Assessment of Wind Energy Resource Potential for Future Human Missions to Mars

Victoria Hartwick, Owen Toon, Julie Lundquist, Olivia Pierpaoli, Melinda Kahre

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus Citations

Abstract

Energy sustainability and redundancy for surface habitats, life support systems and scientific instrumentation represent one of the highest-priority issues for future crewed missions to Mars. However, power sources utilized for the current class of robotic missions to Mars may be potentially dangerous near human surface habitats (for example, nuclear) or lack stability on diurnal or seasonal timescales (for example, solar) that cannot be easily compensated for by power storage. Here, we evaluate the power potential for wind turbines as an alternative energy resource on the Mars surface. Using a state-of-the-art Mars global climate model, we analyse the total planetary Martian wind potential and calculate its spatial and temporal variability. We find that wind speeds at some proposed landing sites are sufficiently fast to provide a stand-alone or complementary energy source to solar or nuclear power. While several regions show promising wind energy resource potential, other regions of scientific interest can be discarded based on the natural solar and wind energy potential alone. We demonstrate that wind energy compensates for diurnal and seasonal reductions in solar power particularly in regions of scientific merit in the midlatitudes and during regional dust storms. Critically, proposed turbines stabilize power production when combined with solar arrays, increasing the percent time that power exceeds estimated mission requirements from ~40% for solar arrays alone to greater than 60-90% across a broad fraction of the Mars surface. We encourage additional study aimed at advancing wind turbine technology to operate efficiently under Mars conditions and to extract more power from Mars winds.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)298-308
Number of pages11
JournalNature Astronomy
Volume7
DOIs
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

See NREL/JA-5000-82380 for preprint as published on Research Square

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5000-84943

Keywords

  • atmospheric dynamics
  • human mission
  • inner planets
  • landing site
  • Mars
  • wind energy

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