Wind power on Mars is feasible, a new study suggests

Martian conditions simulated at the Aarhus Wind Tunnel Simulator II at Aarhus University in Denmark

Researchers demonstrated a small, lightweight wind turbine under simulated Martian atmospheric conditions, at the Aarhus Wind Tunnel Simulator II at Aarhus University in Denmark.

Those trials were held in the fall of 2010. The study team reported follow-up findings, and a strong take-home message, in a paper presented at the Mars Workshop on Amazonian and Present Day Climate, which was held last week in Lakewood, Colorado

“For now, we can say for the first time and with certainty, that, YES, you can use wind power on Mars!” the researchers, led by Christina Holstein-Rathlou of Boston University’s Center for Space Physics, wrote in the study.

The objective of the wind turbine investigations was to see how much power is produced under realistic Martian atmospheric conditions.

Standard power sources wouldn’t work well for future possible robotic missions to the polar regions of Mars, Holstein-Rathlou and her colleagues noted. Solar cells would have limited or no sunlight for roughly half the year, and the heat expunged by a radioisotope thermoelectric generator (the device that powers NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover and many other deep-space explorers) or similar devices would be detrimental to any science performed in a polar region.

A different possible power source is a wind turbine along with a battery for storing produced electricity, potentially in combination with solar cells, the researchers said.