Claim: Offshore Wind Turbines for 'Taming Hurricanes'

From the University of Delaware a press release I just can’t stop laughing about. Of course, they have no real-world tests of this claim, only “their sophisticated climate-weather model”. No numbers were given on turbine “mortality”, so one wonders how many would survive.

Vatten Fall

Normally invisible, wind wind wakes take shape in the turbulence induced clouds behind the Horns Rev offshore wind farm west of Denmark. Image: NOAA

Offshore wind turbines could weaken hurricanes, reduce storm surge

Wind turbines placed in the ocean to generate electricity may have another major benefit: weakening hurricanes before the storms make landfall.

New research by the University of Delaware and Stanford University shows that an army of offshore wind turbines could reduce hurricanes’ wind speeds, wave heights and flood-causing storm surge.

The findings, published online this week in Nature Climate Change, demonstrate for the first time that wind turbines can buffer damage to coastal cities during hurricanes.

“The little turbines can fight back the beast,” said study co-author Cristina Archer, associate professor in the University of Delaware’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment. 

Archer and Stanford’s Mark Jacobson previously calculated the global potential for wind power, taking into account that as turbines are generating electricity, they are also siphoning off some energy from the atmosphere. They found that there is more than enough wind to support worldwide energy demands with a negligible effect on the overall climate.

In the new study, the researchers took a closer look at how the turbines’ wind extraction might affect hurricanes. Unlike normal weather patterns that make up global climate over the long term, hurricanes are unusual, isolated events that behave very differently. Thus, the authors hypothesized that a hurricane might be more affected by wind turbines than are normal winds.

“Hurricanes are a different animal,” Archer said.

Using their sophisticated climate-weather model, the researchers simulated hurricanes Katrina, Isaac and Sandy to examine what would happen if large wind farms, with tens of thousands of turbines, had been in the storms’ paths.

They found that, as the hurricane approached, the wind farm would remove energy from the storm’s edge and slow down the fast-moving winds. The lower wind speeds at the hurricane’s perimeter would gradually trickle inwards toward the eye of the storm. “There is a feedback into the hurricane that is really fascinating to examine,” said Archer, an expert in both meteorology and engineering.

The highest reductions in wind speed were by up to 87 mph for Hurricane Sandy and 92 mph for Hurricane Katrina.

According to the computer model, the reduced winds would in turn lower the height of ocean waves, reducing the winds that push water toward the coast as storm surge. The wind farm decreased storm surge — a key cause of hurricane flooding — by up to 34 percent for Hurricane Sandy and 79 percent for Hurricane Katrina.

While the wind farms would not completely dissipate a hurricane, the milder winds would also prevent the turbines from being damaged. Turbines are designed to keep spinning up to a certain wind speed, above which the blades lock and feather into a protective position. The study showed that wind farms would slow wind speeds so that they would not reach that threshold.

The study suggests that offshore wind farms would serve two important purposes: prevent significant damage to cities during hurricanes and produce clean energy year-round in normal conditions as well as hurricane-like conditions. This makes offshore wind farms an alterative protective measure to seawalls, which only serve one purpose and do not generate energy.

Jacobson and study co-author Willett Kempton, professor in UD’s College of Earth, Ocean and Environment, weighed the costs and benefits of offshore wind farms as storm protection.

The net cost of offshore wind farms was found to be less than the net cost of generating electricity with fossil fuels. The calculations take into account savings from avoiding costs related to health issues, climate change and hurricane damage, and assume a mature offshore wind industry. In initial costs, it would be less expensive to build seawalls, but those would not reduce wind damage, would not produce electricity and would not avoid those other costs — thus the net cost of offshore wind would be less.

The study used very large wind farms, with tens of thousands of turbines, much larger than commercial wind farms today. However, sensitivity tests suggested benefits even for smaller numbers of turbines.

“This is a paradigm shift,” Kempton said. “We always think about hurricanes and wind turbines as incompatible. But we find that in large arrays, wind turbines have some ability to protect both themselves and coastal communities, from the strongest winds.”

“This is a totally different way to think about the interaction of the atmosphere and wind turbines,” Archer said. “We could actually take advantage of these interactions to protect coastal communities.”

The paper, titled “Taming Hurricanes with Arrays of Offshore Wind Turbines,” appears online on Feb. 26 in Nature Climate Change and will be published in print in March.

