Risk of Hurricanes to Offshore Wind Turbines Quantified

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Research reveals half the number of windfarm turbines in vulnerable US coastal areas would be destroyed by hurricanes over 20-yr period


In a research paper recently published in the proceedings of the US National Academy of Sciences measures to improve design of wind turbine installations were recommended by the authors in the following abstract of their research.


The U.S. Department of Energy has estimated that if the United States is to generate 20% of its electricity from wind, over 50 GW will be required from shallow offshore turbines. Hurricanes are a potential risk to these turbines. Turbine tower buckling has been observed in typhoons, but no offshore wind turbines have yet been built in the United States.


We present a probabilistic model to estimate the number of turbines that would be destroyed by hurricanes in an offshore wind farm. We apply this model to estimate the risk to offshore wind farms in four representative locations in the Atlantic and Gulf Coastal waters of the United States. In the most vulnerable areas now being actively considered by developers, nearly half the turbines in a farm are likely to be destroyed in a 20-y period.


Reasonable mitigation measures—increasing the design reference wind load, ensuring that the nacelle can be turned into rapidly changing winds, and building most wind plants in the areas with lower risk—can greatly enhance the probability that offshore wind can help to meet the United States’ electricity needs.

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