Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy

Hunting Hurricanes…and Data to Help Build Better Offshore Wind Turbines

June 2, 2014

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Hurricane season has officially started and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts more than a dozen named storms this year. With an average sustained wind speed of over 74 miles per hour, these storms pose a threat to residents living in coastal regions of the United States. Coincidentally, these coastal regions are also great locations for offshore wind farms. Offshore wind turbines in these areas must be built to withstand the harsh wind, waves, and rain from hurricanes and tropical storms.

As part of a memorandum of understanding, the Energy Department is working with NOAA’s hurricane research missions to collect data that could lead to improved offshore wind turbine designs. As hurricanes approach the United States, NOAA’s Hurricane Field Program uses high-tech airplanes equipped with Doppler radar that drop sondes – or probes that measure atmospheric information – into developing storms. These sondes relay information regarding a storm’s strength, temperature, pressure, and wind speed and direction, all developmental characteristics that allow weather models to better predict the storm track and intensity.

For any NOAA research mission flown within 150 nautical miles of an identified offshore wind energy development site, the data shared by NOAA will provide critical insights that could lead to stronger offshore wind turbines and components, such as blades, foundations, and gearboxes capable of withstanding hurricane conditions. Additionally, by being able to better gauge the momentum of winds throughout a storm, turbine operators will be able more effectively rotate and position the turbine’s blades to prevent component and structural damage. .

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has identified several wind energy lease areas in federal waters off the Atlantic coast that can be used for future offshore wind development, while the Energy Department is funding three major offshore wind advanced demonstration projects, two of which are located along the East Coast.

All of this work is part of the Energy Department’s larger National Offshore Wind Strategy, which outlines actions that support development of a world‐class offshore wind industry in the United States. The Energy Department also works with partners across the government, including NOAA and BOEM to conduct resource assessments, streamline siting and permitting, and overcome technical and market challenges to deploying offshore wind technologies. Learn more about how the Energy Department is advancing offshore wind energy through high-impact research and development projects