Rapidly varying electric fields inside dust storms have been observed and studied for years. The winds in the strongest Martian storms reach 60 miles per hour.
Can we generate electricity from Martian sandstorms? If so can it be used for powering colonies?
2$\begingroup$ There's probably more electrostatic than mechanical energy in those sandstorms. While the speed is high, the air is so thin that there's not much inertia to harness. $\endgroup$– Chris B. BehrensJan 27, 2021 at 17:01
3$\begingroup$ First, Mars doesn't have sandstorms, it has dust storms...particle size is around 3 microns, the finest sand is about 62.5 microns. Mars dust is more like particularly fine silt. Second, how does a global storm every few years that just coats everything in a thin layer of very fine dust equate to "unlimited energy"? $\endgroup$– Christopher James HuffJan 27, 2021 at 17:51
2$\begingroup$ The fact that it's DUST storms, per se, makes the prospect of electrostatic energy greater than if it were sandstorms. But I don't have any grasp on the order of magnitude of the energy here... $\endgroup$– Chris B. BehrensJan 27, 2021 at 17:58
1$\begingroup$ The thinner atmosphere will limit things to much lower voltages (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paschen%27s_law )...if atmospheric fields were practically harvestable, Earth would be better suited for it. But even on Earth, storms are too intermittent and unreliable to use as power sources. $\endgroup$– Christopher James HuffJan 27, 2021 at 18:32
2$\begingroup$ Windspeed is the analogy to voltage; particle density is analogous to current. So given the low density of Martian atmosphere (and the dust), the total power is still very low. $\endgroup$– Carl WitthoftJan 28, 2021 at 12:30
It is possible to generate electricity from Martian dust storms in the sense that you can get a non-zero amount of energy from it. However, the energy available, particularly from the method you specified, is very little and most definitely not enough to power a colony. On top of that, dust storms are by no means frequent enough to sustain any sort of significant amount of power, even with perfectly efficient batteries. Even on earth, generating electricity from thunderstorms is wildly impractical, without the challenges of trying to do this in space.
Sources and further reading: Wikipedia: Atmosphere of Mars NASA article on electricity withing Martian dust storms
Yes, it is possible. When everything is taken in to account, you can get a modest amount of wind power on Mars. The thicker atmosphere takes away some of the penalty, and the generally higher wind velocities. It could be an important backup power source for when there is no solar power available.
It will follow the traditional wind power model, however, and not somehow using electricity moving through the storm or something like that.
The use of wind energy was considered by Soviet engineers as one of the ways of long-term autonomous functioning of rovers on planets with an atmosphere.