Grain of Salt: Wind farms can cause climate change

Wind farms can cause climate change, according to new research, that shows for the first time the new technology is already pushing up temperatures.

Wind farms can cause a rise in temperature, found a study in Nature.

Wind farms can cause a rise in temperature, found a study in Nature. Photo: Alamy

Read the entire article, related articles, and updates directly off the original site

I included some of the article here so that you can get the gist of the study.

Usually at night the air closer to the ground becomes colder when the sun goes down and the earth cools.

But on huge wind farms the motion of the turbines mixes the air higher in the atmosphere that is warmer, pushing up the overall temperature.

Satellite data over a large area in Texas, that is now covered by four of the world’s largest wind farms, found that over a decade the local temperature went up by almost 1C as more turbines are built.

This could have long term effects on wildlife living in the immediate areas of larger wind farms.

It could also affect regional weather patterns as warmer areas affect the formation of cloud and even wind speeds.


It is reported China is now erecting 36 wind turbines every day and Texas is the largest producer of wind power in the US.

Liming Zhou, Research Associate Professor at the Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences at the University of New York, who led the study, said further research is needed into the affect of the new technology on the wider environment.

"Wind energy is among the world’s fastest growing sources of energy. The US wind industry has experienced a remarkably rapid expansion of capacity in recent years,” he said. “While converting wind’s kinetic energy into electricity, wind turbines modify surface-atmosphere exchanges and transfer of energy, momentum, mass and moisture within the atmosphere. These changes, if spatially large enough, might have noticeable impacts on local to regional weather and climate.”

The study, published in Nature, found a “significant warming trend” of up to 0.72C (1.37F) per decade, particularly at night-time, over wind farms relative to near-by non-wind-farm regions.

The team studied satellite data showing land surface temperature in west-central Texas.

“The spatial pattern of the warming resembles the geographic distribution of wind turbines and the year-to-year land surface temperature over wind farms shows a persistent upward trend from 2003 to 2011, consistent with the increasing number of operational wind turbines with time,” said Prof Zhou.

However Prof Zhou pointed out the most extreme changes were just at night and the overall changes may be smaller.

Also, it is much smaller than the estimated change caused by other factors such as man made global warming.

“Overall, the warming effect reported in this study is local and is small compared to the strong background year-to-year land surface temperature changes,” he added.

The study read: "Despite debates regarding the possible impacts of wind farms on regional to global scale weather and climate, modelling studies agree that they can significantly affect local scale meteorology."

Professor Steven Sherwood, co-Director of the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of New South Wales, said the research was ‘pretty solid’.

“This makes sense, since at night the ground becomes much cooler than the air just a few hundred meters above the surface, and the wind farms generate gentle turbulence near the ground that causes these to mix together, thus the ground doesn’t get quite as cool. This same strategy is commonly used by fruit growers (who fly helicopters over the orchards rather than windmills) to combat early morning frosts.”

College Credit: Energy and Climate Change in Montana

Courses are not the same routine classroom experiences you may associate with College.  The Wild Rockies Field Instituteis offering seven courses for college credit this year, including Cycle the Rockies: Energy and Climate Change in Montana course, which runs from May 17 – June 12.

"Students on this course will explore Montana by bicycle while studying the ecological, social, and economic issues associated with energy production and use. We will traverse rolling plains and beautiful mountains, enjoying the changing landscapes and meeting with people deeply involved in energy and climate issues. Traveling by bicycle will give us a unique perspective and an appropriate pace for examining the past, present and future of energy and climate change in the West.
Montana offers prime examples of current energy production facilities, from traditional fossil fuel energy sites to exciting alternative technologies for producing power. Our route begins in eastern Montana at oil refineries and a coal-fired power plant in the industrial core of Billings. Then we will pedal north and west through grasslands and island mountain ranges on the central plains, visiting energy-efficient buildings and production sites for biofuels, and wind, solar, geothermal and hydroelectric power along the way.
After meetings with energy and climate policy experts at the state capitol in Helena, we will turn north along the impressive Rocky Mountain Front to Glacier National Park. We’ll cycle over the Continental Divide, spending time with climate scientists and park managers in Glacier before ending in Whitefish with a public presentation.
Among the things we will do along the way:

  • Visit facilities using or producing biodiesel, wind energy, solar power, geothermal heating, and biofuels.
  • Examine fossil fuel technologies and impacts at coalfields, power plants, and oil refineries.
  • Tour a hydroelectric dam.
  • Visit ranchers, land managers, and farmers who are facing the impacts of climate change along with various opportunities for energy production.
  • Meet local and state officials working on state energy and climate policy.
  • Explore "green" energy-efficient buildings in Billings and Central Montana.
  • Talk with Glacier National Park scientists about the regional impacts of global warming.
  • Read and discuss a wide selection of current articles on energy issues and climate change.
  • Complete academic assignments designed to integrate our experiences and learning.
  • Present experiences and learning in open forums using electronic media and public presentations.
  • Become competent bicycle travelers.

Our choices of energy sources and consumption are some of the most critical decisions we will make as a society over the coming decades. Montana has abundant quantities of coal, natural gas, and other hydrocarbon resources, which have the potential to accelerate global warming if developed. At the same time, Montana, with vast agricultural plains and abundant wind, sun, and geothermal resources, is well positioned to produce clean, renewable energy. At course end, students will be armed with the knowledge and experience needed to play a positive role in shaping our energy system and future climate for the state, and the Rocky Mountain region."

According to Adventure Cycling:

This is an amazing way to both expand your knowledge of energy options and learn or expand your knowledge of self-contained bicycle touring; the instructors and staff on this course are top-of-the-line. This is a truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. In the immortal words of Levar Burton, you don’t have to take our word for it — check out their great blog, written on the road by participants. Even if you don’t take their course, it makes for some wonderful reading! If you’re interested in finding out more information, it is all available on their website.

Don’t wait! If you or someone you know is looking for a great educational adventure this summer, take advantage of this amazing opportunity which is limited to only 10 spaces. As an added bonus, all of the participants will receive a free one-year membership to Adventure Cycling!