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Paul

I’ve just lost the will to live.

the current warmist narrative to not focus on IF there is climate change [that’s settled science] but to ask what your RESPONSE to climate change is. Anyone who dares to dispute is of course ‘a denier’ thus a ‘crank funded by oil companies’
“which takes a first step by asking the media to debate the constructive responses to climate change, not its existence.”
http://www.theecologist.org/blogs_and_comments/commentators/2295371/the_medias_climate_fail_we_must_move_beyond_mere_anger.html
i am encouraged if they now think even the bbc is not being revolutionary enough on the co2 deathstar project

Did do their he work anymore than the scientists that study hurricanes for they refuse to look at sunspot activity for cause and and affect.
Then one who studies the major ones fines it takes Cuba land mass to slightly slow one down or slightly move it more into the Gulf before it up swings into the USA. For those that hit the USA from the south can maintain storm strength as far Atlanta. The rain produced can continue north pass Ohio and to the NE Coast
Further, it is not hurricanes we need to stop but man’s urge to live within inches of the ocean water line. We need the hurricanes for reasons stated.
During peak sunspot activity hurricanes provide much needed rain to the US soil. We don’t need a bunch of wind farms in the way.
They need to get a total picture of what they are doing.

M Courtney

Well, a mangrove swamp will defend the coast in the same way.
And it would be a lot cheaper too.
And it would actually remove CO2 frorm the atmosphere
I think I might be on to something here – anyone got a reserarch grant?

jim hogg

Got to be a spoof . . . makes me more convinced than ever that we should be creating a more effective sifting structure to reduce the number of idiots getting blown into our universities . .

William McClenney

“Just a moment….Just a moment.
I’ve just picked up a fault in the AE-35 Unit.”

Phillip Bratby

It’s a pity they forgot that wind turbines aren’t designed to operate in windy conditions. They tend to fall apart , get blown away or catch fire. As for the net costs being less than from fossil fuels, words fail me. What numpties. Are there no standards of academic ability these days to prevent idiots getting into universities?

cynical ed

If they are right, surely it would mean that there are significant diminishing returns from building more and more wind turbines?

Sorry just had a vision of 500metre high wind turbines in a belt 50 kilometres deep covering every hectare of ocean around Australia. Yep that will work – not.

UK Sceptic

I live on the NW coast of England. There is a wind farm just a couple of miles offshore in Morecambe Bay. We had hurricane force winds just a couple of weeks ago and my damaged and destroyed ridge tiles and ripped up fence call BS on Archer’s and Jacobson’s study.

cnxtim

Once upon a time, one could more often autonomously assign credence to the halls of higher learning.
The more the myth of AGW is exposed as fraudulent ‘science’, the nuttier the professors get.

Sometimes, Anthony, you just got to burst out laughing.
Not long ago, I ran across the story of a PPE (Politics, philosophy & economics) graduate from Oxford, no less, who thought the solution for our present economic woes was simply for the BOE (Bank of England) to print more money.
Our universities now are no more than factories of fear & fantasy.
JD. 🙂

Ed Zuiderwijk

As the storm surge is mostly caused by the low pressure at the centre of the storm the implication is that the windmills increase atmospheric pressure. That will raise an eyebrow or two.
But then again, the closer you get to April 1st the more ludicrous the effusions appear to get.

Ed Zuiderwijk

“The little turbines can fight back the beast,” said study co-author Cristina Archer.
Never heard of King Canute then?

John M

So, by this logic wind farms change the environment by reducing wind and wave heights. I wonder what negative environmental impact this has ?

johanna

“The net cost of offshore wind farms was found to be less than the net cost of generating electricity with fossil fuels. The calculations take into account savings from avoiding costs related to health issues, climate change and hurricane damage, and assume a mature offshore wind industry. In initial costs, it would be less expensive to build seawalls, but those would not reduce wind damage, would not produce electricity and would not avoid those other costs — thus the net cost of offshore wind would be less.
The study used very large wind farms, with tens of thousands of turbines, much larger than commercial wind farms today. However, sensitivity tests suggested benefits even for smaller numbers of turbines.”
Is this some kind of joke?
“assume a mature offshore wind industry” means having first spent many hundreds of billions, perhaps trillions, of dollars constructing the things. In what universe would flood mitigation, coastal protection, drainage schemes etc cost anything like that much? Where would the money come from anyway? And bear in mind, a decent sized coal or gas plant comes in at less than $500m and generates enough reliable power, 24/7/365, for a small city.
I am utterly gobsmacked.

