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posted by Cactus on Friday February 28 2014, @03:31AM   Printer-friendly
from the breaking-wind dept.

Fluffeh writes:

"At the recent meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Mark Z. Jacobson, a professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford, spoke in a session on renewable energy.

Jacobson was invited to speak at the conference because he has developed a roadmap to convert the entire U.S. to renewable energy using primarily wind, water, and solar generated energy. His detailed analysis includes looking at costs and benefits on a per-state basis, including the obvious benefits to human health from reduced pollution. One of his slides showed a very unexpected benefit, however: taming of destructive hurricanes with the help of offshore wind farms.

Jakobson's study, co-authored by Cristina L. Archer and Willett Kempton, has been published in Nature Climate Change (full text available here)."

 
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  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by hopdevil on Friday February 28 2014, @03:57AM

    by hopdevil (3356) on Friday February 28 2014, @03:57AM (#8252)

    I fully advocate forward thinking in terms of climate control, insofar as it means understanding and doing what it takes to keep the planet as normal as that makes sense. But has it occurred to anyone that hurricanes might be necessary phenomenon in a stable system?

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by unitron on Friday February 28 2014, @04:14AM

      by unitron (70) on Friday February 28 2014, @04:14AM (#8260) Journal

      Do you by any chance live nowhere near the east coast?

      I'm not saying that you're wrong, although I don't see how one could run controlled experiments to find out either way.

      If someone who knows more about weather and climate science than I do wants to explain why you might be right, I'd be very interested to hear what they have to say.

      Right now I'm thinking "Generate power *and* keep the Outer Banks from being destroyed?" sounds like win-win.

      --
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      • (Score: 5, Informative) by Fluffeh on Friday February 28 2014, @04:48AM

        by Fluffeh (954) Subscriber Badge on Friday February 28 2014, @04:48AM (#8280) Journal

        Tornadoes and Cyclones are actually a method for transferring a huge amount of HEAT away from where it is. It is basically a global heat distribution system. The more energy is pent up in the equatorial belt, the more it needs to be distributed away and towards the poles.

        If this system potentially drains these cells of the energy they contain by sapping at the wind energy it's a good thing - but if that heat isn't being dissapated as needed it might not actually be as good as it seems in the long term. Too much heat in the oceans leads to some very dire consequences.

        • (Score: 2, Funny) by ls671 on Friday February 28 2014, @07:57AM

          by ls671 (891) Subscriber Badge on Friday February 28 2014, @07:57AM (#8363) Homepage

          Well, just connect those wind mills to giant electric heaters in the north and south pole and there you go. The heat will be transferred without the need for hurricanes ;-)

          --
          Everything I write is lies, read between the lines.
        • (Score: 1) by similar_name on Friday February 28 2014, @08:27PM

          by similar_name (71) on Friday February 28 2014, @08:27PM (#8748)
          >Tornadoes and Cyclones are actually a method for transferring a huge amount of HEAT away from where it is.

          IANAM, but isn't the transfer of heat what creates the tropical cyclones? In other words, the storms don't move the heat, the heat moving is what creates the storms. I wonder, since these will presumably be within 100 miles of the shore, these storms dissipate when they hit land, how much will it change global patterns? And with climate change, it's like getting energy from fossil fuels twice. That last one is a joke, sort of ;)
    • (Score: 3, Informative) by frojack on Friday February 28 2014, @08:42PM

      by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Friday February 28 2014, @08:42PM (#8758) Journal

      But has it occurred to anyone that hurricanes might be necessary phenomenon in a stable system?

      Necessary or not, they've always been with us. Earth's topology pretty much just breeds them by its very nature.

      Personally, I doubt that a wind farm will make that much of a difference, because you would need to cover the earth with turbines to make a difference. Hurricanes are total atmosphere events, they are not limited to the surface. Soaking up a little wind here or there won't make much difference, especially when it is necessary to null angle the blades to keep the turbines from self destructing in very high winds.
      Note, that this has been studied, and the results indicate windfarms don't alter the local environment [smithsonianmag.com].

      But you do raise a point, that I think too many dismiss out of hand when the subject is their pet "save the world" theory.

