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, Brazil's Climate-Change Plan: More Renewables, Less Deforestation

Officials say joint initiative on climate change will allow Brazil, United States to strengthen and accelerate cooperation on issues ranging from land use to clean energy More

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Reporting from Somali capital for past decade, Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal has been working at one of Mogadishu's leading radio stations covering parliament More

After Nearly a Century, Voodoo Opera Rises Again

Opera centers on character named Lolo, a Louisiana plantation worker and Voodoo priestess More

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.
Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishui
X
Abdulaziz Billow
June 30, 2015 2:16 PM
Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impact

Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Syrian Refugees Return to Tal Abyad

Syrian refugees in Turkey confirm they left their hometown of Tal Abyad because of intense fighting and coalition airstrikes, not because Kurdish fighters were engaged in ethnic cleansing, as some Turkish officials charged. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer, in Tal Abyad, finds that civilians coming back to the town agree, as we hear in this report narrated by Roger Wilkison.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs