Offshore Wind Would Protect Cities From Hurricanes

New research shows the value of offshore wind farms goes beyond supplying clean energy to actually acting as a hurricane buffer for major cities.

If an offshore wind farm had been in place off the coast of Louisiana, wind speeds from Hurricane Katrina would have been half as strong when they made landfall, according to Stanford University research. The storm surge would have been cut by 72%, all while producing 0.45 terawatts of wind power.

Led by civil and environmental engineering professor, Mark Jacobson, the research team ran computer simulations with and without offshore turbines, reports Bobby Magill on Climate Central.

The simulations are based on some extremely large offshore wind farms – 70,000 turbines with 300 gigawatts of capacity – built 100 kilometers off the coast of New Orleans. They are designed to withstand winds just higher than a Category 3 hurricane – about 111 miles per hour.

The turbines sapped energy from the storm, which reduced wind speeds to a level where there also don’t endangered the turbines themselves.

Simulations produced similar results for Hurricane Sandy in New York and New Jersey. The turbines literally create walls that dissipate winds and storm surges.

 "1.5 billion turbines would reduce wind speeds worldwide by 50 percent," and just 4 million turbines are needed to meet half the world’s energy needs, Jacobson says. 

Offshore Wind Growth

Among the clean energy tax breaks that expire December 31, it’s a tax credit that supports the emergence of a US offshore wind industry. Shallow waters along the east coast can support 530 GW of wind, which would cover over 40% of US electric demand, according to the Department of Energy.

Elsewhere in the world, offshore wind is growing 40% a year with over 7.1 gigawatts installed off the coasts of 15 countries by the end of 2013.

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