Wave power as disaster prevention?


 LearnedAx writes:

Today’s (well yesterday’s, but then I got sidetracked) crazy way to save the world: place enormous arrays of windmills and wave power machines across the relatively small regions that tend to develop our major tropical storms. If the power farms are large enough, and the storm development sites can be found with enough precision, we can bleed enough energy off of developing storms to keep them from being catastrophic, while generating a lot of power off the high-activity region.

It would certainly cost a huge amount of capital, but we’d be saving money on disaster relief, and the work could be done incrementally. I think the critical question is whether we can sap off enough energy to have a significant effect. All the hurricane-fighting approaches that I’ve looked into so far attempt to stop an already fully-developed storm, which is so much a juggernaut that we don’t seem to be able to fight it. A relatively small effect, though, early enough on in the production cycle, could probably have a significant effect. And all the maps I’ve seen so far suggest that the channels in which the storms form are comparatively small, and very well known.



  1. Eelco 11:34 pm

    My initial reaction is: uhmm, no.

    And so is my second reaction. The amount of energy going around in natural processes dwarfs human use. We arnt even capable of building economical windmills for a fraction of our consumption. Building capacity for orders of magnitude more, in countless independent locations around the world? Nope.

  2. bhuga 1:37 am

    Using the newly-proposed integrated kinetic energy scale, Ike, which grew up in about 4 days, had some 225 Tj of energy at peak (that is to say, its winds had pushed up enough water to store 225 Tj of potential energy). See this blog entry for citation. Sites like these are where Gulf Coast natives like myself are used to spending many hours hand-wringing :)

    That’s enough energy, based on my back of the envelope calculation, to power 15 billion american homes for a day. There are note quite 100 million of them.

    Even catching these ‘early’, which would be difficult as they can appear anywhere from Africa to the Yucatan, there’s simply no human technology that will approach usefully interfering with that kind of system for some time to come. A ‘relatively small effect, though, early enough on in the production cycle’, simply misunderstands the forces that create these things.

  3. vtoldude 6:09 pm

    Try not building cities in hurricane prone areas, close to the sea, below sea level, for a start. Maybe then, if it is still needed, we can start thinking about modifying the weather. But personally I think I´d rather spend my money on making my house more disaster-resistant.

  4. Thorizan 8:37 pm


    The entire neighborhood was desimated, except for this lone house.  I think it costs less to build a good house, then to rebuild a bad one.

  5. DanB 5:03 pm

    Totally agree that in principle it should be possible to deflect or deflate hurricanes. They are weird improbable natural phenomena with delicate life cycles. Should be possible to disrupt those life cycles somehow. Maybe if you drove a submarine with some floating wind sails it would be enough to deflect the course of the storm away from cities. You could maybe even make lots of money by striking deals with the re-insurance people who make big bets on this stuff.

    On the topic of crazy water ideas to save the world, how about storing nuclear waste on semi-buoyant platforms? Waste is suspended deep beneath the surface. Water totally blocks all radiation. The platform holding the waste is nearly buoyant, but not quite, so that it has to be aided by cables from the surface. If the surface buoys are knocked out, the platform just sinks to the ocean floor. Should be possible to build this for about 1/1000 of the cost of the Yucca mountain thing.

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