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Hurricanes seen as threat to wind farms

Feb. 13, 2012 at 8:34 PM   |   Comments

PITTSBURGH, Feb. 13 (UPI) -- Researchers say offshore wind farms planned for the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico face severe risks from hurricanes that could destroy half of them.

The U.S. Department of Energy has set a goal of generating 20 percent of U.S. electricity needs from wind by 2030, with one-sixth of the total coming from turbines located in shallow waters offshore, researchers said.

Scientists at Carnegie Mellon University have modeled the risk hurricanes might pose to turbines at four proposed wind farm sites and found that nearly half of the planned turbines are likely to be destroyed over the 20-year life of the farms.

While turbines can be shut down in high winds, hurricane-force winds can be strong enough to topple them.

A proposed location for a wind farm site near Galveston, Texas, for which the state has granted a multimillion-dollar lease, is "the riskiest location to build a wind farm of the four locations examined," researcher Stephen Rose said.

A typical offshore wind turbine costs $175 million.

"We want these risks to be known now before we start putting these wind turbines offshore," researcher Paulina Jaramillo told NewScientist.com. "We don't want any backlash when the first one goes down and it costs a lot to replace."

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