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Are wind farms practical for the US?

windfarm2As with any research, the study of the effect of hurricanes on wind turbines has turned out varying, if not contradictory, conclusions. However, in this case, the results could be really promising, or really negative for the future of wind farms in intense weather. While the turbines are successful in Europe, the US has drastically differing weather. The researchers from Stanford and the University of Delaware agree that the turbines could help to decrease the force of the hurricane before it hits land. Carnegie Mellon’s researchers, though, concluded that the turbines would not survive the powerful gusts.

This week, Stanford and the University of Delaware published their study conducted with the structures. Stanford researcher Mark Z. Jacobson, who has worked on a weather and pollution model for the last 24 years, has found that the turbines are structurally strong enough to survive the 112 mph speeds of a storm, and can work to reduce the speed of the storm, in certain cases by up to 92 mph. His study factors in nearly one hundred thousand turbines to reach these results.

Carnegie Mellon’s research, published in 2012 and revised in 2014, found that about half of the structures in a wind farm would buckle under wind speeds of at least 50 mph, a category 3 hurricane. This is alarming because Category 3 hurricanes aren’t a rarity; every Gulf Coast state, and over half of the Atlantic Coast states experienced this grade of hurricane between 1856 and 2008. But moving these farms into a low risk area may increase the chances for the structures. This study only considers about 50 turbines in the farm.

Offshore-Wind-Map-0212-de

While there are disparities between the studies, the location and purpose of the turbines will determine their primary use and feasibility in the future. Whether the main purpose of the turbines is generating electricity, or for protection from Mother Nature, studies are moving forward to make either or both goals possible.

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