are set up so that platforms, subsea equipment, and cabled networks can be shared.
Offshore wind farms can help capture carbon dioxide in the air to cope with climate change.
Most of the CO2 created by humans may be found at high altitudes. Using turbines to direct the waste to the ground would make collecting it easier. Concentrating CO2 from urban and industrial sources in the turbulent wakes of wind turbines facilitates its removal from the atmosphere. Most cities, power plants, and industries that release CO2 do so at high altitudes, where scrubbers on the ground can't reach them.
The turbulence created by the rotation of giant wind turbines that generate electricity causes air to be drawn down into the wakes behind the rotors, which are heated and compressed. This effect may concentrate CO2 to a level that is easier to deal with, making CO2 capture a possible solution, especially near big cities like Chicago.