Wind farms and reducing hurricane precipitation

With the United States being pummeled over the last couple of years with several high-category, high-damage hurricanes, the University of Delaware’s professor Cristina Archer recently published a paper that discovered an unexpected benefit of large-scale offshore wind farms which lessens the precipitation caused by these devastating storms.

Archer said that while previous studies have shown that hypothetical offshore wind farms can harness the kinetic energy from hurricanes and lessen the effects of wind and storm surge, this study showed that offshore wind farms can also have an impact on precipitation.

Researchers used Hurricane Harvey as an example because it brought possibly the heaviest rain ever recorded in United States history to the Texas coast and caused unprecedented flooding.

Unlike Hurricanes Katrina or Sandy, for which storm surge was one of the biggest problems, Hurricane Harvey flooded Houston because of the amount of rain that it dropped on the city.

Archer explained that wind farms can help mitigate the precipitation by affecting two large factors that cause precipitation. Stating further Archer added strong hurricane winds slow down when they hit wind turbines, which is an effect known as convergence and enhances precipitation.

“The more wind farms you have, the more impact they will have on a hurricane,” said Archer. “By the time a hurricane actually makes landfall, these arrays of turbines have been operating for days and days, extracting energy and moisture out of the storm. As a result, the storm will be weaker. Literally.”

Still, with this study showing that offshore wind farms can be of benefit to coastal communities not just by providing clean energy, but also by reducing the effects of hurricanes, Archer said that she is hopeful the numbers will increase in the future.

SOURCE: University of Delaware