Wind Farms May Contribute To Global Warming, New Research Suggests

Melissa Stusinski

Wind farms are becoming a popular source of energy around the world, after other energy sources, such as burning fossil fuels, have been attributed to global warming.

Last year, the world's wind farms produced 238 gigawatts of electricity at any given time, a 21 percent increase since 2010. Capacity is expected to be more than 500 gigawatts by 2017, as the demand for this clean energy source increases.

According to researchers at the State University of New York at Albany, wind farms may not be as helpful as originally thought.

While wind energy is known to be cleaner than burning fossil fuels, researchers have found that wind farms have a direct effect on the environment around them, warming the local climate by as much as 0.72 degrees Celsius per decade.

Researchers analysed satellite data of the areas surrounding wind farms in Texas, where four of the world's largest wind farms are stationed. The data was compiled between 2003 and 2011.

The results, which were published Sunday in Nature Climate Change journal, show that this change is in comparison to the areas around the wind farms, which also experienced a change, attributed to global warming.

Liming Zhou, author of the paper, and associate professor at the State University of New York, Albany, wrote that:

"We attribute this warming primarily to wind farms...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."
"This warming effect is most likely caused by the turbulence in turbine wakes acting like fans to pull down warmer near-surface air from higher altitudes at night."
"We're expanding this approach to other wind farms...and building models to understand the physical processes and mechanisms driving the interactions of wind turbines and the atmosphere boundary layer near the surface."

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