      Namely, that you can harness the sun, wind, tides, rivers, and oceans, and have ZERO adverse effect. Yes, all these methods use energy that was arriving on earth in the form of sunlight anyway, and was going to "go to waste".

      But we don't know that, all we know is that our current levels of utilization aren't sufficient to make much of a difference. But when we put in the first dam to grind flour, we had no idea that bigger and bigger dams could deform the earth's crust [mst.edu], kill off salmon runs, etc.

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  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by xtronics on Friday February 28 2014, @04:26AM

    by xtronics (1884) on Friday February 28 2014, @04:26AM (#8265) Homepage

    Is it just me or can other people see how stupid this is?

    Why isn't it obvious that if you slow the wind down enough to interfere with hurricanes that you will cause other non intended effects?

    Then there is reality testing - like how tall is the atmosphere in comparison to the height of windmills? or a few dozen other obvious points that blow this out of the water.

    Remember: When the government does most anything - they have a less than even chance of making things worse.

    • (Score: 2, Funny) by EvilJim on Friday February 28 2014, @04:34AM

      by EvilJim (2501) on Friday February 28 2014, @04:34AM (#8269) Journal

      WINDMILLS DO NOT WORK THAT WAY!!!!!111one1!! - Morbo

      not replying to you, posting a new comment seems to be broken currently.

    • (Score: 2, Interesting) by JimmyCrackCorn on Friday February 28 2014, @04:41AM

      by JimmyCrackCorn (1495) on Friday February 28 2014, @04:41AM (#8271)

      I agree. Lunacy.

      From the article:
      "In the case of Katrina, Jacobson's model revealed that an array of 78,000 wind turbines off the coast of New Orleans would have significantly weakened the hurricane well before it made landfall."

      That would look like shit in the gulf and what percentage above 78,000 would have to be built to make sure this unproven, untested beyond common sense tactic would work to calm the winds.

      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by tibman on Friday February 28 2014, @06:45AM

        by tibman (134) Subscriber Badge on Friday February 28 2014, @06:45AM (#8332)

        You can't see much of the Gulf of Mexico from shore. It's over half a million square miles. I'm sure they could hide a bunch of wind turbines out there and nobody would know. But i agree with you about the storm reduction. I mean, it's possible but it would take a lot. Kind of like how jet contrails affect weather. It takes a lot but the effect is there.

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      • (Score: 2, Interesting) by ls671 on Friday February 28 2014, @08:02AM

        by ls671 (891) Subscriber Badge on Friday February 28 2014, @08:02AM (#8365) Homepage

        Also, those wind mills could get a hit and be destroyed if the winds that hit them are too strong, leaking oil and what not into the sea.

        --
        Everything I write is lies, read between the lines.
      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by monster on Friday February 28 2014, @10:07AM

        by monster (1260) on Friday February 28 2014, @10:07AM (#8396) Journal

        Add to this that such reduction in wind energy would also cause at least a change in rain patterns (if the wind is not strong enough, clouds may not travel too inland before raining, like in Australia) leading to droughs in some places. Not saying that it couldn't happen because of other causes (climate is dynamic, after all) but doing it on purpose...

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by MillionthMonkey on Friday February 28 2014, @06:12AM

      by MillionthMonkey (2861) on Friday February 28 2014, @06:12AM (#8315)

      Why isn't it obvious that if you slow the wind down enough to interfere with hurricanes that you will cause other non intended effects?

      How is something like that "obvious"?

    • (Score: 3, Informative) by mojo chan on Friday February 28 2014, @02:40PM

      by mojo chan (266) on Friday February 28 2014, @02:40PM (#8513)

      Some obvious flaws in your arguments, partly because you didn't RTFA.

      The turbines would be placed to help prevent hurricanes building up in the first place. Once one has started it moves relatively slowly, being preceded by high winds that the turbines can again sap. In the event of being hit by a full on hurricane the blades will limit the stress on the turbine to safe levels or just apply the brakes and bring the whole thing to a halt, while still sapping energy.

