In an effort to figure out the best areas to harvest wind energy, scientists from NASA's Earth Science Division have used several years of QuikSCAT satellite data to produce some pretty awesome looking wind power density maps. According to them, if the areas with high wind power-an average wind of greater than 30 knots (45 miles an hour)—were tapped, they could potentially supply 10 to 15 percent of the world's energy needs.
The maps are especially important as floating wind farms become more technologically possible. Ocean wind farms have less environmental impact than onshore wind farms and also tend to be more efficient, since winds are stronger over the water and there are no hills or mountains to block a heavy gust's path. Placed in the correct areas, the farms could harvest up to 500 to 800 watts of wind power per square meter.
One area with extremely high winds is located off the coast of Northern California near Cape Mendocino, where northernly zephyrs are deflected to create a local wind jet that blows year-round. Similarly, Tasmania in New Zealand and Tierra del Fuego in South America have the potential to utilize similar jets. [NASA via Treehugger]