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Wind Farms & Hurricanes

March 5, 2014

Massive offshore wind farms could have a surprising fringe benefit: disrupting hurricanes.



Windmills versus hurricanes. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

388px-Windmills_D1-D4_Hans Hillewaert cc 3.0 wikipedia

Offshore wind turbine. (Hans Hillewaert/Wikipedia)

Offshore wind turbines could soften the impact of hurricanes. This according to Stanford University engineer Mark Jacobson and his colleagues. Their computer model showed that by slowing wind speeds, hypothetical, massive wind farms could set off a chain reaction that would have significantly weakened several recent storms – for example, slowing Hurricane Katrina’s wind speed at landfall by up to 98 miles per hour, and reducing surging waves by 79 percent. Of course, Jacobson says you wouldn’t build a wind farm just to disrupt a future storm.

MARK JACOBSON (Stanford University):

But the point is that if you use these turbines to generate electric power, so they pay for themselves anyway, they do serve this additional benefit at zero cost.

This could reduce the need for expensive projects like seawalls, which could cost tens of billions of dollars to protect just one city.  I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.