By Amy Kraft
Posting in Energy
New research shows wind farms have a warming effect on the local climate, which might throw a wrench in the expansion of this new form of energy.
Researchers at SUNY New York looked at nearly 10 years of satellite data of areas around wind farms in Texas. Researchers chose Texas because it has four of the world's largest wind farms. The results showed night-time surface temperatures around areas with high volumes of wind turbines were 0.72 degrees C (1.3 degrees F) higher than areas where no wind farms existed.
What caused the increase in surface temperature? During the evening, the earth cools and brings the air temperature down. But near wind turbines, turbulence from the blades keeps the air warmer.
Discovery News reports:
"Given the present installed capacity and the projected growth in installation of wind farms across the world, I feel that wind farms, if spatially large enough, might have noticeable impacts on local to regional meteorology," Liming Zhou, associate professor at the State University of New York, Albany and author of the paper published April 29 in Nature Climate Change said in an e-mail to Discovery News."
According to the research, the warming surface temperate increased from 2003 to 2011, which is consistent with an increase in the number of wind turbines in the Texas area used for this study.
Because this warming could impact crop yields of local farmers or have an even larger effect on the increase in global temperatures, the study authors say more research is needed.
"We need to better understand the system with observations and better describe and model the complex processes involved to predict how wind farms may affect future weather and climate," Zhou said in a statement.
Photo via flickr/Charles Cook
Apr 29, 2012
I am a weather watcher, I am noticing such pattern in Indian states like Maharashtra and Tamilnadu, where local droughts are reported where large scale wind warms are there.. this needed further research. Places like Tirunelveli and Udumalapet in Tamilnadu and Satara, Sangli etc where nearby windfarms should have caused recent droughts.
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AWEA: wind power remains leading climate solution; media misreports research on local temperatures http://awea.org/newsroom/pressreleases/120430temperature.cfm
Wind turbines do not contribute to climate change. Check out the responsible reporting on this study, www.csmonitor.com/Science/2012/0430/Don-t-believe-the-headlines.-Wind-farms-do-not-cause-global-warming www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/post/no-wind-farms-are-not-causing-global-warming/2012/04/30/gIQAMl2GsT_blog.html awea.org/blog/index.cfm?customel_dataPageID_1699=16162
Point out the downside to fossil fuels, nuclear or the possibility that man has some affect on climate change and watch those in the GOP or the far right decry the science and tell you we need more studies and data. But when one study reports problem with renewable source, all of sudden they change their tune and believe, and shout see told you that new stuff is bad. What a bunch of jokers.
No, it's a University study. It also only deals with one of the problems with large scale Wind Power. There are at least 3 others that have been identified. If this weren't a politically popular choice, it would be ruled out on environmental grounds. It's always the first response that the systems we are meddling with are 'potentially infinite'. But they are really finite. It happened the same way with dumping in the oceans. I still remember in the 1970's "The solution to pollution is dilution". But, water to dilute was finite. Global wind patterns are cyclic and interrelated. Take wind energy out here, and the wind stops over there. After all, it really moves in large circles. Think of the influence of the small ocean currents and winds on the Andes that we call El Nino and La Ninia. Those small winds change the weather over the entire Western Hemisphere. Do you really think that you can remove the energy that brings the rains and not pay a price later on down the road? Yes, one windmill won't change the weather in any appreciable way, but neither will one coal fired power plant. But, what about 100,000? Now you start to see continental weather changes. And please, don't do anything that might interrupt the Gulf Stream or the Japanese Current. The whole world depends on them. Impossible, right? And it will be until it happens. Then, it's goodby Europe and East Asia.
I do agree with some that it should not pace down the production of wind turbines or solar energy compared to Fukushima, Chernobyl or Maryland disasters alike. There should be more political and economy engagement to create more sustainable energy and at the same time jobs for the multiple hundreds of millions millions we are! The sun has millions of time energy we need globally, what are we waiting for. Final disruption or what?
The formation of the nocturnal surface inversion is delayed or disrupted by low level mixing caused by wind turbine farms. The down stream temperatures will not fall as much as indicated by surface back radiation, until the upstream inversion depth exceeds the height of the turbines. Once this occurs the wind farm will be becalmed. This could be a positive vice negative result if a wind farm is used in conjunction with crops that could benefit from low level mixing. The additional 0.72 degrees C could make a significant difference to a citrus orchard. If needed the turbines could use power to maintain the mixing till the diurnal thermocline shift to decrease the probability of frost damage. How large is this heat island in comparison to a town of the same size and what is the heat differential for a town of that size?
