Wind farms would cause global warming

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

"Science says: wind power blows". "For an isolated wind turbine, interactions are not important at all, but once the wind farms are more than five to 10 kilometers deep, these interactions have a major impact on the power density". In the real world, a spinning turbine might not cause almost as much as drag as the simulation suggested, meaning that flowing wind might be able to power the planet and still keep it cool.

Wind turbines, designed as an alternative to fossil fuel, still contribute to climate change because of the way they redistribute heat and moisture in the atmosphere, according to a study published on Thursday.

"If your perspective is the next 10 years, wind power actually has - in some respects - more climate impact than coal or gas", said Keith. As he and his colleague added more turbines to their simulation, the amount of warming per turbine tapered off, suggesting that if we're going to commit to wind energy, we might as well commit all the way.

In their research paper, published Thursday in Joule, models suggested that powering the USA 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.

Despite the potential drawbacks, wind energy still makes more sense for the environment than fossil fuels, Keith said. But, as he points out, Miller said that doesn't mean it's causing climate change. The air located above ground cools during the night, while the wind turbines drag the warmer air down from higher up. This will lead to local warming.

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According to the study, the warming effect is "small compared with projections of 21st century warming, approximately equivalent to the reduced warming achieved by decarbonizing global electricity generation, and large compared with the reduced warming achieved by decarbonizing United States electricity with wind". Thanks to them, there will be a substantial reduction in emissions of greenhouse gases.

Past studies have observed a temporary nighttime warming of as much as 2 degrees (1.1 Celsius) in places with lots of wind turbines, such as North Texas. Climate is affected. But as long as you run the wind turbine, the climate change doesn't get any worse.

That's a far cry from saying "wind power blows".

Follow Seth Borenstein on Twitter: @borenbears.

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