Though existing offshore wind farms have yet to be tested with a major hurricane, experts said it’s unlikely the threat of tropical storms will deter developers from pursuing installations in North Carolina waters.
“I’ve not yet seen that it’s a showstopper,” Brian O’Hara, president of the Southeastern Coastal Wind Coalition, said during a presentation in Raleigh last month. “It’s a combination of engineering from manufacturers who are aware of the issue, and risk mitigation from insurance providers.”
The most recently developed wind turbines, installed off the coast in Europe, are built to withstand up to a Category 3 hurricane.
“There’s not much that man builds that does well in a Category 5 hurricane. Luckily, the frequency of those is one every 100-plus years,” he said. “So the question becomes, how far do you have to go with design and where do you pick it up with insurance? But so far, no one has identified it was a showstopper.”
Since 1851 – the first recorded Atlantic hurricane season – 13 hurricanes classified as a Category 3 or higher have made landfall in North Carolina. But only one of those storms – Hurricane Hazel, in 1954 – was a Category 4. No Category 5 hurricane has ever hit the Tar Heel State coast.
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