Wind turbines can blunt hurricane damage

Recall we just had the story about the wild and crazy idea about preventing tornadoes with giant walls. Turns out you actually CAN dull the impact of a hurricane. But, it also comes at a ridiculous cost.

Offshore wind farms can tame hurricanes, study finds.

Billions of dollars in U.S. damage from mega-storms Katrina and Sandy might have been avoided with a perhaps surprising device — wind turbines.

That’s the finding of a ground-breaking study today that says mammoth offshore wind farms can tame hurricanes rather than be destroyed by them. It says a phalanx of tens of thousands of turbines can lower a hurricane’s wind speed up to 92 mph and reduce its storm surge up to 79%.

Unlike sea walls, which protect cities from storm surges, wind farms pay for themselves by generating pollution-free electricity, says lead author Mark Jacobson, an engineering professor at Stanford University. “The additional hurricane (protection) benefit is free.”

There are currently NO offshore wind farms in the U.S. as in other countries. Turbines remove energy from the wind. Although they may be susceptible to hurricane damage, they can harness part of the massive energy from them. However, building the tens of thousands of wind turbines in order to achieve this result is cost prohibitive. But, at least it’s a promising idea.

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  3 comments for “Wind turbines can blunt hurricane damage

  1. Graham
    February 27, 2014 at 9:29 PM

    I think that it would be a wonderful idea, then I think of all the hoops the environmentalists would force the builders to go through to protect the birds, fish and above all the hurricanes from the rapacious hands of man….

    • eddi
      February 28, 2014 at 7:25 AM

      I think, like the anti-tornado walls mentioned elsewhere, the number and cost of the windmills would defeat the effort to make the idea work. Also one study does not make a useful conclusion. In both cases we are dealing with hope not reality. Decent levees and water diversion projects are proven lifesavers – lets focus money on them. As well as improving post hurricane rescue responses.

  2. Joni
    February 28, 2014 at 10:59 AM

    Unfortunately wind turbines tend to go into stall mode once the wind speed picks up a bit too much. In survival mode they may not be producing ( or stopping) any energy at all…. just trying to prevent damage to the mechanism.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_turbine_design:
    “A wind turbine is designed to produce a maximum of power at wide spectrum of wind speeds. All wind turbines are designed for a maximum wind speed, called the survival speed, above which they do not survive. The survival speed of commercial wind turbines is in the range of 40 m/s (144 km/h, 89 MPH) to 72 m/s (259 km/h, 161 MPH). The most common survival speed is 60 m/s (216 km/h, 134 MPH).”

    Add to that that to be viable for a wind farm ($$$$) the wind needs to be fairly constant 10 – 30 mph which may not happen in areas prone to hurricanes.

    Joni

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