Air TurbinesAs we have seen over the past few years, hurricanes are causing increasing damage to many coastal regions worldwide.. A new study uses an advanced climate–weather computer model to explore the energy extraction of wind turbines to determine whether offshore wind turbines could provide substantial clean electricity year-round and also mitigate hurricane damage.

The study found that large turbine arrays (300+ GW installed capacity) may diminish peak near-surface hurricane wind speeds by 25–41 m s (56–92 mph) and storm surge by 6–79%. Benefits occur whether turbine arrays are placed immediately upstream of a city or along an expanse of coastline. The reduction in wind speed due to large arrays increases the probability of survival of even present turbine designs. The net cost of turbine arrays (capital plus operation cost less cost reduction from electricity generation and from health, climate, and hurricane damage avoidance) is estimated to be less than today’s fossil fuel electricity generation net cost in these regions and less than the net cost of sea walls used solely to avoid storm surge damage.

The study just published in Nature Climate Change, is the first to look at how offshore turbines interact with hurricanes. The impact may seem surprising but makes sense: Turbines produce power by taking energy from wind and thus slowing it down.

Who knew?