      Height is irrelevant. Removing energy at the bottom will cause the upper parts to be slowed down due to friction against the slower moving air below. In any case we are only really interested in the wind speed at the bottom. You can try a little experiment to see how this works. Get a glass of water, stir it up and then lift your spoon so that only the end is slowing the upper part of the water. The lower part will slow down as well, not as fast but quite significantly. Most importantly the top part will slow down a lot, which is what we want.

      TFA isn't suggesting wind turbines are a hurricane shield, just that having very large numbers of them would have a measurable effect. There would be some effect on normal weather, but nothing like as much as other forms of energy create.

      --
      const int one = 65536; (Silvermoon, Texture.cs)
      • (Score: 2) by weeds on Friday February 28 2014, @04:37PM

        by weeds (611) on Friday February 28 2014, @04:37PM (#8580) Journal

        I dare say that height is not irrelevant. What effect are wind turbines of a few hundred feet going to have on a storm with a height of 10 miles? (The turbine is about about 3/4 of a percent of the height of the storm) The spoon example doesn't really compare, the spoon is about 30% the height of the "storm", impedes about 50% of the flow at its level, and the flows have pretty much no similarity (Reynolds number.)

        Now they propose putting the turbines out in the Atlantic "where the storms form"?... Most hurricanes that hit the United States begin either in the Caribbean or the Atlantic. Many of the worst start as seedlings coming off the coast of Africa.
        That's a rather large area and at a significant distance.

        Finally, "...bring the whole thing to a halt..." Will result in a large force being applied to the structure and the blades. Even if they are feathered (turning them so they will show minimal resistance to the flow).

    • (Score: 0, Redundant) by Dunbal on Friday February 28 2014, @05:54PM

      by Dunbal (3515) on Friday February 28 2014, @05:54PM (#8645)

      It's stupid to even presume that his little windmills will be anything more than a few orders of magnitude worth of the energy you get from even a small hurricane. This is like suggesting that if everyone in a country can jump at exactly the same time a massive earthquake can be mitigated into a small tremor. But hey, people believe stupid stuff and doubt facts all the time. Because obviously all those "scientists" are just in one big conspiracy, or they're just too negative.

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by regift_of_the_gods on Friday February 28 2014, @04:47AM

    by regift_of_the_gods (138) on Friday February 28 2014, @04:47AM (#8279)

    In the case of Katrina, Jacobson's model revealed that an array of 78,000 wind turbines off the coast of New Orleans would have significantly weakened the hurricane well before it made landfall.

    That's a heck of a lot of turbines. Could they even find suitable sites for all of them? By comparison, the proposed Cape Wind project off Cape Cod in Massachusetts proposes 130 turbines, at an estimated cost of $2.6 billion ($20 million per turbine). Commercial wind turbines require neodymium magnets - guess which country controls the world's supply of neodymium, and what would happen to the price if someone suddenly decided to build tens of thousands of these things.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 28 2014, @05:14AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 28 2014, @05:14AM (#8288)

      I think 78,000 turbine magnets, even if they are much larger, is nothing compared to hundreds of millions of hard disk magnets and hundreds of millions of earphones and headphones (and new motors which will be needed for tens and hundreds of thousands of new electric cars).

    • (Score: 1) by hash14 on Friday February 28 2014, @06:37AM

      by hash14 (1102) on Friday February 28 2014, @06:37AM (#8326)

      I'm guessing Canada. It's Canada, right?

      • (Score: -1) by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 28 2014, @06:45AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 28 2014, @06:45AM (#8331)

        I thought it was Mexico!

      • (Score: 0) by ls671 on Friday February 28 2014, @08:07AM

        by ls671 (891) Subscriber Badge on Friday February 28 2014, @08:07AM (#8368) Homepage

        Nope it is the country with most people. Maybe it is transformed into neodymium by Earth natural cycle from human feces. ;-)

         

        --
        Everything I write is lies, read between the lines.
    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Common Joe on Friday February 28 2014, @06:54AM

      by Common Joe (33) Subscriber Badge <reversethis-{moc ... 1010.eoj.nommoc}> on Friday February 28 2014, @06:54AM (#8336) Journal

      130 turbines, at an estimated cost of $2.6 billion ($20 million per turbine)

      I'm glad you hit this point, because I didn't know that. It completely nullifies his argument. Here's another one: where is all of that energy going to go? Into the electrical grid? Wind is too unstable to use as a main source of energy. There's a reason why nuclear and coal energy does the heavy lifting of the electrical grid. Wind energy is an after thought compared to those two.

