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Wind Power

James Martin designs blades for wind farms in the Gulf of Mexico, Elizabeth Valenti unveils new tech that accurately predicts hurricanes.

Whatever you believe is the cause of our changing climate, we seem to be living through an era of historically more storms, and more severe storms. Even if you only moved here recently, most of us in Louisiana have now lived through a major hurricane, or had one narrowly miss us.

You’re no doubt all too familiar with the hurricane season ritual ahead of a storm heading in our direction. It starts about 5 Days out, with casually checking the weather forecast, and builds to obsessively watching storm predictions on TV, checking incessantly online, and asking family, friends, and neighbors, “Are you staying or evacuating?”

So, here’s a crazy question. What if you didn’t have to do any of that? What if there was a website or an app that you could open, punch in your address, and get an individualized, accurate, wind and flood forecast? Not for the city, but for your own specific street address.

If that sounds ridiculous and impossible, well, it’s neither. It’s actually real. It’s a tool that’s at your fingertips right now, called QRisq. It’s the result of years of development by a company headquartered at the Stennis Space Center, called QRisq Analytics.

Initially QRisq’s customers have been municipalities but starting with the 2022 hurricane season, Q Risq is available to the general public.

Elizabeth Valenti is the Lead Engineer who created, designed and, along with a staff of 7, built this piece of technology.

There’s a good side and a bad side to everything. Even high winds.

Almost everybody in the energy production business believes that wind power is going to provide a significant amount of our future electricity supply. Here in Louisiana, we don’t exactly have winds whistling across wide open plains. But we do have wind out at sea, in the Gulf. Harnessing that off-shore wind to generate electricity is now a priority, for both our State and Federal governments.

As plans progress to build wind farms out in the Gulf, one of the essential items is the giant windmill blades that spin around to produce the energy. Each wind turbine blade is 400 feet long. And made of aerodynamically sculpted steel.

Wind turbine blades are reportedly the largest serially produced item manufactured on earth. And the exact spot on the planet that some of the most advanced blades are being designed is at the Avondale Shipyards, just out of New Orleans, by a company called Gulf Wind Technology. Its CEO is James Martin.

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good.” It’s meant to suggest that even something that is bad for most people has got to be good for somebody. There are very few instances where you can employ that expression literally. So, to that extent we may have made history with this podcast!

Elizabeth Valenti's QRisq technology might be the closest we’ve come to getting an advantage over hurricanes, or at least predicting our chances of survival. And increasing our chances of getting an insurance settlement on the other side.

And whereas “trying to catch the wind” was once a poetic way of describing a hopeless cause, today, catching the wind is becoming a potentially planet-saving industry. And James Martin's turbine blade technology is at the cutting edge of the revolution.

Elizabeth and James are both doing ground-breaking work that would be significant whatever city they were in, anywhere in the world. It’s amazing that they're both here in New Orleans.

Out to Lunch is recorded live over lunch at NOLA Pizza in the NOLA Brewing Taproom. You can find photos from this by Jill Lafleur at itsneworleans.com. And you can also check out more lunchtime conversation about New Orleans surprising role in advancing wind-power technology