Patrick

There is plenty of evidence to support the fact that many man-made structures don’t last too long in hurricanes. Not sure how wind turbines will help given the fact that in high wind, they have to be disabled. So, they are a “sitting duck” effectively. Yeah I agree, a LOL article!

SasjaL

Why not invest in real problems? In US there are the San Andrea Fault and Yellowstone that should be addressed. Not much that can be done when nature act, but pre damage control is better than the political collateral damage solution that’s used …

So they’re claiming a modeled drop in “Hurricane” Sandy’s wind speed of 78 to 87 MPH. I found NOAA data online that clocked Tropical Storm Sandy at 49 MPH sustained with gusts up to 73 MPH at JFK. So… 49 minus 87 equals…
-38 MPH sustained, with gusts to -14 MPH.
I’m impressed. Now if they’ll just code in a divide-by-0 they can even replicate the alleged Bermuda Triangle space warp, too. With modeling like that, I’m not surprised that they found offshore wind to be cheaper than fossil fuels.

Ivor Ward

“”…said Archer, an expert in both meteorology and engineering……””
Engineering? Wind turbines stopping hurricanes? Don’t make me laugh.

Mike McMillan

” … large wind farms, with tens of thousands of turbines”
Time to buy GE and Vestas stock.

Brian H

Their conclusion that the net costs are better is fudged by padding benefits and minimizing maintenance and other consequences of such huge farms (10,000 windmills?!).

And all they need is a few billion dollars to conduct a test…

Jenne

Here is a billion dollar question: the study surely suggests that it is possible to affect a hurricane such that it changes its path and thus cause damage in locations where that otherwise would not have occurred. That would provide grounds for suing the wind farm companies. Are they willing to take that risk? This is a general problem with geoengineering:
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130102140521.htm

Brian Johnson UK

And the band played……..”Believe it if you like!! What a pile of warmist tosh! 🙂
In the UK the National Grid would meltdown and the taxpayer would pay for the damage!

bobl

As an EE I’m embarassed, in anything more than a mild gale wind turbines need to be furled away to survive, making their interference to the storm rather moot; and sandy wasn’t a hurricane it was just a big storm a lot like the ones we get in the north west here in Oz. The system that caused the 2011 floods in Queensland was centred off WA and the rainfall spanned the entire nation, just like the freeze is doing in the USA now. Weather systems are big. sometimes they just spawn storms, sometimes they are the storm. When a system is the storm they can be almost as big as the low pressusre system that powers them.
I get really embarrassed by the ignorance in engineerings own ranks, there are EE’s that actually think solar power is practical, they should be ashamed.

I remembered this video of Peter Schiff debating Catherine Ruetschlin:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=60rvDF1kpcQ 30 mins.
Or: Boost the Minimum Wage To Boost Teen Employment? Peter…
(as refs sometimes fail.)
This beautiful young lady, a phd in economics, no less, debates Peter Schiff.
It was like putting a 14 year old in the ring with a world champ.
His forbearance & good humour are commendable.
She is a policy analyst at DEMOS.
HT: Steven Goddard. 🙂

johnmarshall

Oh yes? Models again proving nothing.
Recent storms in the UK have seen several land based wind turbines burst into flames because their safety systems failed to feather the blades. Wonderful sight and probably the most energy that they have ever produced.

Hopefully, there will be video footage as the wind turbines slow the first winds and then get ripped apart by what follows. They better put them far away from any town or it will become ‘The Attack of the Wind Turbines’. A made for Hollywood science-horror project. Run away, run away!

