News / Science & Technology

    Study: Off-shore Wind Farms Tame Hurricanes

    (FILE) Offshore windmills in the North Sea near the village of Blavandshuk near Esbjerg, Denmark.
    (FILE) Offshore windmills in the North Sea near the village of Blavandshuk near Esbjerg, Denmark.
    Rosanne Skirble
    Wind energy is one of the fastest growing sources of new electricity around the world. In 2012, global wind energy capacity grew by 19 percent, with more than 150,000 turbines operating in 90 countries.

    Now a new study suggests offshore turbines could have an additional environmental benefit: weakening the power of hurricanes.

    Over several decades, Stanford University's Mark Jacobson has developed a complex computer model to study air pollution, energy, weather and climate. The engineering professor recently used it to address a nagging question facing the renewable energy industry: could hurricane force winds destroy offshore windmills?

    “The first thought I had was, well maybe the turbines would extract enough power from the hurricane to diminish the hurricane, but I couldn’t prove that yet, unless I ran some numerical simulations,” he said.

    Off-shore Wind Farms Can Tame Hurricanes
    Off-shore Wind Farms Can Tame Hurricanesi
    || 0:00:00
    ...    
     
    X

    So, Jacobson, co-author of the study in Nature Climate Change, ran the numbers on three of the most powerful hurricanes to hit the U.S. East and Gulf coasts in recent years. The model simulated what would happen if large wind farms with tens of thousands of turbines had been in the path of those storms.

    “We found that the hurricanes would be dissipated quite a bit if you have large arrays of offshore wind turbines," Jacobson said. "The storm surge could be reduced by up to 79 percent and wind speeds by 50 percent or even more.”

    The resulting milder winds would also prevent damage to the turbines. Jacobson explains that as the hurricane approaches, the spinning blades remove energy from the storm’s edge and slow down the wind behind it. That slowdown in turn would lower wave height and reduce the winds that push those waves toward the coast.

    “So by the time the hurricane gets to shore, it’s significantly weakened," he said. "And storm surge is due to winds going long distance over the water, and the storm surge is reduced quite a bit as well," Jacobsen said. "So [there are] these two benefits, reduced wind and reduced storm surge, due to the large arrays of offshore turbines.”

    New research shows that an offshore wind farm could have weakened Hurricane Katrina, the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history, which devastated New Orleans.New research shows that an offshore wind farm could have weakened Hurricane Katrina, the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history, which devastated New Orleans.

    Storm surge leads to flooding and death, says University of Delaware professor Cristina Archer, a co-author of the study. She says barrier walls or islands buffer storm surge, but, the study shows turbines can also play a role.

    “We thought we could actually act on the wind, which is the driving force of the storm surge," she said. "So by reducing the wind, you are actually reducing the storm surge dramatically.”
     
    Archer suggests locating wind farms in offshore hot spots where they could tap the wind for electricity, offsetting fossil fuel use and its resulting emissions and pollution. They could also act as insurance against storm damage, as the study simulations demonstrate.

    “If you can be smart about it, then you can have still very, very high benefits and locally. So, for example, for [Hurricane] Katrina, we placed the turbines just up wind of New Orleans," she said. "And, so we protected New Orleans by taking action in New Orleans. So [we showed that] local actions had actual local benefits.”

    That 2005 hurricane on the Gulf Coast was the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history, with a death toll in the thousands.

    The study suggests that while there has been political and social resistance in the United States to installing even a few hundred offshore wind turbines, let alone tens of thousands, a wind farm would pay for itself in the long term by generating power and helping to reduce hurricane damage.

    Archer sees partnerships developing among policy makers, emergency managers and the wind industry that could lead to new strategies for coastal power and protection that can also save lives.

    You May Like

    US Internet Giants, EU Reach Deal to Combat Online Hate Speech

    Facebook, Twitter, Google and Microsoft commit to ‘quickly and efficiently’ act to clamp down on use of social media to incite violence, terror

    Tunisia’s Ennahda Party Begins a New Political Chapter

    Party now moves to separate its political and religious activities; change described by party members as pragmatic response to political and economic challenges facing Tunisia today

    Virtual Reality Fine-tuned at Asia Tech Show

    Microchip designers hope to improve resolution for users of systems that can turn your bedroom into the ocean floor

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
    March 03, 2014 7:16 AM
    We should notice that this article just shows the result of a simulation study indicating the possible benefits of off-shore turbine arrays both to reduce hurricares damage and probably to promote the shift from fossile energy to environmentary clean energy usage. It is well known that the result of simulation study could differ so much depending on the kinds of imput factors and numbers. I would like to take this article as what intends to show the possible capability of wind turbine as well as mankind contributing to alter natural disasters to human benefits.

