13 February 2012
Gone with the wind? Hurricanes could destroy the offshore wind farms the US is planning to build in the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico.
The US Department of Energy set a goal for the country to generate 20 per cent of its electricity from wind by 2030. One-sixth is to come from shallow offshore turbines that sit in the path of hurricanes.
Stephen Rose and colleagues from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, modelled the risk hurricanes might pose to turbines at four proposed wind farm sites. They found that nearly half of the planned turbines are likely to be destroyed over the 20-year life of the farms. Turbines shut down in high winds, but hurricane-force winds can topple them.
In 2007, Texas granted a multimillion-dollar lease for a wind farm site near Galveston, Texas. Rose found it was “the riskiest location to build a wind farm of the four locations examined”.
Each wind farm may cost $175 million. “We want these risks to be known now before we start putting these wind turbines offshore,” says team member Paulina Jaramillo. “We don’t want any backlash when the first one goes down and it costs a lot to replace.”
Journal reference: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1111769109