When dust storms hit Mars, could wind power keep the lights on? Here is the last answer

10/01/2022
Credit: NASA
Credit: NASA

When dust storms hit Mars, could wind power keep the lights on? A question you probably didn't think there was an answer to so far, given that we don't live on Mars, so we've never experienced this. But science continues to amaze us and it has an answer to this question as well. Dust storms are known to dominate Mars, can cause spacecraft landing, gear problems, and block the sun that powers solar panels. Not only can these storms cause problems, but they can also cause serious property damage, such as the NASA rover, Opportunity, which was destroyed by these storms. 

Vera Schorbach, a professor of wind energy at the University of Applied Sciences in Hamburg, Germany, was one of the only professors to think about what would happen if we installed wind turbines on Mars. They may or may not harness the power of storms? If so, could it replace the solar panels on Mars? These questions are still being studied and some logical answers have been found, but they are being analyzed to see if they are possible. 

The studies are based on the speed of the wind and dust storm picked up by the NASA Viking 2 landing many years ago, more precisely in 1976 when it landed on Mars. Decades have passed since then, and in addition, Viking 2 was not as developed as the rovers that are now on Mars, so the data may differ slightly. NASA even said that the data collected by new spacecraft that have arrived or are approaching the red planet are much better and show much more than those collected about 50 years ago. However, if there are differences between the data, they are usually small, without affecting the research. 

As some wind energy companies are trying to find the perfect places on Earth to install these wind turbines, so Schorbach looked for the right places on Mars. She made a fairly detailed assessment of the "perfect" place and during this time, she also analyzed the wind speeds in those places relative to the size of the storm and discovered something that might surprise you. It was found that the wind speed does not depend on the storm, on the contrary, when there are storms, the winds have a very low speed and the strongest winds are when there are no storms. 

In addition, she confirmed that the wind has a high speed only during the day, and it is no longer at night. This is due to the tiny atmosphere of Mars, which allows much of the wind to be driven by the Sun. 

The American Institute of Physics told Inside Science that in order to provide water cleaning, heating, oxygen generation, and other services needed by a crew of five or six astronauts, there should be an energy of 80 kilowatts of power only then. The institute also said that a major obstacle to making this possible on Mars is the very thin atmosphere of Mars. Because of this, we should create (for the required energy) three turbines with a rotor diameter of 50 meters - a size that is not feasible.

"You would need a large crane to assemble it, you would need large structures to transport it," Schorbach said. If you used rotors with 10-meter diameters, you would need 142 turbines. "This was a bit disappointing because you would really need a large number of turbines," she continued. "No starship wants to transport this."

We have to keep hoping! Even though our Earth's turbines probably do not go to Mars, they are researchers and scientists who have already begun to analyze and research what it would be like to create airborne wind energy systems that behave practically like kites. Would it go to Mars? There is no definite answer to this yet, so we are still waiting. 

We wish success to the researchers and scientists studying this project! 

Article by: Andacs Robert Eugen, on 10 January 2022, at 10:15 am Los Angeles time

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