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Feb. 16, 2022, 1:54 p.m. EST · CORRECTED

Offshore wind farms could help capture carbon dioxide from the air to fight climate change

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By David Goldberg

A surplus of 825 gigawatt-hours of electrical energy a year may be expected as offshore wind farms expand in New York state. An earlier version said it was 825 megawatt-hours.

Off the Massachusetts and New York coasts, developers are preparing to build the nation’s first federally approved   utility-scale offshore wind farms —74 turbines in all that could power 470,000 homes. More than a dozen other offshore wind projects are  awaiting approval  along the Eastern Seaboard.

By 2030, the Biden administration’s goal is to have  30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy  flowing, enough to power more than 10 million homes.

Replacing fossil fuel-based energy with clean energy such as wind power  is essential to holding off the worsening effects of climate change . But that transition  isn’t happening fast enough  to stop global warming. Human activities have pumped so much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that we  will also have to remove carbon dioxide from the air  and lock it away permanently.

Offshore wind farms are uniquely positioned to do both—and save money.

As a  marine geophysicist , I have been exploring the potential for  pairing wind turbines with technology that captures carbon dioxide  directly from the air and stores it in natural reservoirs under the ocean. Built together, these technologies could  reduce the energy costs  of carbon capture and minimize the need for onshore pipelines, reducing impacts on the environment.

Capturing CO2 from the air

Several research groups and tech startups are  testing direct air capture devices  that can pull carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere.  The technology works , but the  early projects  so far are expensive and energy intensive.

The systems use  filters or liquid solutions that capture CO2  from air blown across them. Once the filters are full, electricity and heat are needed to release the carbon dioxide and restart the capture cycle.

For the process to achieve net negative emissions, the energy source must be carbon-free.

The  world’s largest active direct air capture plant  operating today does this by using waste heat and renewable energy. The plant, in Iceland, then pumps its captured carbon dioxide into the underlying basalt rock, where the CO2 reacts with the basalt and calcifies,  turning to solid mineral .

A similar process could be created with offshore wind turbines.

If direct air capture systems were built alongside offshore wind turbines, they would have an immediate source of clean energy from excess wind power and could pipe captured carbon dioxide directly to storage beneath the sea floor below, reducing the need for extensive pipeline systems.

Researchers are currently studying how these systems function  under marine conditions . Direct air capture is only beginning to be deployed on land, and the technology likely would have to be modified for the harsh ocean environment. But planning should start now so wind power projects are positioned to take advantage of carbon storage sites and designed so the platforms, subsea infrastructure and cabled networks can be shared.

<STRONG>Read more: <INTERNET LOCATION="EXTERNAL" URL="https://www.marketwatch.com/story/these-machines-pull-carbon-dioxide-from-the-air-and-lock-it-away-this-inventor-explains-how-that-works-11642606918?mod=the-conversation">These machines scrub greenhouse gases from the air—an inventor of direct air capture technology shows how it works</INTERNET></STRONG>

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