      As a person who has personally watched a number of hurricanes go by my house and seen the effects that Katrina had on my family and friends, I seriously question this study. No, I'm no expert in energy nor climate, but I do know that under the right conditions, hurricanes can push water up the Mississippi River. (This was known even before Katrina [enquirer.com]. Hurricane Katrina almost did that, but veered at the last moment in a better direction. It was shoddy levees which caused all the damage.)

      We're talking about windmills that will stop the kind of energy that pushes massive amounts of water. Katrina had a 25 foot storm surge [wikipedia.org]. And it's normal for hurricanes to cycle between stronger and weaker. Katrina came ashore as a cat 3 hurricane [wikipedia.org]. Think about how much energy it takes to push water in swimming pool. Yes, I know, the windmills involve a complicated set of variables and it isn't just "stopping the energy" because wind mills would supposedly prevent momentum from gaining. Still, hurricanes have a mind of their own and absorbing energy on something so powerful and unpredictable [wunderground.com] seems absurd to me from my personal experience.

      I'd need to see additional studies followed by some kind of test before I'd be willing to spend a lot of money to try something like this. Speaking of money, where did this guy get his funding anyway? Combined with regift_of_the_gods' finding, I am beginning to wonder if this is legit or just an excuse to go build things and grease palms.

      • (Score: 5, Interesting) by mojo chan on Friday February 28 2014, @08:34AM

        by mojo chan (266) on Friday February 28 2014, @08:34AM (#8375)

        I'm glad you hit this point, because I didn't know that. It completely nullifies his argument.

        In what way? They pay for themselves after a while, then it's all profit. The mooring points can be recycled at the end of their lifetime too with a new, better turbine.

        Wind is too unstable to use as a main source of energy.

        The UK National Grid considers it more stable than nuclear, because there is almost zero chance that all turbines in a wind farm will fail at the same time. Wind speed is very predictable over the short term (a few hours). Also, the Japanese have developed large (50MW+) batteries for smoothing out wind power which are installed and working at a few locations. They are low temperature sodium sulphur based.

        We're talking about windmills that will stop the kind of energy that pushes massive amounts of water.

        No. Go read TFA, it points out that a large number of turbines will sap energy from the storm and reduce its intensity to a safer level. They won't "stop" all that energy, merely syphon some of it off, enough to make a difference.

        --
        const int one = 65536; (Silvermoon, Texture.cs)
        • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 28 2014, @12:55PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 28 2014, @12:55PM (#8453)

          Except for water there is no green energy source that is predictable and scalable for use in a national size grid. The main reason for that is that we lack the technology to store energy in a big and efficient way. (Excpet for hydroplants that are extremely location dependent)
          If 80% of your energy comes from wind and solar, then what are you going to do on a calm winter night? Your fucked, unless you were able to build big energy reserves. When we have that tech, we can go all green on most of the planet, except for just in Iceland now. (loads of hydroplants + geothermal + big area with small population makes that possible)

          Furthermore, the cost is a big deal. Even if (a big if) the windmills can soak energy out of a hurricane, I doubt the windmill farm can withstand a hurricane without damage. Repairing that damage in the ocean is likely to be more costly than on land.

          One more big problem for windmills (this is a few year old knowledge, might be improved at this time): Their peak generation is at windspeeds around 60 km/h. If the wind goes much faster then that, they actually shut down the windmills, turn them in a direction they catch least wind and lock them in place. Apparently, something in the windmill can't take it if the blades spin to fast. So that pretty much invalidates the entire idea that they can draw energy from hurricanes.

        • (Score: 1) by sidd on Friday February 28 2014, @09:48PM

          by sidd (2201) on Friday February 28 2014, @09:48PM (#8816)

          1) they will be injecting sustained 1TW into the grid, (instantaneous demand in USA about 3 times that at max i think.) Storing it will be interesting.

