hurricane, wind farm, energy, stanfordHurricanes are devastating and have the ability to inflict billions of dollars of damage across coastal regions. While preventing these storms is impossible a new study suggests there might be a way to mitigate their detrimental forces by building wind farms.

For nearly a quarter century Mark Jacobson, a Stanford civil engineering professor, has been working with computer models to study energy, weather and climate. With the rise of increasingly more destructive hurricanes Jacobson has turned his attention to the origins of these storms. Building simulations that accurately detail the birth and development of hurricanes, Jacobson began to wonder how large infrastructure projects like wind farms would fair if they came in contact with such destructive potential. Using Hurricane Katrina and coastal Louisiana as his base, Jacobson ran a simulated storm through an enormous virtual array of wind farms. According to Jacobson, the results were surprising.

"We found that when wind turbines are present, they slow down the outer rotation winds of a hurricane," Jacobson said. "This feeds back to decrease wave height, which reduces movement of air toward the center of the hurricane, increasing the central pressure, which in turn slows the winds of the entire hurricane and dissipates it faster."

While Jacobson’s wind turbine simulations did result in the weakening of hurricane force winds and a 79% reduction in storm surges, the model included a farm with 78,000 turbines. To date, the largest wind farm on the planet contains 175 turbines, a far cry what’s required to alter meteorological forces.

Although the conditions present in Jacobson’s research might take decades, if not centuries, to develop they do bolster the argument that wind farms are a useful component of energy infrastructure. After all, who doesn’t want a power plant that can turn a raging storm into energy while simultaneously safeguarding a region against catastrophe?

                                     

Image and Video Courtesy of Stanford University

 

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