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New study says hurricanes pose risk to offshore wind farms

A report on the USA Today website states that according to a new study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, offshore hurricanes could demolish half the turbines in proposed wind farms off the country’s coastlines. The article said that authors of the study are from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, and were responding to a 2008 report from the U.S. Department of Energy stating that by 2030 ideally one-fifth of the country’s electricity should come from wind energy.

“Of the four locations examined in the study, offshore of Galveston County, Texas, is the riskiest location to build a wind farm, followed by the Outer Banks of North Carolina, Atlantic City and Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.,” USA Today reported.

The study stated that wind turbines are vulnerable to hurricanes because hurricane wind speeds can exceed current design limits of wind turbines. USA Today reported that the research incorporated current wind turbine construction standards and used computerized models to simulate the hurricanes’ effect since currently there are no offshore in the USA.

“The engineers estimated that over a 20-year span many turbine towers would buckle in wind farms enduring hurricane-force winds off the coasts of four states – Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina and Texas – where offshore wind-farm projects are now under consideration.”

This news comes just one week after the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced that it is moving forward with the next step to consider commercial wind energy development on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) offshore Massachusetts. The area under consideration is located off the coast of Massachusetts beginning approximately 12 nautical miles south of Martha’s Vineyard and 13 nautical miles southwest of Nantucket.

On February 13, 2012, there was a public information meeting hosted by BOEM at the Katharine Cornell Theater. The event drew over 50 Island residents and ended with the BOEM facilitator and panel getting a round of applause.

The Carnegie Mellon study concluded that building the wind farms in locations less risky, as well as enhancing the abilities of turbines to withstand higher winds, would greatly increase “the probability that offshore wind can help to meet the United States’ electricity needs.”