Currently showing: Climate/natural disasters > Disaster risk

11 Dec 13 16:12

I came across an intriguing idea the other day. It seems brilliant in its simplicity, effectively knocking over two big bad birds – fossil fuel dependence and destructive hurricanes - with a single stone in the form of offshore wind farms.

The recent article by science writer Bobby Magill highlights findings by Stanford professor Mark Z. Jacobson.

Using computer simulations, Jacobson was able to demonstrate that strategically placed walls of tens of thousands of off shore wind turbines would have significantly reduced the power of hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. The turbines would be able to create a net energy reduction, safely and effectively dissipating high winds and storm surges.

In a presentation (, Jacobson concludes that "replacing fossil fuels with offshore turbines reduces (not only) hurricane damage and the need for sea walls, but also air pollution and global warming and provides electric power with zero fuel cost."

It seems like a no brainer!

But concepts like this fill me with equal parts hope and frustration. Simple is not necessarily easy, and the huge number of hurdles that would need to be overcome for such an initiative to ever take place seem pretty daunting. Even if funding could be achieved and local residents would agree to wind farms taking up space in their ocean views, I can't imagine fossil fuel conglomerates ever allowing a project like this to see the light of day.

So what do you think? Is this solution too good to be true? If this concept really is a feasible way to increase both renewable energy production and the resilience of storm-prone coastal cities, why haven't we already started building those wind farms. What can individuals and organizations do to help make the idea a reality?

PS – check Mark Jacobson's recent interview on Letterman to learn more about his ideas.

Image source:,_2011_ubt.JPG

Category: Climate/natural disasters: Disaster risk, Resilience, Sustainable energy: Wind


Paritosh - 15 Dec 2013, 4:33 p.m.

Interesting infographics I got here:

Surface area required to power the world with off shore wind power

Surface area required to power the world with solar panels

All thanks to tumblr :o)

Jennifer Rodney - 16 Dec 2013, 8:40 a.m.

Wow Paritosh, thanks for sharing that! I had no idea that relatively so little space would be needed for solar. Makes it seem nuts that we've not been able to make that happen yet! I'd love to see a kickstarter project or something like that where individuals could buy part or all of a solar panel to make a larger scale solar farm happen, like when people could adopt solar cells on Solar Impulse:

Paritosh - 16 Dec 2013, 1:01 p.m.

Desertec foundation is doing something similar on those lines... with around 20 shareholders I hope something useful would come out of it...

Jennifer Rodney - 17 Dec 2013, 3:29 p.m.

Great to know Paritosh, I hadn't heard of Desertec. Will look into them - and see if I can't ask for a solar panel for Christmas!

Jan Kjetil Andersen - 3 Jan 2014, 2:19 p.m.

Very interesting maps Patriotish. But I am always a bit sceptic when I have not seen the calculations. Dou you have some background material for this?

Paritosh - 3 Jan 2014, 5:37 p.m.

Hi Jan, I do not have the data... hope contacting owners of the website might help you out

Jennifer Rodney - 7 Jan 2014, 9:51 a.m.

Hi Jan. I did a bit of digging and tracked this down:
Has some background info, hope it's helpful!

Neil J - 14 Jan 2014, 8:22 a.m.

Projects like this will always struggle to get off the ground while subsidies for fossil fuels exist as it makes renewable energy sources look more expensive in comparison than it really is.

However could a wind farm really survive a Hurricane and take energy from it? I heard that if the wind becomes too strong, they have to stop the turbines to avoid damage.

Jennifer Rodney - 14 Jan 2014, 8:50 a.m.

Thanks for your comment Neil - I agree with your point. It's sometimes difficult to even hope for progress when the financial/political scales are so heavily tipped.

Regarding your question, the article I read claimed that "Wind speeds would have been reduced enough to allow the wind turbines to survive the storm themselves, with winds never reaching 50 meters per second, above which the turbines could topple." ( I'm not sure how reliable the modeling was to come to this conclusion but at least the risk has been considered.

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