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Study Finds Offshore Wind Farms Can Tame Hurricanes

A new study says that billions of dollars in damage from mega-storms Katrina and Sandy might have been avoided with a surprising device: wind turbines...
March 13, 2014

A new study says that billions of dollars in damage from mega-storms Katrina and Sandy might have been avoided with a surprising device: wind turbines.

The study’s lead author Mark Jacobson, an engineering professor at Stanford University, says that 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 percent.

Jacobson says his study is the first to look at how offshore turbines interact with hurricanes. He says the impact may seem surprising but makes sense: Turbines produce power by taking energy from wind and thus slowing it down. His team used complex modeling to simulate the impact that tens of thousands of turbines, more than exist in any single wind farm worldwide, would have had on three hurricanes: Sandy and Isaac, which struck New York and New Orleans, respectively, in 2012 and Katrina, which devastated New Orleans in 2005.

Critics say the idea may not be feasible. They point out that while the study says 78,000 wind turbines each 50 feet tall off New Orleans could have slowed Katrina’s wind speeds up to 78 mph and cut its storm surge up to 79 percent, the two largest planned offshore turbines in the U.S. are each slated to have at most 200 turbines.

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