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Earth Technology

New Study Suggests Wind Farms Can Cause Climate Change 384

nachiketas writes "A study led by Liming Zhou, Research Associate Professor at the Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences at the University of New York concludes that large wind farms could noticeably impact local weather patterns. According to Professor Zhou: '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.'"
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New Study Suggests Wind Farms Can Cause Climate Change

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  • by IWannaBeAnAC ( 653701 ) on Monday April 30, 2012 @08:52AM (#39843849)
    This has been done to death already elsewhere. The bottom line is that increasing the surface temperature (at the expense of cooling the air) increases the thermal radiation into space and therefore has the overall bottom line effect of (very slightly) cooling the earth.
  • by l2718 ( 514756 ) on Monday April 30, 2012 @08:57AM (#39843901)
    Even so, these changes are wholly dependent on these machines - remove the wind fanss and the weather will revert to its previous state. This has nothing to do with climate change, which is a change to the underlying system.
  • Robert Heinlein (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fermion ( 181285 ) on Monday April 30, 2012 @09:05AM (#39843971) Homepage Journal
    "There is no such thing as a free lunch"

    All rational people understand that entropy exists and is always increasing. The point is not that humans can have an impact on climate and environment, the question is can we do things to minimize the impact.

    For example, we replaced horse poop all over the city with leaded fuel exhaust. When we did not all live in cities, the horse poop was not so bad, but cars were better for cities. Then we realized that lead was not so good for us, so we took lead out. Then the exhaust was still not so good, so we made cars more efficient. These changes costs important people lots of money, so they were opposed by uncreative people with lots of money, but in the end we have more efficient transportation that do not leave piles of feces in the street.

    So I read this report the other day, and my question is still the same. Would these locations prefer a windmill farm or coal fired plant. I ask this question because ultimately we cannot continue to reap the benefit of electricity production and outsource the consequences. It is expensive to do so. The question is not that does the new tech cause problems, but are those problems less than the old tech. I think it is arguably so.

  • Re:Trees (Score:3, Interesting)

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Monday April 30, 2012 @09:13AM (#39844051) Homepage Journal

    Dingdingdingding! This has actually been discussed here on Slashdot to goddamn death. Every time there's a story about wind energy some asshole pops up to say "but if we put up enough windmills to get all our energy" (or whatever other fascetious argument) "then what effect will that have on the atmosphere?" Well, there used to be trees where we're putting the windmills, what did you think THEY did to the wind? There's clearly an excess of energy in the system of global weather, we're seeing the results now with new record highs and low being set all over the world, in many cases within just a few days of each other. Anyone who thinks that's normal, please, refrain from replying.

    We already know that covering the damned planet in windmills wouldn't be a problem, because it is supposed to be covered in trees.

  • Re:Robert Heinlein (Score:4, Interesting)

    by stomv ( 80392 ) on Monday April 30, 2012 @09:29AM (#39844233) Homepage

    It's not that I disagree, it's that I sure wish you had added that we noticed that horses were difficult and walking was slow, so we added mass transit, and then about 100 years later we noticed that no matter how little autos emit from their tailpipes, they are still not very welcome in cities because they take up too much space, slow down mass transit buses and street cars, and are far too dangerous to pedestrians and bicycles. Because of this, [some] cities in the past 20 years have actively worked to reduce the number of autos in the city, through a suite of tools including car-free streets or urban centers, reducing parking minimums in zoning and even replacing them with parking maximums, increasing the price of on-street parking while reducing it's quantity, increasing the availability and efficiency of mass transit and, more recently, bicycle sharing, and rethinking roadway infrastructure to improve the flow and safety for peds, cyclists, and mass transit users even if it degrades the efficiency for motor vehicles.

    Sorry, not entirely relevant but I couldn't resist!

  • I think this almost falls into the 'no shit, Sherlock' camp. I'm glad someone with credentials is finally saying it. Please pass it along to the geo-thermal guys, who seem to think that sucking energy from the inside of this planet will never have an effect. Oh, and the wave-power-generation guys need to know too - they'll be disturbing ecologies and water flow patterns for miles around - who knows how far those effects will cascade? Scale counts - oil consumption wasn't a problem until we scaled it out - the same fate awaits any terrestrial energy source we scale.

    There are only two places to get energy: 1. Earth, 2. Not Earth. Given a choice, I'll choose 2.

  • Here's a shocker (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Grayhand ( 2610049 ) on Monday April 30, 2012 @10:44AM (#39845089)
    A stretch of highway will have far more affect on climate than an entire wind farm. I live in the eastern end of the Phoenix metropolitan area and just driving 15 miles west in the summer can increase the temperature 10 degrees just from all the concrete and black top. The temperature difference they are talking about from windmills is minor. Black top causes major increases. If you want to reduce heat don't not build windmills make roads a lighter color. It's been discussed for years but there's no political will to do it.
  • by barv ( 1382797 ) on Monday April 30, 2012 @11:20AM (#39845513) Journal

    Cities with tall buildings affect wind patterns and the change in ground cover (bitumen roads instead of trees and grass) is known to produce local warming.

    It seems reasonable that wind turbines would similarly affect wind patterns, and if the ground cover changed due to clearing trees, they might also affect radiation absorbtion.

    There do seem to be a lot of complaints about subsonics emanating from those who have wind farms planted near to their homes. Perhaps government should finance some studies of the affect of such subsonics on health before allowing further plantations.

  • by krotkruton ( 967718 ) on Monday April 30, 2012 @11:38AM (#39845765)
    Yes, I grew up on one, outside the town of Coal City (with neighboring towns of Carbon Hill and Diamond, no joke). It's the closest thing I've seen to paradise. Here's a neighbor's house that's on the market [], for reference of habitability.

    Ok, I'm not saying strip mines are a good thing, but everything we do affects the environment. Our advancements in agriculture have significantly increased humidity in the whole Midwest [], and everyone knows the problems caused by miles of asphalt and buildings. It'd be crazy not to assume that wind turbines do the same, but how much more do they affect an area compared to an office building of the same size?

Someone is unenthusiastic about your work.