Wind Power could Warm Earth, Study Finds

Wind turbines stand over a farmhouse near Northwood Iowa. A new study out of Harvard finds that ram

Wind turbines stand over a farmhouse near Northwood Iowa. A new study out of Harvard finds that ram

Two papers published by Harvard University researchers on Thursday indicate that a large-scale transition to renewable sources of energy would require five to 20 times more land than prior studies have shown, and that expanding wind farms would actually warm the continental US more than carbon emissions in the short term.

Meanwhile, if the entire world switched over all their energy production to wind farms, something interesting would happen.

In their research paper, published Thursday in Joule, models suggested that powering the US with wind alone would warm the planet a quarter-degree Celsius over the next century, while removing carbon-based energy would only decrease the temperature by a tenth of a degree over the same time frame. Today's commercial-scale wind farms carefully space turbines to reduce the impact of these wind shadows, but given the expectation that wind farms will continue to expand as demand for wind-derived electricity increases, interactions, and associated climatic impacts can not be avoided. Previous studies have also examined the impact of wind turbines on climate change. Plus, it could take at least a century for the benefits we'd reap from wind energy to offset this uptick. Where are wind farms, there is an increasing number of precipitation.

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"If your perspective is the next 10 years, wind power actually has - in some respects - more climate impact than coal or gas". But that research lacked factual data to support the modeling.

Scientists believe that the wind turbines used by wind farms can cause local warming. Apparently, the specific model that indicated that wind energy would heat the planet isn't the best system for estimating wind flow. In 2013 research, Keith described how each wind turbine creates a "wind shadow" behind it where air has been slowed down by the turbine's blades. "You do wind on a scale big enough...it'll change things". While the materials that make up a wind turbine don't appear out of nowhere, mining for oil and coal is ecologically devastating. Then, a few months ago, the United States Geological Survey released the location of 57,636 wind turbines around the U.S. Using this dataset, in combination with several other USA government databases, Keith and postdoctoral fellow Lee Miller were able to quantify the power density of 411 wind farms and 1,150 solar photovoltaic plants operating in the U.S. during 2016.

One study aside, wind energy is still worth it.

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