A new paper in the journal Nature Communications suggests that if we were able to harness water evaporation at commercial scale, we could generate power on par with wind or solar.

Ozgur Sahin’s paper presents a model that estimates harnessing the “evaporation energy” of small lakes in the US could theoretically provide the same amount of power as almost 70 per cent of what the country generated in 2015 and provide power densities three times that of wind power. The findings indicate the power available from this natural resource is comparable to wind and solar power, but it doesn’t suffer as much from varying weather conditions.

Almost half of the solar energy absorbed at the Earth’s surface drives evaporation – which affects ecosystems, water resources, weather, and climate. Recent studies show the ability to convert evaporation energy into work, yet there is little understanding on the availability, reliability and potential of this resource.

Scientists are still working on the technology to actually convert evaporation energy into usable electricity, but this study indicates that it could be the next big area for study.

Adapted from the original article at Gizmodo.