          2)They seem to be extracting just about as much energy as is naturally dissipated by surface drag in a stable Atlantic hurricane.

          3)I suspect that the hurricane path will change in the presence of the windmill array. I don't see that their model allows for such a feedback. I have in mind phenomena such as change in precipitation patters around a city.

          sidd

      • (Score: 2) by TheRaven on Friday February 28 2014, @11:44AM

        by TheRaven (270) on Friday February 28 2014, @11:44AM (#8428) Journal
        Note that it doesn't have to drain all of the energy from a hurricane, and it certainly doesn't have to do it all at once. Hurricanes build gradually over time, and constantly sapping a little bit of the energy from the wind over this time may prevent it from building to the threshold where it can draw energy more quickly (as I recall, the rapid cycling of the air between hot and cold allows the weather system absorb energy increasingly quickly and become a hurricane - if you slow it down early enough, it may not).
        --
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    • (Score: 3, Funny) by TK on Friday February 28 2014, @04:27PM

      by TK (2760) on Friday February 28 2014, @04:27PM (#8575)

      For those too lazy to do the math, that's $1,560,000,000,000 or roughly 1.5 quadrillion dollars. Roughly one tenth of the US GDP in 2012.

      Maybe China will be nice and give a bulk discount on all that neodymium.

      --
      The fleas have smaller fleas, upon their backs to bite them, and those fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum
  • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 28 2014, @06:42AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 28 2014, @06:42AM (#8329)

    This will work great until the threat of AGC (Anthropogenic Global Calming) is realized. Don't let anybody tell you AGC isn't real. If they do they're probably just lobbyists for Big Wind.

  • (Score: 4, Funny) by egcagrac0 on Friday February 28 2014, @10:34AM

    by egcagrac0 (2705) on Friday February 28 2014, @10:34AM (#8403)

    I find it fascinating that it should only take 78,000 turbines to extract enough energy to "tame" a devastating storm that is (according to Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]) between 60 and 2500 miles across.

    Perhaps next, they'll explain how sheep's bladders can be employed to prevent earthquakes.

    • (Score: 1) by jturpin on Friday February 28 2014, @05:54PM

      by jturpin (1985) on Friday February 28 2014, @05:54PM (#8644)

      First you collect, oh say 78,000,000 sheep's bladders and fill them with gelatin. Then, hoping you don't actually cause an earthquake, you systematically drill along fault lines, to a depth of at least two miles, and fill the drilled faulted lines with the bladders.

      Then, when a seismic event occurs, the bladders pad the Earth's plates, dramatically reducing the energy and conflict of the plates themselves.

      Yes, you would end up with a lot of gelatin and broken sheep bladders along the fault during such an event, but it would be a small price to pay to minimize the damage from an earthquake.

      For the record, the UWSAA (United Wool Sheep Association of America) has come out against this plan, stating "isn't it bad enough that they shear off our wool, I mean, come on."

      • (Score: 1) by EvilJim on Sunday March 02 2014, @09:55PM

        by EvilJim (2501) on Sunday March 02 2014, @09:55PM (#9761) Journal

        Chuck in a few entrails and you'll have a nice fault line haggis going on there.

  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by Phoenix666 on Friday February 28 2014, @11:15AM

    by Phoenix666 (552) on Friday February 28 2014, @11:15AM (#8419) Journal

    One of the hallmarks of fossil fuels is the host of negative externalities from their use: acid rain, smog, staggering atmospheric carbon, oil spills, wars for control of supply, etc. The idea that forms of alternative energy could have more positive externalities beyond the avoidance of the negatives of fossil fuels intrigues me. Abating the force of hurricanes is certainly one I would not have expected. I wonder if mass adoption of solar covering roofs and parking lots (gazebo-style) would reduce the heat island effect of cities. Or if land-based wind turbines formed into phalanxes outside communities in tornado alley would afford any similar protection.

    --
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    • (Score: 1) by hendrikboom on Friday February 28 2014, @04:06PM

      by hendrikboom (1125) Subscriber Badge on Friday February 28 2014, @04:06PM (#8565) Homepage Journal

      It won't abate the heat island effect of cities if the energy generated in the city is used in the city. It'll all end up as heat.