It's unfortunate that there doesn't seem to be a before picture (temperature wise) of the "affected" areas, just a comparison between areas with windmills vs areas without. I think this calls into question the validity of the study. As part of any future builds of wind farms are concerned, part of the environmental impact study for a location should include a thermal imaging of the area, both land and air based, so we have a before picture. Having said all of this, none of which has anything to do with the subject of my comment, since others articles herein have suggested the use of small catenary windmills covering the real-estate between the larger windmills, whipping up (or at least harvesting) wind energy close to the ground, perhaps the solution (assuming there is a problem) is to use water to evaporate at ground level and cool the place down. We could even seed clouds with the evaporated water so it will rain and cool things down. Sorry for any run-on sentences. Personaly, even though I love watching windmills turn, I am still under the impression that these big whirligigs on a stick are not the best solution. I think airborne windmills on kites, parasails and/or balloons would be better. the higher you go, the more wind there is, volume, speed and regularity. As for the actual question at hand, "Do wind farms have a negative impact on the environment" I think the question should be qualified with a reference to the local environment, even though some folks quoted in the article seem to think that there may be far reaching climate impacts. The answer is YES of course. This is why environmental impact studies were invented, all the way back to the birth of engineering with the Romans. Check out the names of any university's engineering school and many will end with "and Environmental Sciences". Once the impacts (negative) are known, they must be balanced against the benefits of your endeavor (cost benefit analysis). As long as we take measures to mitigate/remediate problems caused by the wind farms, we should be ok.
As with any air foil, the movement of air across the turbines blade (i.e. air foil) causes a pressure drop from one side of the blade to the other. This in turn causes the blade to rotate. The faster the wind speed, the higher the pressure drop, the faster the blade turns and more power is extracted. This pressure drop is causing tubulence down wind from the turbines, and would cause localized atmospheric mixing and greater thermal transfer from the warmer ground to the cooler air than what would otherwise normally occur due to convection and smaller levels of conduction (stagnant or stratified low speed air would have some level of insulating effect). The phenomenon would most likely have the reverse effect when the air is warmer and the ground cooler, causing localized cooling, if the atmoshperic and ground conditions are right. Finally, the laws of physics and thermodynamics won't allow a free ride (law of conservation of energy), so the net effect to the overall environment is zero - any energy contained tin the wind is used to convert to electrical energy. Any losses go back into the environment one way or another, so the net gain/loss is zero. In the case of wind turbines, lower efficiencies mean you don't get as much useable energy from the wind as you would have if your efficiency were greater. Of course a small amount would be created by mechanical losses (bearings) and electrical losses (generator, transmission), but these would be fairly small, especially in newer, larger turbines that may not have gear boxes. In addition, there would most likley be a net overall loss of energy to the environment given the wind energy is probably displacing some form of thermal generation (coal, nuclear, oil, gas) and their associated thermal (i.e. waste energy) and particulate/.chemical emmissions. Still a good, clean form of energy. Not a total solution, but a good one just the same! That's my $0.02 US ($0.0202 CDN) :-)
This study is so full of scientific error, experimental design holes, and in the best case results with total insignificance - you would have to be extremely desperate to ever attach your name to it. First of all a parking lots, freshly plowed fields, herds of cows, even haystacks have more significant temperature impacts. Trees, power pylons and tall buildings create more turbulence - and none of these create energy with minimal net environmental impacts.
If the turbines are not 100% efficient at turning the wind's kinetic energy into electrical energy, then some of that kinetic energy gets turned into waste heat instead. And of course they are not 100% efficient, and never can be. But this is just a local phenomenon. Without the turbines, the wind still eventually gets turned into waste heat. The waste heat is spread over a wide area instead of concentrated near the turbines, so you don't notice it.
I would have thought that this could be used positively by farmers to help protect crops around the base of wind farms and to encourage earlier growth too. Many wind farms have grazing animals in close proximity too, where grass re-growth rates might be increased to better effect. In more remote and desolate areas, it could also have a positive effect on flora ecology by increasing growth rates and thereby supporting a larger number of browsing fauna too. As I assume it is a localised phenomenon only, it shouldn't impact global temperatures unduly.
I'm not a big believer that windmills are our salvation. But a local heat effect from windmills can't be any worse than the heat islands that spring up around our cities. It has to be much less, in fact. So far I don't see it as a big deal.
How exactly do wind turbines add to local air turbulence? They obviously redirect it like any natural or man-made object, but wouldn't they have to expend rather than collect energy in order to increase turbulence? They'd have to be more like fans than windmills or pinwheels, right? If the SUNY researchers' hypothesis is correct and wind turbines do increase surface temperatures, I would attribute it to the decrease in wind that must occur as it powers the spinning blades, which could decrease the cooling effects of the wind. It also seems likely that the turbines themselves give off heat from their generators. Whatever the cause, minor increases in surface temperature should be easy to mitigate using a fraction of the energy created by the turbines.
...since wind farms are extracting energy from the atmosphere, and wind turbines are no where near 100% efficient. The difference between the energy intercepted and the energy extracted and transmitted has to be going somewhere. So now that we have another "global warming" problem to face, perhaps we should have federal efficiency standards for wind turbines. I'll be calling my congressman today!
No report on how many birds get killed by wind farms. This is a factor to consider before setting up a wind farm, if it is on a main flyway used by migrating birds then it will have a greater impact on the environment. Most energy producing systems will have good and bad effects on the environment; we need to understand these effects to keep environmental impact as low as possible. Birds are an important part of the ecology, many eat their weight in bugs daily.
I was always taught that turbulance reduces the existance of eddy currents (or layers) which can create an insulating effect. Could it instead be that the process of converting the energy stored in wind power to electricity is reducing the total mass effect of air flowing over the surface, thereby reducing the cooling effect that existed prior to the wind generator? my $0.02, what's yours??
Using Fukushima as an example, it is far better to accept a fraction of a degree difference than a huge increase in radioactivity spread over a enormous area... Land based Nuclear reactors are Trillion Dollar Eco-Disasters waiting to happen, so I hope this study is not used to somehow delay Solar (of all flavors) from being installed ASAP...
Lies. All lies. At least that is what I have been told for years when I tried to point out that the extensive man made deforestation around Mt Kilimanjaro was responsible for the rise in average temperatures, drop in local rain/snow fall and the shrinking glacier. I can see the head lines. Global warming behind temperature rise in Texas wind farms. Blaming wind turbines is a big oil conspiracy to oppress renewable energy sources.
Once you use a new system for a while, you'll see the effects, allowing you to further improve the the system. Wind is no exception. Once it was explained and through hindsight, it's quite natural that concentrating a large amount of turbines producing turbulence won't allow the air to sufficiently cool down. Maybe if the farms were spread out, or integrated into residential and industrial structures, will it be able to improve the situation? Juan Miguel Ruiz GreenJoyment.com
This is about microclimate change. Big difference. As I have tried to point out many times. There are numerous anecdotal incidents that are pointed out as FACTS supporting global warming, yet they are microclimate changes because of a local situation. As mentioned about the glacier melting at Kilimanjaro. There is far more concrete evidence to support the massive deforestation around the mountain as being the cause of the regional drop in rain/snow fall. Yet the global warming conspiracy mob constantly uses the Kilimanjaro glacier as PROOF of global warming. Bottom line. The situation at Kilimanjaro is a local impact of man and so is this. No one here is seriously saying wind turbines cause global warming.
Agreed. All the attempts to calculate heat from turbine friction or whatever are faintly absurd as it could never account for the huge amount of energy needed to warm such land by that amount. In all likelihood this is an artefact--of the kind that misses some land-use change associated with either the choice of this land for siting wind turbines or subsequent to it. Or, it is an effect on the loss of heat accumulated during the day perhaps by altering exchange/escape to higher atmosphere (and frankly I don't believe that). With lots of observations there should be data on that (eg. it should vary according to day temperatures, cloud cover, rain etc.). Finally whatever is the explanation (ie. if the primary observation is correct and not an artefact) this can have no effect on global warming as it is merely affecting redistribution of existing heat, not a net addition. One more thought: in my experience "preliminary observational" publications like this are usually a prelude to the researchers trying for research grant to examine the phenomenon in more detail. No real problem with that but the trouble today is that the deniers are out in force, especially against wind farms (possibly because they are becoming too successful for them to tolerate).
Pollution from cars and coal power plants is also just a local effect. These things are currently being sited all around the world. When the locals overlap, it's global. Atmospheric Physicists have calculated how much energy can be removed from the Global wind systems before potentially disastrous effects become unavoidable. The numbers I have seen give that as around twice the amount currently planned (and funded) for 2015. There are already heat and rainfall effects, plus damage to ecosystems being found. That's why serious ecologists aren't really big on Wind and new ground based Solar. They are not friendly to the environment. So far, there is not any identified solution that doesn't have serious impacts. Minimum impact appears to be new designed Nuclear. But, running our cars on that is hard. No complete abd painless solutions exist. Don't blame Big Oil, who do you think paid for the big Wind Farms?
There are other effects besides the heat downwind. There is rainfall change, and the pollinators killed by the wind turbines. For the farmers, it's a mixed blessing. Plus, a great deal of land is taken up by the turbines, and the farmers are not allowed into those areas. I am not sure if there is any data yet on the vibration effects from the turbines. Like it is with Nuclear Power Plants, Hydroelectric Power Plants and Gas Fired Power Plants, nothing does only one thing. There are always side effects.
