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.
Analysts say wind power is a good complement to solar power, because winds often blow more strongly at night while solar power is only available during daytime hours. But Zhou and his colleagues found that turbulence behind the wind turbine blades stirs up a layer of cooler air that usually settles on the ground at night, and mixes in warm air that is on top.