Wind farms could protect from hurricanes
Wind farms take energy out of the atmosphere and convert it to electricity, so what happens if a storm hits a big enough wind farm? We heard one answer at #AGU13.
Scientists Mark Jacobson from Stanford took two infamous storms – hurricane Katrina and hurricane Sandy, and asked what would have happened if those storms ran into a big wind farms. The results are pretty startling.
If those storms ran into large enough wind farms…most of their energy would have been stolen by the windmills. For Katrina…hitting the right wind farm would cut the wind energy of the storm by 50% and cut the storm surge by 72%. A similar situation for hurricane Sandy would have knocked off 21% of the storm surge from that monster.
On top of that, the wind farm protects itself by being that large. Normally a powerful storm would do damage to a wind farm, but if the wind farm is big enough to decrease the energy of the storm, it winds up protecting itself from damage by limiting the wind that each turbine sees.
There is an obvious downside. To kill Katrina, it would take a wind farm made up of 70,000 turbines. That’s a lot. That type of wind farm would be big enough to generate 300 gigawatts of electricity – large enough to power some entire countries.
Before you think this sounds crazy…stop and think about the damage from those storms. Each of those storms did ~$100 billion worth of damage. If an array of 70,000 turbines was required…we already spent the equivalent of $1.5 million per turbine just to rebuild those cities once. If anyone ever got the motivation to do this…the fact that it costs so much to rebuild a devastated coastal city starts making the price make sense…especially when you factor in the fact that the wind farm would generate power as well.