This proven technology could prevent a future energy crisis on Mars


If we end up colonizing Mars, we can almost certainly count on us running our homes on clean, sustainable energy. Most experts will tell you that solar power will be the way to go; hell, even nuclear, despite the risks, is seen as a more viable option. But as it turns out, one day we may see wind farms dotting the red, barren landscape as far as the eye can see.

According to a new study conducted by NASA scientists and published on December 19 Nature astronomy, Martian winds could be a reliable source of energy on the Red Planet and perhaps even provide the opportunity to explore and settle new locations we didn’t previously think possible. By itself, the paper doesn’t fundamentally change the way we think about potential Martian habitats, but it does add a new layer to the contemplation of how human communities might diversify their energy needs to thrive on Mars in the distant future.

‘Wind energy represents a stable and sustained energy resource over large portions of the surface of Mars,’ the authors wrote. “We find that wind speeds at some proposed landing sites are high enough to provide a source of energy that is autonomous or complementary to solar or nuclear power.”

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The wind has previously been an ignored and largely under-studied part of Mars. After all, it’s harder to study using Earth-based telescopes and Martian orbiters. Recently, however, scientists have been able to actually observe and even to listen to the winds blowing on the planet thanks to the wave of rovers that NASA has sent to Mars.

Armed with this new data, the new study uses climate modeling to determine how much total wind potential exists on the Red Planet, as well as determine how this varies over time and across regions.

This type of modeling is not only important for understanding Mars’ climate, but also for how we can use it to power future colonies. Having multiple energy sources can greatly increase the chances of a successful long-term mission to the planet. The sun isn’t going anywhere, but having redundancy is important in case something breaks or fails at any given moment.

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But the most interesting aspect of the study has to do with water. If humans want to settle on Mars, they must do so in places where it is easy to collect water through ice reserves, which are more readily available near the north and south poles. These places also receive less sunlight than equatorial regions (just like on Earth). So the NASA team set out to find out if wind power could help compensate for the difference near the poles.

And what they found is that in several locations, “average annual wind energy exceeds available solar energy by up to 3.4 times.” Notably, these locations include the northern regions of Deuteronilus Mensae and Protonilus Mensae, where arrays of wind turbines a couple of hundred feet high could be erected without too much trouble.

All of this anticipates the fact that humans have yet to actually set foot on Mars. We haven’t even gone back to the moon yet. But people are hoping to avoid flooding Mars with the same kind of energy squabbles and constraints we’re currently dealing with on Earth. Planning ahead with several different technologies could save us from a lot of trouble down the road.

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