Large Offshore Wind Farms Could Soften Blow from Hurricanes, Study Says

26 Feb 2014:
Large Offshore Wind Farms
Could Soften Blow of Hurricanes, Study Says

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Nature Climate Change

Hurricane Katrina wind speeds at landfall

Offshore wind farms with thousands of wind turbines could have sapped much of the power of hurricanes Sandy, Katrina, and Isaac, significantly slowing their wind speeds, decreasing their accompanying storm surges, and possibly preventing billions of dollars in damages, according to a new study. Computer models used in the study said that deploying tens of thousands of offshore wind turbines could absorb enough energy from a hurricane to reduce peak wind speeds by 56 to 92 mph and storm surges by 6 to 79 percent. “We found that when wind turbines are present, they slow down the outer rotation winds of a hurricane,” said Stanford engineer Mark Jacobson, who led the research. “This feeds back to decrease wave height … which in turn slows the winds of the entire hurricane and dissipates it faster.” For Hurricane Katrina, a massive turbine array could have slowed wind speeds by 58 percent and storm surge by 79 percent, and for Sandy wind speeds could have been cut by 14 percent and storm surge by 34 percent, according to findings published in Nature Climate Change. The authors note that costs and public resistance could impede the prospects of large offshore wind farms, but long-term benefits, including decreasing storm damage costs and CO2 emissions, should outweigh those factors.