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Do wind farms have a negative effect on the environment?

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.

Wind farms have been touted as the technology of the future and a way to create sustainable energy. But new research shows that wind farms may have a negative effect on area surface temperature.

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.

WIND FARMS WARMING TEXAS  [Discovery News]

Photo via flickr/Charles Cook

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Amy Kraft

Weekend Editor

Contributing Editor Amy Kraft is a freelance writer based in New York. She has written for New Scientist and DNAinfo and has produced podcasts for Scientific American's 60-Second-Science. She holds degrees from CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and the University of Illinois at Chicago. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure