In February, we reported on a finding made by United Kingdom resident Mike Page that detailed the ability of wind farms to generate their own micro-climate. Page’s research was backed up by a study mentioned several years ago that confirmed the capacity of a sizable wind farm to affect wind speeds and ground temperatures. This month, Ron Prinn, TEPCO Professor of Atmospheric Science, and principal research scientist Chien Wang of the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, published an online paper in Atmospheric Chemistry in Physics detailing even more dramatic wind farm-caused effects.
Recently, the U.S. Department of Energy claimed that wind power could account for approximately one-fifth of the nation’s electricity by 2030. In their paper, Wang and Prinn employed a climate model to analyze the effects of the millions of wind turbines that would need to be installed across large spans of ocean and land to generate the wind needed to support the Department of Energy’s claim. Results pointed to an increase in temperature by one degree Celsius in regions where such farms would be installed, as well as smaller increases in areas nearby the farms. “Their analysis indicates the opposite result for wind turbines installed in water,” noted MIT News, that being “a drop in temperatures by one degree Celsius over those regions.”
Noting the fickleness of wind in many areas, Wang and Prinn believe such intermittent changes could result in costly backup options such as natural gas-fired power plants. Both researchers are quick to assure that their study does not indicate pessimism on their part where wind power is concerned; their findings are meant to be used as guides to explore possible downsides. “We haven’t absolutely proven this effect, and we’d rather see that people do further research,” said Prinn.
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