I’m staggered by some of the magical thinking going on in the comments here. Wind turbines extract energy from wind and hurricanes, tropical storms etc are concentrations of energy in wind; why is it controversial to say that taking energy out of a hurricane will reduce the intensity of the hurricane? It’s so obvious it’s almost not worth saying. There are only two questions remaining:
1. Turbines have a cut-out speed. Will the hurricane moving towards the turbines push wind speeds over that level so quickly that the energy removed will be negligible? Much of the paper is answering that question in the negative; in the cases of storms studied, the turbines had time to significantly reduce the hurricane energy before they reached their cut-out speed. It’s not unreasonable; bear in mind that older turbines would shut down when the ten-minute average wind speed reached 25m/s (about 55mph and that’s not a gust speed); that’s already a fairly serious wind – someone has noted above that Sandy’s sustained winds never reached that speed. More modern turbines do not have a hard cutout but gradually curtail above 25m/s to a complete shutdown at around 35m/s (about 78mph). So turbines are likely to operate through most of a storm.
2. Is it an economical way of mitigating storms? As with most economic / econometric analyses, the answer depends almost entirely on the assumptions underlying the study. This study says yes, but I’d hesitate to believe it. Tens of thousands of turbines is not unrealistic in the medium term; as of August 2013 there are 1909 offshore turbines built with another 873 under construction. Tens of thousands of turbines in the right place to stop a particular storm is rather more problematic to my mind. If you’d had 10,000 turbines in the way of hurricane Katrina then yes, it would probably have been an economical way of mitigating the hurricane (consider that the damage inflicted by the hurricane, $108 billion, would have paid for the construction of ~20,000 offshore turbines, even ignoring any income you make from selling the electricity) but, of course, if you build them there now then the next storm isn’t going to land there, is it? And building 10,000 in front of every coastal city is unlikely to be economical, not least because there simply isn’t the demand for the power (each farm of 10,000 5MW turbines will power 10 million homes on average; do that for every coastal city and you’ve got a serious excess of energy and therefore a market failure).

GeeJam

The barrage of excuses to justify worse than useless turbines are wearing very thin now. Can’t they at least be a bit more creative like “wind turbine ‘array’ helps cure local pet terrapin’s abscess”.

Jer0me

“Hurricanes are a different animal,” Archer said.

As far as I can see, they are not at all different, just more intense. Here in the tropics, many weather systems are pretty much low-energy cyclones. All you have to do is look at the rain radar, and you can see the circular motion of the clouds and rain.
Now, I’m not a meteorologist or even close, but I am willing to wager that most of our weather has similar structure to a cyclone in some way.

ralfellis

.
Eh?? I don’t get this.
A hurricane is only destructive because it has a tight core. The depressions that pass over the UK probably have much more energy than a hurricane, but are not so strong because the Coriolis ‘Force’ widens out the core. (Because of the UK’s higher latitude, the balancing Coriolis ‘Force’ is stronger.)
So if we slow down the outer edge of the hurricane, and so allow that air to spill into the core, are we not invigorating and tightening the core?
Surely this is the ice-dancer effect. If the spinning ice-dancer moves their arms inwards, they spin faster. Similarly, if wind-elecs (wind turbines) allow air to spill into the core of the hurricane, would it not spin faster? (Ok, the wind-elecs are removing some of the angular momentum, but all that air spilling into the hurricane’s core cannot make things better, surely.)
And what kind of difference are we talking about here? 0.000000001 % of the total energy?
SR

Eugene WR Gallun

This just can’t be for real. It just can’t.
Eugene WR Gallun

Barriers like tree lines and buildings are like speed bumps to the wind. If you sail you know that a wind blowing from on shore is disrupted down wind for 8 times the height of the tree or building that blocking. So you’re in a calm shadow for that distance. Given this elementary fact; how many lines of wind mills would you like to build? Where would you like to build them? Where is the wind going to blow next? This new found benefit of wind farms sounds like a desperate attempt to rescue a flawed concept. “Yes the electricity that is created is very expensive and intermittent but it slows the wind down. So there’s that we’ve going for us.”
Unless you’re in Iowa, or a few western states that interstate 80 goes through, where the wind is nearly constant and strong, you’re swimming up stream on this windmill fantasy.

tty

Since wind turbines are routinely feathered in high winds, I would presume this study was based on the effect that feathered turbines would have on hurricanes. Or wasn’t it?
There is an earlier version of this paper where they assume that the turbines will work at wind speeds up 50 ms-1 (112 mph) which is optimistic to put things mildly.
http://www.energy.udel.edu/wind2013/Jacobson_1302UDelHurrTurb.pdf
Normally wind turbines are feathered at 25 ms-1 (56 mph). Wind energy at 112 mph is four times larger than at 56 mph,
It might be feasible to build wind turbines that could operate in hurricane winds, but it would be insanely expensive and they would be [too] heavy to work at all in normal winds.

urederra

They would reduce the speed of the winds by 0.001%, which, by a staggering coincidence, is also the percentage of global temperature rise caused by anthropogenic CO2
Just kidding, although I have the impression my answer is closer to reality than theirs.

