Little risk from hurricanes for wind farms off N.J. coast

A new study confirms that any wind turbines built off the coast of New Jersey would stand relatively little risk of being destroyed by a hurricane.

Jay Apt, engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University and author of the study, said companies developing offshore wind projects still should install back-up power sources and design blades so they can rotate quickly enough to move with high winds.

“Everyone should understand that there is some risk, even in areas like the coastal waters off New Jersey,” Apt said.  “But that the risk there is rather less than the risk would be in, let’s say, Galveston, Texas.”

Apt’s study projected that if 50 windmills were constructed off the coast of Atlantic County to current international standards, there is only a 15 percent probability that one would buckle in 20 years.

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Erich Stephens with OffshoreMW, a company looking to develop offshore wind off of Long Beach Island, said the firm is already planning back-up power sources so turbines can rotate to the safest position if grid power is knocked out.

“Our plan is to have a diesel generator on the offshore substation platform,” Stephens said. “And in the event of a power outage, for example, from a hurricane, that … would kick in.”

No offshore turbines now exist in the U.S., but a federal environmental impact decision earlier this month cleared the way for leasing activities for offshore wind farms by the end of the year.

Almost a dozen developers have expressed interest in leasing blocks of off the coast of New Jersey.

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