Good Thinking

Shorelines could be protected from wind and waves – by a floating forest

Shorelines could be protected ...
The floating forest would feature a ramped surface with manmade "trees" protruding from it
The floating forest would feature a ramped surface with manmade "trees" protruding from it
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The floating forest would feature a ramped surface with manmade "trees" protruding from it
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The floating forest would feature a ramped surface with manmade "trees" protruding from it
Anchored offshore of at-risk areas, the curved floating structure would measure approximately one kilometer in length
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Anchored offshore of at-risk areas, the curved floating structure would measure approximately one kilometer in length

Wind storms can cause a great deal of damage to coastal areas, producing waves that erode the shoreline and destroy facilities such as marinas. A newly-proposed "floating forest" could help, however, by blocking both the wind and the waves.

Designed by the University of Queensland's Prof. Chien Ming Wang, the curved floating structure would measure approximately one kilometer in length (0.6 miles). Plans call for it to be anchored offshore of at-risk areas.

One of its key features would be its sloped concrete surface, which would allow waves to non-destructively dissipate their energy by flowing up onto it – much in the same way that drivers of runaway transport trucks can stop their rigs by steering them up onto safety ramps on mountain roads.

Anchored offshore of at-risk areas, the curved floating structure would measure approximately one kilometer in length
Anchored offshore of at-risk areas, the curved floating structure would measure approximately one kilometer in length

Protruding vertically from the structure's surface would be the actual "forest."

Instead of consisting of trees, however, it would be made up of plastic-and-concrete tubes, each one standing 20 meters tall (65.6 ft). While these would be somewhat flexible (to reduce the chances of them breaking), they would still be stiff enough to disrupt the wind, greatly reducing its speed upon reaching the shore. Additionally, the incoming water would be able to flow up into each tube, further helping to dissipate the waves' energy.

The floating forest technology has been patented by the university, with hopes that it could someday be used in cyclone-prone countries such as Bangladesh, Mozambique, Taiwan and the Philippines. In the meantime, a scale model has been built for testing in U Queensland's wave tank.

"Engineers have already developed wave-breakers capable of reducing the height of waves, but there has been nothing until now to break the wind," says Wang. "We're the first ones to place a windbreak on top of the floating breakwater structure."

Source: University of Queensland

9 comments
f8lee
Wouldn't it be great if they could figure out a way to pant actual tall trees on this thing?
paul314
So basically they've re-invented the mangrove swamps that everyone has been ripping out?
Johannes
Seems to me that this idea could have many unexpected adverse consequences.
Fletcher
Wow a fancy brake wall, to stop waves, amazing (not an eyesore at all). Why not install wave generators and solar panels instead? I suppose that would make to much sense. I mean it's gotta be a much better idea to spend a lot of money making huge concrete structures and then moving those structures that weight a lot into place to stop waves, instead of installing something that could convert the energy of the waves into electricity, right?
Mzungu_Mkubwa
Or, maybe, I dunno, stop destroying coral reefs with our trash/sewage? This is kinda what those already do for coastlines, right? (Along with the already-mentioned mangroves.) Seems a bit of a stretch to file this under #goodthinking.
Mik-Fielding
If they combined it with those wind generators that consist of vertical oscillating tubes, that have been previously published about on this site, or something similar, they may have something worthwhile ...
owlbeyou
Not that it matters, but we don't have any idea from which direction are the shoreline and the open waters... But a floating kilometer-long structure like this may not be robust enough to create wind and wave breaks to calm a typhoon, and if it breaks loose, the damage to the shore may be extensively worse. More tests are definitely needed.
amazed W1
Brill, if planting is feasible, at a stroke there would be a habitat for various types of biology, a seaside play area both combined with a floating refuse collector.
GregVoevodsky
Does this guy not know that most forests do not like salt water? As gospel - Paul 3:14 below says - "So basically they've re-invented the mangrove swamps...?" ;-). Really? Best put some "Dolos sea wall" - google them there instead and paint them green.