In this study, published in Nature Climate Change, we investigated the effects of large arrays of offshore wind turbines on coastal winds and storm surge levels during hurricanes. We used a complex atmospheric and ocean model called GATOR-GCMOM that extracts kinetic energy from the winds just like wind turbines do.
We found that the reduced winds over the ocean surface caused a reduction in storm surge levels over land, due to the lower wind stress upwind of the coast. Storm surge levels in New Orleans were up to 70% lower with turbines than without. Similarly, during Sandy the storm surge could have been reduced by up to 34% with turbines.
We also found that a feedback occurred between the hurricane and the turbines, such that the hurricane was weakened by up to 40 mb during Katrina (and up to 5 mb during Sandy).
We tested the sensitivity of our results to turbine type, number, and location and found that the results withstand but are sensitive to those parameters in a non-linear fashion.
Please follow the links to the University of Delaware and Stanford University press releases.
The figure below shows examples of the 15-m wind speed distributions and changes in sea level pressure, with and without wind turbines, during Katrina and Sandy.