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Credit- Wikimedia Commons
The land surface temperature around the west-central Texas wind farms warmed at a rate of 0.72˚ C per decade during the study period relative to nearby regions without wind farms, an effect most likely caused by the turbulence in turbine wakes acting like fans to pull down warmer air from higher altitudes at night, said lead author Liming Zhou at the University of Albany, State University of New York.

The results were published in the April 29 issue of Nature Climate Change. Zhou and colleagues studied land surface temperature data ranging from 2003 to 2011, from the MODIS (Moderate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) instruments on NASA's Aqua and Terra satellites.

Figures 1 and 2 from the report.

Land Surface Temperature is not to be confused with Air Temperature readings which are reported to the National Weather Service by stations. These LST are read by the MODIS spacecraft of the actual surface temperature. The warming observed by MODIS mostly occurred at night. In the Texas region studied, the land surface temperature after sunset typically cools faster than the air temperature. But, as the turbines continued to turn, their movement brought warmer air to the surface and created a warming effect compared to non-wind farm regions.

The researchers caution that the warming applies to this particular region over a time when wind farms were expanding rapidly. The results are not directly applicable for other regions. They should not be extrapolated over a longer period of time. They also note that the warming is a local effect. It would not contribute to a larger global trend adding to global warming. This is not a situation where large amounts of heat are being generated and released into the atmosphere. What is occurring is the mixing of existing heated air.

"This is a first step in exploring the potential of satellite data to quantify the possible impacts of big wind farms on weather and climate," said Chris Thorncroft, a coauthor of the study and chair of the Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences department at University at Albany, State University of New York. "We are now expanding this approach to other wind farms and building models to understand the physical processes and mechanisms driving the interactions of wind turbines and the atmospheric boundary layer near the surface."
The U.S. wind industry has 46,916 megawatts of capacity at the end of 2011. This is >20% of the world’s installed wind power. It is 2.9% of electric power in the United States. The U.S. wind industry has added over 35% of all new generating capacity over the past 4 years. These statistics are from the American Wind Energy Association and the Department of Energy. This added capacity during that timeframe is second only to natural gas, and more than nuclear and coal combined.
"Wind power is going to be a part of the solution to the climate change, air pollution and energy security problems," said Somnath Baidya Roy at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, a co-author of the study. "Understanding the impacts of wind farms is critical for developing efficient adaptation and management strategies to ensure the long-term sustainability of wind power."
The other authors for this research, which was funded by University of Albany, State University of New York and the National Science Foundation, include Yuhong Tian at IMSG at NOAA/NESDIS/STAR, Lance F. Bosart at the University of Albany, State University of New York, and Yuanlong Hu at Terra-Gen Power LLC, San Diego, Calif.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Fine with me (23+ / 0-)

    We hear a surprising amount about what wind farms do: they kill birds, they warm the land, and maybe there's more.  But it's not a choice between wind farms and magix pixies, it's between wind farms and coal-oil-gas, or nuclear, for the most part.  Wind seems like a big winner so far, whatever its negatives.

    Romney '12: The Power of Crass Commands You!

    by Rich in PA on Tue May 01, 2012 at 08:05:49 AM PDT

    •  The bigger concern than killing birds (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      matching mole

      (which cats and communication towers already do really really well) is probably killing bats.

      But that probably makes everyone's boogeyman Monsanto very very happy . . ..

      •  The biggest concern for me is..... (3+ / 0-)

        ....the tax hike that wind energy represents to working an middle-class Americans.  Even at 22 cents a kilowatt hour, far higher than 8 cents associated with natural gas-produced electricity, the rate is still being subsidized by other taxpayers.

        This is what our energy policy has come down to.

        The working and middle-class taxpayer subsidizes a 100K Tesla to the tune of 10K a vehicle.  Yes, a transfer payment from Joe Sixpack to Larry Ellison of 10K per vehicle.

        Meanwhile, we ask that the middle-class taxpayer pay far more for wind and solar-generated electricity than he would with natural-gas.

        That's what I worry about - the fact that our current energy policy is resulting in the exacerbation of wealth and income inequality.

        Learn about Centrist Economics, learn about Robert Rubin's Hamilton Project.

        by PatriciaVa on Tue May 01, 2012 at 08:25:55 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Glad you chipped in! (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Melanie in IA, BlackSheep1

          For a moment there I almost forgot the huge burden this would put on the poor.

          As opposed to what they now suffer from fossil fuels . . ..  

          •  An even 10% hike in electricity prices is a HUGE.. (0+ / 0-)

            ...burden on the working poor, living paycheck to paycheck.

            Emissions from Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic (Branson had a photo-op in the White House a few months ago)?  Each passenger will emit as much CO2 in a few minutes as a passenger on a jet trip from NY to London.  

            If Dem officials really believed that the externalities from carbon power negatively impact the poor, why did they allow Virgin Galactic to set up shop in New Mexico?

            My conclusion.  Many Dems couldn't care less about CO2.  But they do want more revenue.  And since they are too coward to ask the really rich (and by really rich I don't mean a junior investment banker) to pay their fair share, they target the working poor via of energy taxes.

