How Would Wind Turbines Weather a Hurricane?

August 30, 2011

The fact that wind turbines are surviving in the hostile waters of the North Sea, the gusty, sun-snow and thunder-pounded Texas panhandle, and riding out earthquakes and tsunamis unscathed, pretty much answers any questions about their durability.

Nevertheless, it’s great to see this helpful fun-fact from Maddowblog:

And then came word that Hurricane Irene’s path would take it right up the coast. What do wind farms do in a hurricane? We’ve all seen that one clip of the wind turbine that spins out of control and destroys itself. I know that was an anomaly, but still, how do they keep those things from buzzing to the moon when a hurricane hits?

I’m thinking, for example, of that off-shore wind farm planned for off Cape Cod.

The answer is that either by automatic means or through manual preventive measures, the blades of the turbine feather.

Wut?

Not having any experience in propeller-based fields I struggled to think of what properties Farah Fawcett/Scott Baio 80s hairstyles had that would help wind turbines survive high winds. Wrong kind of feather.

The answer is that the blades twist in their sockets so they don’t catch the wind anymore. Combined with a braking sytem, they endure the wind until it returns to a more productive speed.

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One Response to “How Would Wind Turbines Weather a Hurricane?”

  1. otter17 Says:

    Hah, I love Rachel’s self-effacing mannerisms, like in that feathering comment. When she doesn’t know a lot about a subject, you can tell she listens intently to the experts that she interviews. I don’t catch her show often, but it seems she does a decent job of telling it like it is.

    And that is some fast-acting feathering in that video. Back when I was doing research for a proposal towards the DOE’s “20% Wind by 2030″ initiative, I caught wind of possible method for measuring heavy wind gusts ahead of the wind farm and feathering the blades quickly enough to prevent gearbox/blade fatigue.

    Good stuff.


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