- Researchers have identified that wind turbines also contribute to climate change by redistributing heat and moisture in the atmosphere.
- Wind turbines, designed as an alternative to fossil fuels, still contribute to climate change though turbine-caused warming is not as big a threat as greenhouse gas emissions.
- 3. How wind power adds to warming?
- Normally the air is more still at night, with cold air staying near the surface and warmer air resting a little higher. But turbines bring the warm air down and cool air up, making the ground a bit warmer.
- So, the wind turbines generate electricity by extracting energy out of the air, slowing down wind and otherwise altering “the exchange of heat, moisture, and momentum between the surface and the atmosphere,” the study explains, which produces some level of warming.
- Moreover the turbine caused warming is temporary and stops when the blades aren’t turning.
- Impact of warming caused by wind turbines:
- Researchers from Harvard University in a recent study, published in the journal Joule, found that powering the entire US with wind energy would cause a 0.54 degree Celsius ground temperature rise in the area where the turbines were located, and a 0.24C increase across the continental US.
- One recent study, published in the journal ‘Science’, concluded that covering an area of the Sahara desert with wind turbines would affect local temperature, rainfall, and in turn, vegetation.
- Limitations of the study:
- The study only notes that the warming effect depends strongly on local weather conditions, as well as the type and placement of turbines. It didn’t analyze impacts outside the continental United States or time periods beyond a year.
- It greatly overstates the surface temperature impact of renewable resources relative to fossil fuels.
- Alternative to wind power:
- The Harvard researchers said that installing solar panels would have an impact around 10 times smaller than wind turbines for the same energy generation rate.
- The direct climate impacts of wind power are instant, while the benefits accumulate slowly. So despite the potential drawbacks, wind energy still makes more sense for the environment than fossil fuels.