Researchers stumbled on an unexpected benefit of offshore wind farms. It turns out these installations can mitigate the devastating effects of hurricanes by lessening their precipitations.
Wind power has been doing quite well in the last few years. With reports finding the renewable energy is becoming ever more cost competitive in addition to being an environmental hero, wind energy has seen increasingly more farms built, and deals signed.
Now, University of Delaware’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment professor Cristina Archer has discovered another unexpected benefit of large-scale offshore wind farms bound to make the installations even more popular. It turns out these eco-friendly energy producers may also lessen the often-devastating precipitations caused by hurricanes.
In a university statement outlining the research’s details, Archer said that previous studies had illustrated the potential ability of offshore wind farms to harness the kinetic energy from hurricanes in order to reduce the effects of wind and storm surge. However, her study has now shown the farms can also decrease hurricane-related precipitation.
Archer, who is also the Wind Power Associate Director of the Center for Carbon-free Power Integration, chose Hurricane Harvey as her work’s example due to its record-breaking precipitation levels. The natural disaster is said to have brought the heaviest rain ever recorded in the United States’ history. The output was so bad that Texas’ Houston city was flooded.
According to Archer, wind farms interfere with both wind convergence and divergence and, as a result, can indirectly affect precipitation. “Think about convergence like when there’s traffic on a freeway, and everybody is going fast and then all of a sudden, there’s an accident, and everybody slows down. You get a convergence of cars that back up because everybody slows down. That’s the convergence upstream of the offshore wind farms,” explained Archer.
Wind converge leads to increased precipitation while divergence reduces it. “Divergence is the opposite effect. It causes downward motion, attracting air coming down, which is drier and suppresses precipitation. I was wondering what if that would also happen when there is an offshore farm?” said Archer.