Is Santa more sustainable on a wind-propelled sleigh?

Christmas is the time to be merry – but it is also a time of significant energy consumption.

How wind energy could be Santa’s route to a sustainable Christmas

Shockingly, it turns out that Santa Claus himself is the worst culprit with scientists calculating that 9.3 million megawatts (MW) of energy would be needed to power his sleigh around the world on Christmas Eve.

Here, Vijay Madlani, CEO of greentech innovator Katrick Technologies, asks where renewable energy — specifically wind energy — can be used to power Santa’s sleigh more efficiently and sustainably this Christmas.

On Christmas day alone in the UK, households typically use £66 million, 402,000 megawatt hours (MWh) — or 402 gigawatt hours (GWh) — of electricity. To offer perspective, 1 GWh equals 1 million kilowatt hours (kWh), enough to power 876,000 households for one year according to Carbon Collective Investment. But this is nothing compared with the 9.3 million MW of energy needed to power Santa’s sleigh. By comparison, Three Gorges Dam in China, the biggest power plant in the world, generated nearly 104 million MWh of energy throughout the entirety of 2021 — roughly 0.28 MW in a single night.

Reindeer combustion

Why does Santa’s sleigh require so much energy? A helpful breakdown was offered by Shell Energy, based on the estimate that Saint Nicholas delivers presents to around 378 million children worldwide on Christmas Eve. Factoring in the rotation of the earth, Shell reports this would take Santa around 31 hours, requiring him to deliver gifts to over 822 houses per second — which would mean travelling at 3000 times the speed of sound!

Unfortunately, Santa’s mission also poses significant risks. Shell calculates that, if each child’s present weighs up to 2 pounds (lbs), then the cumulative weight would equal that of the Empire State Building. There is a significant danger that the “the weight and speed of the sleigh would cause the reindeer to burst into flames almost immediately.” So, to avoid combusting reindeer, can another source of energy be used?

Plenty of wind around at Christmas

Sustainability has become everybody’s obligation and that includes Santa Claus. Indeed, the climate will likely be a major concern for the North Pole resident, given its impact on the Artic ice. As a sustainable alternative could renewable energy be used to fuel Santa’s sleigh?

At present, the world’s largest wind turbine is the Goldwind GWH252-16MW located offshore from Fujian Province, China. The huge 252-metre diameter turbine set a world record in September 2023 when it produced 384.1 MWh of power in a single day — the most ever produced by a single turbine. This does, however, fall short of the 9.3 million MW needed to propel Santa around the world in a single night.

Multiple turbines might offer a solution. The world’s largest windfarm, Jiuquan Wind Power Base — also known as Gansu Wind Farm — located in the in the western Gansu province in China, has a planned capacity of 200,000 MW and will contain 7,000 wind turbines when construction has completed (3,500-turbines have been installed so far). If we use the formula to calculate MWh, which is MW x Hours, then Gansu Wind Farm could produce 6.2 million MWh in a duration equal to Santa’s 31 hour-mission. Based on this, 10,500 turbines would be needed to power his sleigh entirely.

CO2 savings

Embracing modular wind energy, such as Katrick Technologies’ innovative Wind Panel, presents a compelling solution for Santa’s sleigh and beyond. Unlike traditional wind turbines, modular systems often boast a smaller physical footprint, contributing to reduced environmental impact during manufacturing, transportation, and installation.

The Wind Panel’s use of oscillating aerofoils enables it to efficiently capture wind energy from low-level turbulent and gust winds, making it adaptable to the ground-level wind conditions Santa would encounter on his worldwide journey. This innovative design not only allows for quick responses to instantaneous changes in wind speeds but also addresses the potential challenges associated with large, stationary turbines that include disruptions to wildlife or failure to gain community acceptance.

Katrick Technologies’ modular Wind Panel, presents a compelling solution for Santa’s sleigh.

Katrick’s 10 kW Wind Panel can produce 21,900 kWh or 22MWh per year. Therefore, to power Santa’s sleigh, he would need 422,727 10 kW rated Wind Panel arrays at his home in the North Pole. Crucially from a sustainability perspective, this would also equate to 2,324,998.5 tonnes of CO2 being saved — 5.5 tonnes per Wind Panel — assuming Santa uses the UK energy mix to power his sleigh. According to the UK National Grid ESO’s analysis from 2022, the energy mix for the UK is made up as follows: 38.5 per cent gas, 26.8 per cent wind and 15.5 per cent nuclear.

By harnessing the power of modular wind energy, we not only propel Santa Claus into a more sustainable and efficient future. We can also pave the way for broader adoption of eco-friendly energy solutions worldwide for a merry, and sustainable, Christmas.