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New Study Claims Wind Farms Contribute to Global Warming

Benjamin Roussey's picture
Freelance Writer Arizona

Benjamin Roussey is from Sacramento, CA but now lives in Arizona. His bachelor’s degree is from CSUS (1999) where he was on a baseball pitching scholarship and he completed 4 years in the US...

  • Member since 2016
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  • Nov 9, 2018

A new study from Harvard University claims that wind farms contribute to the phenomenon of global warming. The researchers claim that in the short term, wind power could be a bigger contributing factor to global warming than natural gas.

Findings of the Study

Harvard researchers claim that wind turbines tend to redistribute heat as a result of mixing the boundary layer.

While the phenomenon is localized, mostly due to the fact that the presence of wind farms are limited to certain regions in the country, the effects could be magnified if we were to adopt wind as the primary energy source for our country.

The researchers say that if wind were to supply all the power needed for the entire country, it would raise the surface temperature of continental US by 0.24%. This is a staggering prediction, given the fact that the US has managed to reduce its surface temperature only by 0.1% over the last century by de-carbonizing its electricity sector. 

The same study also claims that if the US were to transition from fossil fuel based energy to solar energy, we would need massive stretches of land – far more than what we previously thought. Well – we have that in Nevada and Arizona but it is still cheaper to use coal and natural gas.

Implications of the Study

Obviously, there is absolutely no chance of wind being the primary energy source for the entire country, given the fact that the US has an abundance of coal as well as gas reserves. Still, the study raises an important question – just how green is green energy?

Contrary to what many people think, wind energy is not 100% green. It does have a warming effect on its immediate environment.

Furthermore, wind turbines are essentially death traps for birds and bats – a fact which can be verified by observing wind farms across the country. The killing of birds and bats, albeit unintentional and accidental, still affects the ecological balance adversely at a local level.

Similarly, large scale deployment of solar panels sounds good on paper, but how feasible is it? First, we have to acquire large tracts of land for the purpose. Second, we need to invest massive amount of resources – money and manpower – to install the panels. Third, we have to offer massive subsidies to keep the industry afloat until it starts making profits. Not going to happen!

These are all questions that utility planners and politicians should ask themselves before making outlandish claims about renewable energy and urging everyone to move away from fossil fuel based energy.

The Way Forward

The transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy is touted as the ultimate goal by environmentalists across the globe, but is it achievable or even desirable in the short term? It is not. It does not make sense. Germany and logic proves this. So does science!

Despite the technological advancements in the recent years, solar and wind cannot survive without massive subsidies. Moreover, the costs of deploying solar and wind energy systems on a large scale are too high at this point.

On top of this, solar and wind have their own impact on the environment, as claimed by the study discussed above.

So, the sensible position to take with respect to renewable energy is to invest in research and development so that it becomes more effective and affordable enough to be adopted on a large scale. Until then, we have to rely on natural gas, nuclear, and coal, which have proven to be the most reliable energy sources in the world.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Nov 9, 2018

“A new study from Harvard University claims that wind farms contribute to the phenomenon of global warming.”

No Benjamin, it doesn’t. The devil is in the details.

Localized warming effects, in the immediate shadow of a wind farm, have been verified. The Harvard paper concluded that if sufficient wind turbines were built to provide all of U.S. electricity demand, covering one-third of U.S. land area, average surface temperatures in the continental U.S. would be raised by .24ºC. If they were all torn down, those surface temperatures would drop by .24ºC immediately - it’s a temporary, localized effect.

Warming from CO2 emissions, the “greenhouse effect”, is not. It’s a cumulative (and for all practical purposes permanent) effect which soaks up energy from the sun, then prevents it from being radiated back out to space, altering the Earth’s energy balance.

There are other problems with GHG emissions. Seawater acidification, or the buildup of carbonic acid in the oceans of the world, has already doomed the Great Barrier Reef, and within thirty years threatens all sea life in the oceanic foodchain with catastrophic consequences.

Without cheerleading for renewables, which we would both agree are ineffective, fossil fuels are the real enemy.


Leo Klisch's picture
Leo Klisch on Nov 12, 2018

I want the whole climate science community to weigh in on this one.

Also efficiency ,conservation , DR ,thermal storage are the most valuable power sources.

Ignacio Moreno's picture
Ignacio Moreno on Nov 12, 2018

Nothing is "green" except nature itself. I dislike the "green" adjective applied as a marketing meme. This said, this article does not provide any meaningful comparison between wind and fossil fuel and their real/potential contributions to global warming. The article also lacks a meaningful discussion on costs of energy production. Nevertheless we are told that we have to rely on fossil fuels cos, you know, renewables are "green" and "cool" but "costly" and not as "cool" as we thougth.

I thougth that the energy collective was a serious place where serious articles were posted.

Fred Widicus's picture
Fred Widicus on Nov 20, 2018

Another ridiculous hit job by an oil and gas supporter--nice online degree.  Sooooooo one sided that I won't bother to comment further.

Chavdar Azarov's picture
Chavdar Azarov on Dec 4, 2018

Very simple, try to calculate what is the equivalent of energy needed to manufacture a wind turbine starting from commodies to final installation and run and parallely calculate after how long the same wind generator will reach this startup equivalent.

Put in calculation energy income on maintenance and repair meanwhile.

Benjamin Roussey's picture
Thank Benjamin for the Post!
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