Delaware Public Media

UD researcher predicts wind turbines reduce hurricane rainfall

Nov 16, 2018

There aren’t currently any wind turbines off Delaware's coast, but a University of Delaware researcher’s work suggests having some could do more than just provide electricity.

 


Offshore wind turbines in the path of a hurricane can significantly reduce rainfall once that hurricane reaches shore.

 

That’s the takeaway of a recent paper published by Cristina Archer, a professor at UD’s College of Earth, Ocean and Environment.

 

She modelled how rainfall in Houston would have looked if offshore wind turbines had stood in the path of last year’s Hurricane Harvey.

 

“Wind farms don’t absorb rain, right?” she said. “They just move it around.

 

The turbines take wind energy out of the system and change wind patterns. This makes more rain fall before the storm reaches land.

 

Archer’s models used between 22,000 and 75,000 turbines—and saw about 15 percent less accumulated precipitation in Houston.

 

“This is more like we put a large number of turbines to shock the system. We wanted to have a large signature,” she said.

 

Archer admits this number of wind turbines used in her models is unrealistic, especially considering there are only five offshore wind turbines in the US right now.

 

But according to the US Department of Energy, offshore wind projects planned for the US as of June would have 25,464 megawatts of generating capacity—or thousands of turbines.

 

Archer notes adding one more known localized  benefit to offshore wind could help sway people who are initially against those projects.