    by: Walter
    March 03, 2014 6:08 AM
    Alternative titles for this article:
    "Global warming professor and wind farm investor claims turbines reduce hurricanes", "Wind turbines, expensive, inefficient and unreliable for energy production now being touted for hurricane damping"

    by: goldminor from: USA
    March 02, 2014 9:50 AM
    Over at WUWT, where I have participated in the conversation about catastrophic global warming, everyone had a good laugh over this recent news story. Hopefully, if they ever do a small experiment, they will keep the wind turbines far away from any inhabited locale. If you were to read elsewhere about the working dynamics of these turbines, then you would find that they are built to shut down operation above a certain wind speed. This is part of the reason why wind turbines only produce a small percentage of their rated output on a yearly basis. So if these were to sit in the path of a hurricane the results would likely be severe to the point of destruction of the turbine, with many pieces flying far away never to be seen again. Over in Europe and the UK, where the bulk of the larger installations have been built, they are built with a large zone of free space surrounding them to reduce the risk of causalities when a catastrophic failure occurs. The blades can be flung quite far. Besides the fact that these machines are killing all types of birds plus bats at a high rate, the yield off of turbines is not good, as many investors have found out. In the UK, the public bears the brunt of the monetary losses, as the investor has been guaranteed a % return no matter what the power yield is. Talk about an unfair setup!

    by: Ben Acheson from: Europe
    March 01, 2014 6:24 AM
    This seems a bit far-fetched. How much would the maintenance of the turbines cost? And what if the turbines damage undersea resources such as blue carbon stores? All these issues need raised.

    This video talks about them - it is called 'Wind Energy: Chalk it up as a loss?'

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kxmltKaTroY



    by: Maeda Atsukoh from: AKB, Tokyo
    February 28, 2014 8:31 PM
    The array of offshore wind tubines might be able to reduce wind around the site same as barrier walls onshore, but I don't think that these turbines can reduce the power or energy of hurricanes, so hurricanes can keep thier strength when they come to onshore.

    We should not expect too much to offshore wind tubines as described in this VOA article.
    In Response

    by: Umeda Ayakah from: AKB&NMB
    March 04, 2014 10:00 AM
    Low pressure is the source of hurricaines. Wind is the result of low pressure.
    How can these wind turbines change the low pressure?
    In Response

    by: Yoshi from: Sappor
    March 03, 2014 7:19 AM
    It would be more assertive if you kindly explain why you do not think these turbines can reduce the power of hurricaines.

    by: Rob Swift from: Great Britain
    February 28, 2014 5:08 PM
    Off the east coast of Britain 41 wind turbines went off vertical and became unusable. Many more are tilting and that is because seabeds always move.The cost of servicing them is prohibitive. Contractors are wasting a thousand tons of fuel oil a day just to go in and out to service them. Also they have ships acting as offshore hotels. Because the bearings can take damage unless the rotors keep turning, they need a conventional power station to keep them going when there is no wind. When the wind is too light or too strong they cannot be used. Wind strength does not always match peak electric demand so you need a conventional power station for times of peak demand.
    As well as having been an environmental disaster they are an eyesore and have completely destroyed the beauty of the Eastern seabord.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Tech Startups Showcase Wares at Amsterdam Conferencei
    X
    Serginho Roosblad
    May 30, 2016 5:11 PM
    More than 20,000 tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and lovers of digital technology came together in Amsterdam recently at the Next Web Conference to discuss the latest developments in digital technology, look to the future and, of course, to connect. In recent years, there has been an explosion of so-called startup businesses that have created devices and applications that have changed the way we live; but, as Serginho Roosblad reports for VOA, there are pitfalls for such startups as well.
    Video

    Video Tech Startups Showcase Wares at Amsterdam Conference

    More than 20,000 tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and lovers of digital technology came together in Amsterdam recently at the Next Web Conference to discuss the latest developments in digital technology, look to the future and, of course, to connect. In recent years, there has been an explosion of so-called startup businesses that have created devices and applications that have changed the way we live; but, as Serginho Roosblad reports for VOA, there are pitfalls for such startups as well.
    Video

    Video US Military's Fallen Honored With Flags

    Memorial Day is a long weekend for most Americans. For some, it is the unofficial start of summer -- local swimming pools open and outdoor grilling season begins. But Memorial Day remains true to its origins -- a day to remember the U.S. military's fallen.
    Video

    Video Rolling Thunder Rolls Into Washington

    The Rolling Thunder caravan of motorcycles rolled into Washington Sunday, to support the U.S. military on the country's Memorial Day weekend
    Video

    Video A New Reading Program Pairs Kids with Dogs

    Dogs, it is said, are man's best friend. What some researchers have discovered is that they can also be a friend to a struggling reader. A group called Intermountain Therapy Animals trains dogs to help all kinds of kids with reading problems — from those with special needs to those for whom English is a second language. Faiza Elmasry has more on the New York chapter of R.E.A.D., or Reading Education Assistance Dogs, in this piece narrated by Faith Lapidus.
    Video

    Video Fan Base Grows for Fictional Wyoming Sheriff Longmire

    Around the world, the most enduring symbol of the U.S. is that of the cowboy. A very small percentage of Americans live in Western rural areas, and fewer still are cowboys. But the fascination with the American West is kept alive by such cultural offerings as “Longmire,” a series of books and TV episodes about a fictional Wyoming sheriff. VOA’s Greg Flakus recently spoke with Longmire’s creator, Craig Johnson, and filed this report from Houston.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora