Windmills On Mars

I have built several working, power generating windmills in various configurations, including horizontal and vertical. I have experimented with low and high velocity wind designs. My pet project is the high velocity, low density, vertical windmill that would be useful on Mars. It is difficult to test here on Earth, so I have to cheat by reducing surface area of the vanes, while maintaining mass and weight. Note that the low Martian gravity does not change the effects of mass, which are especially problematic in start-up, and especially useful in momentum.
The Martian atmosphere has some interesting characteristics. Although about 1/100th as dense as the Earth’s atmosphere at ground level, it is still dense enough at 100km for aero-braking. Although much less dense, it sometimes moves at relatively high velocity (200mph) for extended periods of time. That is how such a light atmosphere can create global dust storms that last for several months. The purpose of studying wind generation for Mars is that, during these periods of high wind velocity, the sunlight is blocked. In other words, when the sunlight is blocked the wind is available, and when the wind dies down, the sunlight is available. Between the sunlight and the wind, naturally generated power should be available most of the time.
BTW, vertical wind generators (on Earth) have always suffered from efficiency problems and structural difficulties. The lighter gravity on Mars helps in the structural problems. The purpose of the vertical design is to eliminate some of the complexity inherent in aiming horizontal wind generator, and to produce a generator that is relatively maintenance free and requires no operator.
One more point. The powered start-up required for the most efficient vertical designs, should fit in well with a relatively constant, long lasting wind.
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Community Manager
Oct 10, 2019
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For a pet project, that's pretty fascinating. Mars seems to be a great place to naturally produce energy from the wind and sun (very interesting note on the windmill always having either wind or solar).
The biggest problem with windmills on mars is that the power available is a function of the wind speed and the mass of the air moved. It's a MV^2 sort of thing.
Martian wind speeds are quite comparable to wind speeds on Earth at the surface of both bodies. However, the mass of the air on Mars is quite low because it's only got a pressure of 1% of Earths.
A quick estimate then would be that you will only get 1% of the energy you might get on Earth from the same turbine.
That's wrong however because the air on Mars is mostly carbon dioxide, so has half again the mass of our nitrogen/oxygen mix. Also, pressure and mass are related by a complex formula that is not purely linear. So you are most likely to get only around a fiftieth of the amount of power you would get from the same turbine on Earth. This estimate is not accurate, but does give a feel for the problem.
That's why NASA hasn't attempted to power any rovers using wind turbines on Mars. The are looking at one for Venus.