Like I said above, turbines are not 100% efficient. Just by existing, they are extracting energy from the wind, just as you would if you were to raise your hand. Whatever percentage of that energy is not captured and put on the grid ends up as heat downwind of the turbine.
Now ask about rain fall impacts from both before and after the Wind Farms were installed. Rainfall is increased in some areas, and reduced in even more areas. Don't believe me, check the climate maps. Atmospheric Physicists have know about this for several years. TANSTAAFL - Ther Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch!!!
In the early days of wind farms when the turbines were smaller and faster turning bird kill was much more of a problem. Today the turbines turn much slower and are sited outside of major bird flyways.
Simple physics. If you use wind to generate electricity you have to transfer the energy from the wind to moving electrons. If we build enough huge wind farms there can be no question about affecting the climate of the planet. I have wondered for years just how long it would take until the naive eco folks would discover this simple physical law.
Ahem, exactly as I wrote. Extract from AWEA press release in response to this nonsense story in the press (thanks to CaptD, the last post on this thread): "This study says nothing about wind energy and global climate, and casts no doubt on all the other studies that find wind power is one of the best ways to address climate change. The study merely examined the effect of local air mixing at the site of a wind farm, which has nothing to do with climate because no heat or heat-trapping gases are being added to the atmosphere. "All scientific studies including this one have found that any impact wind farms may have on local temperature readings is trivially small, and localized only to an area immediately around a wind project. "We caution against people with an agenda who may try to misconstrue this study for their own purposes."
Even if the turbines were 100% efficient, they would still leave turbulence, as they slow or stop the wind just downstream of the blades. the wind passing around the blades then creates turbulence, just as the air flow behind a big truck does with the surrounding air. But, there are also other problems with large scale deployment of very big windmills.
But then again, urban heat islands where most of this energy will get consumed affect rainfall as well. You are right, there is no free lunch. Attended a talk a few months ago by an ocean scientist who suggested that we should be harvesting kinetic energy from the ocean. He went on as though that was a "free lunch" too. But then again, he also said that 100% of the "scientific community" was all behind anthropocentric global warning, so his credibility was a bit stretched anyway...
Blade tip speed is actually higher. Remember, these have very large diameters. Bird kill is as high as it ever was. But, the Wind Farm operators have learned. Don't allow the ecologists in. They count dead birds and bats. That's the real reason that the public is no longer allowed inside. They kill quite a lot of flying insects too.
Unlike Nuclear (for example) which requires a hugely expensive reactor complex that can be destroyed by Nature..
You are correct in one way, the energy balance is governed by the laws of physics. With wind, the net energy effect is zero since ALL of the energy is coming from the wind. Some goes to moving electrons, some goes to heat (friction, electrical losses), and some goes to slip (air foil) and some to sound energy (tip speed, edge losses). Anything that does not go down the wire for edn use is dissipated in the form of heat, going back to where it came from, to the wind and the environment.
They reading the congressional record some time. National weather service officials have admitted in Congressional testimony on global warming that there is no adjusting done to the data to try and compensate for poor location. The words used were - it would be impossible to accurately account for so many variables. ??? Proper placement is the only fix. There is also the little problem of lost data collection points related to many weather stations being shut down under the Clinton administrations budget cuts. Since then the national average temperature is based on a smaller pool of data. Smaller pools with increased error rates are hell on the study of long term statistics. One Senator has blown the lid off all the buried testimony and proof Congress has seen of the fraud that is global warming. http://www.amazon.com/The-Greatest-Hoax-Conspiracy-Threatens/dp/1936488493
The problem with your "poorly located temperature collection points" thesis is that scientists are well aware of the issue and take it into account in their studies. If you want to use that meme effectively you need to scientifically show that the compensations that scientists use to account for the effect are not adequate.
In the not so distant past when I have brought up the impact of urban heat islands and the poor location of remote temperature sensors on the quality of data supporting the basis of global warming claims in the USA I was ridiculed by many people on this site. Now I see some of them using the same local heat only argument here. I find myself torn up laughing that people are using the argument they blasted to support a pet project. And for once their assessment of the situation is accurate. Wind turbines have no more impact on global warming than the thousands of poorly located temperature collection points that created the bogus data to support global warmings alleged impact on daily temperatures in the US. You cannot have it both ways. You either agree with my point or your argument falls flat on its face.
By definition, if they were 100% efficient, there would be no turbulence as all energy would be converted to electricity, and the turbulence represents wasted opportunity. Of course, this is an impossibility.