ralfellis

UK Sceptic says: February 27, 2014 at 1:41 am
I live on the NW coast of England. There is a wind farm just a couple of miles offshore in Morecambe Bay. We had hurricane force winds just a couple of weeks ago and my damaged and destroyed ridge tiles and ripped up fence call BS on Archer’s and Jacobson’s study.
______________________________
Those wind farms would have shut down as soon as the wind got above 35 knots. They would make no difference to a more widespread UK Atlantic depression with a large (very wide) core.
Come to think of it, they will make no difference to a hurricane either ……. 😉
SR

GeeJam

Very slightly off-topic, but has anyone seen this on the BBC website . . . .
“Smell of forest pine can limit climate change”
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-26340038

hunter

If windmills can disrupt a hurricane, there is no way they would not disrupt other wind flows. Wind is a fundamental part of how the weather works. This should be seen as a grim warning that yet another climate obsessed idea is really bad, and not as a great opportunity.

Admad

What would be the erection cost of “tens of thousands” of offshore wind turbines? Can the global GDP cover it in any reasonable timescale?

Speed

Scientists estimate that a tropical cyclone releases heat energy at the rate of 50 to 200 exajoules (1018 J) per day, equivalent to about 1 PW (1015 watt). This rate of energy release is equivalent to 70 times the world energy consumption of humans and 200 times the worldwide electrical generating capacity, or to exploding a 10-megaton nuclear bomb every 20 minutes.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tropical_cyclone
… large turbine arrays (300+ GW installed capacity) may diminish peak near-surface hurricane wind speeds by 25–41 m s−1 (56–92 mph) and storm surge by 6–79%.
http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/v4/n3/full/nclimate2120.html
The largest wind turbines (660 kW – 2+MW) are used in central station wind farms, distributed power and community wind.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_turbine_design#Turbine_size
Do the math.
I suspect that the authors are invoking some sort of aerodynamic friction disturbing the dynamics of the hurricane. Unfortunately it would cost me $32 to find out and apparently the authors don’t think that their work is important enough (remember “the greater good?”) to make it free.
Related … While researching the above I found “Innovation in Wind Turbine Design” by Peter Jamieson, that can be read online for free. An engineering overview.
http://books.google.dk/books?id=qCAwt6Tgga4C&printsec=frontcover&hl=da#v=onepage&q&f=false

The Ghost Of Big Jim Cooley

Surely this is a spoof? For starters, turbines are turned OFF when it’s really windy, so this has got to be a leg-pull. Has anyone actually phoned the Delaware Uni to find out?

Richard111

Here in the UK wind farms are paid obscene amounts of money to shut down when it is windy because the national grid cannot handle the power surges.

Jason H

Wow! Windmills must be a gift from the gods. Small land masses like the Outer Banks, or large ones like the entire country of Cuba (with it’s nearly 2000m peaks) can’t even slow down a hurricane like that.
On second thought, it’s these scientists who think they are God’s gift for thinking they can start controlling hurricanes.

Would this be before or after the hurricanes tore the stupid things from their moorings?
But I can see one aspect in which they are correct. Like the trees on land, the “trees” of the wind mills would slow the wind. And like the “trees” on the land, many would find themselves toppled.
As I noted earlier to a comment about engineers and economics. Scientists tell us what can be done. Economics tells us the cost. Engineers merge the 2 to tell us what is feasible. I will pass on this “scientific” study.

Keith Willshaw

Wind farms have an upper speed limit called ‘survival speed’ for a good reason. Above that they collapse. Survival speed varies from 130-160 mph. This means that Category 5 Hurricanes will destroy most turbines in short order. All that would be left are a few stumps and a LARGE debt.
Keith

Ah, the arrogant hubris of mankind. So when did we as a species gain the ability to control of the weather.? Ah, never! I know that in this day of instant communication & very fast computers we think we as a species have gain in overall intelligence, but this is nothing more than Sci-Fi, like in the movie Alien, where they can tera-form a planet in the future. But what really makes this so outrageous is that this is coming from our universities. This reminds me of when AWG zealots say that we better do something before we lose control of the climate. Please tell me when we ever had control of it. These people probably think we can tera-form Mars also. Even though it has no significant protective magnetosphere. They always forget that minor point & I’m sure there is something like that missing from this study also, so they got the results they wanted.

dlb

Yes, plausible,
and 747s cause jet streams, hence the name.

ozspeaksup

as I started to read this page..
a friend sent me this..
🙂
http://venturebeat.com/2010/02/08/minnesotas-frozen-turbines-raise-new-doubts-about-wind-power/
between the two, Ive had a damned good laugh this evening.