FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — After dozens of nonsensical proposals to kill hurricanes with everything from nuclear bombs to cat litter, finally an idea that might work: enormous wind turbines placed offshore from storm-vulnerable cities.
But costs in the trillions and environmental considerations will blow away any chances of that happening soon.
The proposal, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, involves placing tens of thousands of turbines around the nation’s Gulf and Atlantic coastlines.
Mark Jacobson, a Stanford University professor of environmental engineering, says they could cut a hurricane’s winds and storm surge by up to 80 percent. He estimates that the Florida cities of Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach would need about 40,000 turbines apiece to be spared a hurricane. “You’d have them staggered in farms, ideally right in front of the cities,” he said.
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Although the turbines cost about $10 million apiece, Jacobson notes: “They would pay for themselves” because their primary purpose would be to generate electricity and reduce dependence on fossil fuels.
The turbines’ giant rotor blades would spin in the winds of an approaching storm, extracting energy from it. The blades also would create a turbulent wake.
Each year, people dream up proposals to kill hurricanes. Among them: Dump gobs of absorbent material, similar to cat litter, into the storm’s eye to deprive of it moisture or pour loads of dry ice into its path to deprive it of heat. “Nuking a storm is the most common one I get,” said Dennis Feltgen, spokesman for the National Hurricane Center.