Will hurricanes destroy offshore wind farms? I am sure in your moments of curiosity you had asked yourself the question. At least I had.
A new study says that the high winds of severe storms could wreck nearly half of U.S. offshore wind turbines within a 20-year period. Can turbine builders make hurricane-resistant wind farms?
A team from Carnegie Mellon University used historical hurricane data to see if wind farms in different coastal areas could stand up to the storms. They looked at four areas in the Atlantic and Gulf Coast regions currently under consideration as locations for wind farms. They then modeled how much hurricanes in these areas could damage a 5-megawatt wind turbinedesign similar to those being installed in northern Europe.
According to the researchers’ model, hurricanes ranked Category 3 (those with wind speeds of 50 miles per hour) and higher could buckle up to 46 percent of these traditional turbine towers. Hurricanes that severe aren’t rare either: Records show that every state in the Gulf Coast and nine of the 14 states on the Atlantic Coast were struck by a Category 3 or higher hurricane between 1856 and 2008.
So will hurricanes kill offshore wind power before it can get started? Stephen Rose, an engineer and lead author of the new study, says wind-energy companies could minimize the problem by building smarter.