            Learn about Centrist Economics, learn about Robert Rubin's Hamilton Project.

            by PatriciaVa on Tue May 01, 2012 at 08:43:57 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  The true costs of coal and nat gas (11+ / 0-)

          are not included in the price of electricity.

          For coal - mountain top removal, water pollution, coal ash, massive carbon releases - all these costs are socialized to everyone, not just the ratepayer. For nat gas, you've also got groundwater pollution, carbon releases, and local earthquakes that are socialized to everyone.

          Maybe these costs don't appear in your power bill, but we all pay them.

        •  Add the military costs of dominating foreign oil (10+ / 0-)

          producing regions to your electricity bill and wind power is a bargain.

          I'd rather subsidize a Tesla sports car than a Predator drone.

          Have you noticed?
          Politicians who promise LESS government
          only deliver BAD government.

          by jjohnjj on Tue May 01, 2012 at 08:43:23 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  You try to justify to an Hispanic family... (0+ / 0-)

   East LA, living paycheck to paycheck, that it's a bargain that its sales tax contributions are going to Larry Ellison up north.

            But apparently the sales tax rate isn't high enough.

            So Governor Brown wants the working and middle-class to vote themselves a tax hike.

            What is it that we Kossacks say about Southerners voting against their economic interests by supporting GOP officials?

            In light of that, what advice should be give working and middle-class families in California?  Should they vote against their economic interests by supporting the REGRESSIVE sales tax hike?

            Learn about Centrist Economics, learn about Robert Rubin's Hamilton Project.

            by PatriciaVa on Tue May 01, 2012 at 08:49:37 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  budget cuts and austerity are more regressive (5+ / 0-)

              than tax hikes. we've already tried your no-tax all-cuts austerity in CA, and it has thrashed the working, middle and professional classes.

            •  The political reality in California is that a 2/3 (0+ / 0-)

              majority is required to increase revenues in the legislature. This gives Republican the minority in Sacramento 1-1/2 votes on tax increases, and they've all been terrorized into lock-step obedience by a powerful anti-tax lobby.

              The initiative that Governor Brown hopes to put before the voters in November, includes a 1/2 cent sales tax increase and a percentage surcharge on incomes over $250k. They both expire after five years, and the entire proceeds go to public schools and community colleges.

              There was a competing measure - a straight "millionaires tax" - but Gov. Brown persuaded its backers that only a mixed proposal had any chance of overcoming the anti-tax jihadis' "class warfare" propaganda. The anti-taxers are well-funded and they're very good at swaying public opinion.

              BTW: Tesla Motors was founded by Elon Musk, not Larry Ellison. Musk is not personally benefiting from the tax credits. Tesla nearly went under during the 2008 crash. He kept the firm afloat by forming partnerships with Daimler, Toyota and Panasonic.

              Tax credits for the high-end sports cars are how this country chooses to invest in the R&D that will someday produce an electric vehicle that any family in East L.A. can afford.

              Have you noticed?
              Politicians who promise LESS government
              only deliver BAD government.

              by jjohnjj on Tue May 01, 2012 at 08:06:17 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Musk is a government rentier (0+ / 0-)

                (i) Where's the evidence that the REGRESSIVE "mixed proposal" had a better chance of overcoming the propaganda.  I recall seeing polling which indicated that the income tax hike had more support than the mixed proposal.  And why shouldn't it?  Given a choice, why would any working / middle-class family support a sales tax hike?

                (ii) I never said that Tesla was founded by Larry Ellison.  My reference was to Ellison buying a subsidized Tesla (the CA state credit is 2.5K) courtesy of the sales tax paid by a struggling family in East LA.  

                (iii) You're very wrong about Musk not personally benefiting from the tax credits.  Had it not been for those tax credits, (and for the 500M loan from the government) his company would have gone under.  Many of those partnerships you cite were contingent on that government loan.

                P.S.  jjohnjj, if the government really wanted to expedite a transition to electric cars, it should focus on battery research.  

                Learn about Centrist Economics, learn about Robert Rubin's Hamilton Project.

                by PatriciaVa on Tue May 01, 2012 at 09:24:47 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

          •  agreed 100% there. (0+ / 0-)

            I'm struck by how the meanest, cruelest, nastiest people brag about how they live in a Christian nation. It's rather telling.

            by terrypinder on Tue May 01, 2012 at 08:50:27 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Very little oil is used for Electricity (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            jam, jim in IA, Odysseus, Calamity Jean

            The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

            by nextstep on Tue May 01, 2012 at 09:05:06 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  Wind will not run out. Its supply can not be (3+ / 0-)

          maniulated for profit. We don't have to maintain a large army or fight wars to protect our supply.

          "Electric and natural gas prices in New England have risen sharply over the past decade. Although the AGO vigorously represents consumers to keep costs as low as possible, prices have increased due primarily to the higher cost of natural gas, which is set through world supply and demand. Natural gas is used by power plants in New England to produce over 40 percent of the region's electric power, meaning a significant increase in the price of natural gas also results in higher electric rates. Although petroleum and natural gas prices have fluctuated greatly in recent years, the long-term forecast is for high prices.

