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Offshore wind farms could tame hurricanes before they reach land, Stanford-led study says

Bjorn Carey, Stanford News Service: “Computer simulations by Professor Mark Z. Jacobson have shown that offshore wind farms with thousands of wind turbines could have sapped the power of three real-life hurricanes, significantly decreasing their winds and accompanying storm surge, and possibly preventing billions of dollars in damages.  For the past 24 years, Mark Z. Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford, has been developing a complex computer model to study air pollution, energy, weather and climate. A recent application of the model has been to simulate the development of hurricanes. Another has been to determine how much energy wind turbines can extract from global wind currents. In light of these recent model studies and in the aftermath of hurricanes Sandy and Katrina, he said, it was natural to wonder: What would happen if a hurricane encountered a large array of offshore wind turbines? Would the energy extraction due to the storm spinning the turbines’ blades slow the winds and diminish the hurricane, or would the hurricane destroy the turbines? So he went about developing the model further and simulating what might happen if a hurricane encountered an enormous wind farm stretching many miles offshore and along the coast. Amazingly, he found that the wind turbines could disrupt a hurricane enough to reduce peak wind speeds by up to 92 mph and decrease storm surge by up to 79 percent. The study, conducted by Jacobson, and Cristina Archer and Willett Kempton of the University of Delaware, was published online in Nature Climate Change.”

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