A Stanford University professor is proposing what USA Today calls a "groundbreaking" anti-hurricane plan: We could use offshore wind turbines to reduce the storms' power—even a storm like Katrina. For that, we'd need a lot of them, though, according to Mark Jacobson: something along the lines of 78,000 of them over 13,500 square miles of ocean outside New Orleans. That's an area 2.5 times as big as Connecticut, Scientific American reports. But according to computer modeling, it would have reduced Katrina's storm surge up to 79% and shaved some 80mph off its wind speeds at landfall—which were 118mph.
The upside: It wouldn't cost anything, at least not over time. The installation would require billions of dollars, but the system would eventually pay for itself thanks to the electricity it would sell—unlike, say, $20 billion in seawalls proposed in New York after Hurricane Sandy. Scientific American notes that Jacobson painstakingly addresses all kinds of possible objections to his plan, including concerns that the storm could knock over the turbines (he explains why they'd stay standing) and fears for the lives of birds (more are killed by fossil-fuel plants, he says). The US currently has no offshore wind farms, but 11 are in the development stage, USA Today reports. Jacobson, Scientific American adds, is becoming something of a celebrity scientist due to his idea: He was on Letterman in October. (Read more hurricane stories.)