Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Global Warming: Wind Turbines To Blame!

Here's a new drum for the wind farm critics to beat loudly!
The Wall Street Journal reports large wind farms increase local ground temperatures! Researchers, using nine years of NASA data from near four of the world's biggest wind farms, have found wind farms of a certain scale, while producing clean renewable energy, do have some long-term effect on the immediate environment.
Researchers studied a group of Texas wind farms as they expanded from a few dozen turbines in 2003 to more than 2,350 by 2011. On average, the night-time air around the wind farms rose 0.72C more than the surrounding area. Normally, the night air has layers of cool and warm air, caused as hot air rises and cold air sinks, with the coolest closest to the ground. As the giant blades churn the air, they pull the warmer air down to the surface.
Although researchers detected some daytime warming due to the wind farms, the temperature changes were highest in the predawn hours, when the air normally is still and not so turbulent. So far, the scientists don't know if these higher temperatures affect local rainfall or other weather patterns.
Ok, so it's a very minor temperature change, however as the use of wind farms worldwide grows, the boffins think they "might have noticeable impacts on local weather and climate"...but more research is needed (Of course! Gotta get those grants somehow).
For years, doomsayers have warned about wind turbines' impact on the local environment - spoiling the view, scaring the nearby animals etc - but this temperature lift could have a positive impact too. Think of the benefit to our kiwifruit industry if, instead of using low-level helicopter flights or lighting "smudgepots" every dawn to lift the cold fog blanket from vines, some strategically-placed turbines were doing that job as a 'by-product'!
Whether we like them or not, our demand for power means wind turbines are here to stay. They're safer than the nuclear option (which NZ would never tolerate) and cleaner than the depreciating fossil fuels and, if the biggest impact is a slightly warmer dawn, I'm sure Dawn would be happy.

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