David Goldberg – a geophysicist from Columbia University explains how long-term, offshore wind turbines could be paired with direct air capture (DAC) technology to take care of the excess CO2 in the atmosphere that the world emits every year.
As a marine geophysicist, Mr. Goldberg has been exploring the potential for wind turbines to power direct air capture with the energy that is excess and not needed from the grid. If direct air capture systems are built alongside offshore wind turbines, they would have an immediate source of clean energy. The CO2 they capture would then be stored directly underground thus reducing the need for extensive pipeline systems.
Researchers are now studying how DAC systems could function under marine conditions. Currently, it is only being deployed on land, so it would likely have to be modified for the harsh ocean environment.
The planning for integration, however, needs to start now so that wind power projects would be positioned to take advantage of carbon storage sites and designed so that the platforms, sub-sea infrastructure, and cabled networks could be shared.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, between 100 to 1,000 gigatons of carbon dioxide will have to be removed from the atmosphere over the century to keep global warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit). The US East Coast for example is estimated to have the capacity to store more than 500 gigatons of CO2. Therefore, there is more than enough storage capacity below the sea to take care of those emissions.
New York State is an example of how wind power could be paired with direct air capture. The state has a goal of having 9 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2035 that are expected to deliver 27.5 terawatt-hours of electricity per year.
Historical wind curtailment rates in the US also indicate that a surplus of 825 megawatt-hours of electrical energy per year may be expected taking into account the expansion of wind farms. Under the assumption that DAC’s efficiency continues to improve, the surplus energy could be used to capture and store around 0.5 million tons of CO2 per year.
Combining clean renewable energy sources like wind and carbon-negative technology like direct air capture seems like one of the most viable and innovative solutions. It does not only replaces fossil-fuel energy generation and thus stops emissions from entering the atmosphere but also takes away those already accumulated in order to mitigate the worst effects of climate change.