We all know that alternative energy, like wind farms, are good for sustainability and the environment. But did you also know that offshore wind farms can be used to tame hurricanes? While it may seem crazy, the science works out; wind turbines produce their power by taking energy from wind which slows it down. A study performed by Stanford University professor Mark Z. Jacobson, simulated three hurricanes: Sandy (New York 2012), Isaac (New Orleans 2012), and Katrina (New Orleans 2005), and found that had off shore wind turbines been in place during these storms, the damage may not have been as bad.
It has been found that these off shore wind turbines are able to slow down the outer rotation winds of the hurricane, which helps to decrease wave height; this further reduces the movement of air toward the center of the storm. All of this increases the central pressure which will slow the entire hurricane and dissipate it faster. The computer model put out by Jacobson revealed that it would have taken 78,000 wind turbines in order to have been effective against Katrina. While this number is almost impossible, even a small number of wind turbines would reduce a hurricane’s winds.
Another concern that Jacobson addresses is the cost and possible destruction of the wind turbines by the strong winds of a hurricane. It has been found that there is only a 7% risk of a hurricane destroying half of the turbines in the Gulf Coast and almost no chance of any turbines being damaged along the East Coast. Current wind turbines are able to stand up to 112MPH winds which are akin to either a category 2 or 3 hurricane. But with enough turbines present, the winds would not be able to reach those speeds, limiting the destruction of the turbines, as well as the cities behind them. The turbines would also be expensive to build. But the cost-savings benefit would offset such an expense. They are cheaper than the massive seawalls that shore-lined states are building to protect themselves. They are also self-sufficient; by harnessing the winds of the hurricane that they are slowing down, they are able to produce much more energy.