Sunday, April 29, 2012

Climate Change: Wind Farms are warming Texas












From Discovery News:
New research finds that wind farms actually warm up the surface of the land underneath them during the night, a phenomena that could put a damper on efforts to expand wind energy as a green energy solution.

Researchers used satellite data from 2003 to 2011 to examine surface temperatures across as wide swath of west Texas, which has built four of the world's largest wind farms. The data showed a direct correlation between night-time temperatures increases of 0.72 degrees C (1.3 degrees F) and the placement of the 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," Liming Zhou, associate professor at the State University of New York, Albany and author of the paper published April 29 in Nature Climate Change said in an e-mail to Discovery News...

"The year-to-year land surface temperature over wind farms shows a persistent upward trend from 2003 to 2011, consistent with the increasing number of operational wind turbines with time," Zhou said...

The warming could hurt local farmers, who have already suffered through a killer drought over the past few years. Texas agriculture contributes $80 billion to the state's economy...

West Texas is a dry area that uses irrigation to grow wheat, cotton and other crops, as well as raise cattle. But increased warming can play havoc with plant growth, as well as change local rainfall patterns....

John Dabiri, director of the Center for Bioinspired Wind Energy at the California Institute of Technology, who is an expert on wind power design, said... Zhou's findings may mean taking a second look at the trade-offs with renewable energy.

"It shows that we need to think carefully about the unintended environmental consequences of any large-scale energy development," Dabiri said, "including green technologies."