Are Wind Farms Heating Up the Earth?

wind farms in dry desert

Wind farms are an increasingly well-used renewable energy source that would would seem to promise to reverse the effects of climate change by reducing reliance on heavy carbon-emitting energy sources. The UK has invested heavily into the renewable energy source both on and offshore, with many other countries around the world following suit.

New reports suggest wind farms are directly related to climate change, though not in the way most expect. Fox News has reported that researchers  – including Liming Zhou, associate professor at the University of Albany in the US – have found a direct correlation between a rise in nighttime temperatures and the location of large wind farms. In the case mentioned by Fox News, the nighttime temperatures in West Texas, where four of the world’s largest wind farms are located, have increased by 0.72 degrees celsius.

“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,” says Zhou.

The news report goes on to suggest that this could have an impact on ecological elements in the area, including playing ‘havoc with plant growth, as well as (changing) local rainfall patterns.’ This, according to Zhou, seems to indicate the impact of the renewable energy source in question is actually the exact opposite of what wind farms exemplify.

wind farms in desert

However, before a mass industry panic breaks out, some logical thought needs to be given to the assertions made in Zhou’s report. What it does not actually explore is what this increase in temperature actually means. The original researchers themselves delve into the matter in a responsive Question and Answer report.

“Very likely, the wind turbines do not create a net warming of the air and instead only redistribute the air’s heat from above to near the surface (that is, the turbine itself does not generate any heat),” says the report. “This is fundamentally different from the large-scale warming effect caused by increasing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases.”

Instead of adding heat to the earth, then, the turbines are simply redistributing it.

What is perhaps more striking than the findings of this research is the reportage that followed its release. While this information is useful in and of itself in helping us understand and explore green technologies as much as possible, the ways with which the report has been dealt in media outlets such as Fox News is striking.

It speaks volumes of the difference in public and industry opinion regarding green solutions between the present day and a few short years ago. Instead of blindly taking on the suggestion that wind farms could actually be contributing to climate change, the industry is now becoming more confident in our green technologies. It is standing by the generally-accepted facts about climate change and taking any criticism of sustainable ideas very seriously.

By Tim Moore
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