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A Brazilian wind: measuring energy potential
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5 December 2007

Sensing Our Planet: NASA Earth Science Research Features now available

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by Stephanie Renfrow
August 18, 2008

Researchers discover that coastal winds could help change Brazil's energy portfolio.

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People often picture wind turbines rooted in waving fields of golden grass in rural landscapes, but wind turbines can also stand in the waves of coastal waters. Off-shore wind energy is more than just clean and economical; like land-based wind energy, winds over the ocean can often be faster and fluctuate less, leading to higher and more sustained output. Offshore wind sites tend to be naturally close to the large coastal population centers that need their power, and they do not have to compete with real estate for valuable land. Plus, offshore wind technology is a proven renewable energy source. Willette Kempton, a professor at the University of Delaware, said, "Offshore wind power is particularly attractive because the resource is large and current technology is ready for implementation now."

So if wind energy is poised to provide the world with clean power, why are turbines not up and spinning along every coastline? Developers need solid assessments of coastal wind energy potential before they can consider a new wind project, and that information can be hard to get using traditional ground-based tools. In an effort to help assess wind energy potential, Kempton and his colleagues are using an unexpected tool: satellite data. Their latest project focuses on the undulating coastline of Brazil.

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Author: Laura Naranjo
NASA Official: Jeanne Behnke
Last Updated: 18 August 2008
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