          Residential electric rates have doubled in New England since 1990, with much of the increase occurring since 2004. Other areas of the country less dependent on natural gas for electricity generation have not seen rate increases comparable to this region. Massachusetts, along with the rest of New England, needs to better diversify its energy portfolio by expanding the resources used to produce power, improving transmission efficiencies and promoting renewable energy resources

          •  Natural Gas in the USA is as cheap as it's been... (0+ / 0-)

            in over a decade.

            Many residents of New England have have their electricity rates SPIKE up not because of natural gas, but because the New England politicians have agreed to long-term contracts with wind farms at EXORBITANT  rates.

            Maple Ridge and Kibby are land-based wind farms, and when operations move offshore, prices get even steeper; offshore wind is one of the most expensive ways to generate electricity, second only to solar thermal.  Cape Wind has already signed an agreement with another utility, National Grid, to sell electricity for 18.7 cents per kwh, with a 3.5% increase every year over the next 15 years.  This wind power therefore starts out at more than double the average Massachusetts rate of around 8 cents per kwh.  The 3.5% increase compounded annually means that at the end of the 15 years, National Grid customers will be paying 31.3 cents per kwh, around 4 times the current rate.

            Keep in mind too that construction on Cape Wind has not yet begun, so a four-year freeze on electricity prices will lapse by the time NStar starts purchasing that 27.5% of Cape Wind power.

            Since the deal is so profitable for Cape Wind, other companies are looking at getting into the game.  According to the Globe:

            Read more:

            And New England pols are not alone.  Bloomberg recently ran a piece that documented how Buffet's renewable energy investments are benefiting from a transfer from working and middle-class voters having to pay an artificially high rate for their electricity.

            It is what it is.  

            And our current energy policy represents a transfer of resources from the poor to the rich.

            Learn about Centrist Economics, learn about Robert Rubin's Hamilton Project.

            by PatriciaVa on Tue May 01, 2012 at 09:59:25 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  You sound like a a paid shill. (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              jim in IA, BlackSheep1, Calamity Jean

              Masschusetts rates havn't increased one cent due to deals with wind farms because the like of the Koch brothers have spent a decade and $ millions  trying to prevent the first offshore windfarm in the country from being built off the coast.

              I've heating with natural gas in this state and have paid through the nose in the winter time while the gas companies played their supply and demand games and jacked teh rates through the roof.  Heating Oil is only marginally cheaper here in the North East and subject to the same manipulations.

              With othe liquid fuels we have seen our domestic daily usage drop by millions of barrels and watched Oil companies export oil drilled here and gasoline refined here becuase there is a greater profit n it. We are the worlds largest exporter of gasoline.

              I'll take getting screwed by the wind any day. It is a great long term investment.

            •  Aternative Analysis (6+ / 0-)


              BOSTON, MA, March 30, 2012 -- Cape Wind will reduce wholesale electric prices for the New England region by $7.2 billion over 25 years, according to a new report published today by Charles River Associates, a leading economic consulting firm.

              The report shows that ISO New England, the electric grid operator, first dispatches electric generating units with the lowest cost fuel. Since Cape Wind’s fuel – wind – is zero cost, the report states that Cape Wind will displace higher priced and polluting fossil fueled units resulting in average savings of $286 Million per year in New England.

              “This report makes it clear that Cape Wind will save electric consumers billions of dollars through price suppression while also creating jobs and helping promote cleaner air and greater energy independence,” said Mark Rodgers, Cape Wind Communications Director.

              The Charles River Associates report is entitled, ‘Update to the Analysis of the Impact of Cape Wind on Lowering New England Energy Prices’, and was commissioned by Cape Wind. The original report was published in February, 2010.

              The increase in price suppression in the report update was attributed primarily to an increase in power plant retirements and a larger price difference between natural gas and fuel oil.

              Price suppression in wholesale electric markets occurring as a result of wind power projects has been documented in Europe and in several U.S. power markets. Price suppression from wind power was noted in the 2009 report entitled, ‘New England Governors’ Renewable Energy Blueprint’, which stated “All of the wind resource potential could provide downward pressure on the marginal prices for energy within the New England electricity market…this price pressure would ultimately benefit New England consumers.”

              Click here to read the report.

              •  Note to CentralMass (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                My prediction: Cape wind will never be built. Its poorly thought out, poorly sited between Cape Cod, Marthas Vineyard & Nantucket, between the air tarffic, water taxi routes, fishing issues, shipping routes, electrical & communication cables and such.

                Atlantic WInd Connection is well thought out, and will provide a 350 mile long HVDC backbone to support 1750 4Mw turbines, 15 to 20 miles offshore, from NJ to Virginia Beach..... Thats the way to do offshore wind.

                By even discussing Cape Wind with Pat you yield the high ground.

                FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

                by Roger Fox on Tue May 01, 2012 at 12:16:33 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  I appreciate your comments and acknowledge the (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Roger Fox, jim in IA

                  bit about high ground.  

                  At least meteorolgical speaking, the siting of CapWind seems to be optimal..

                  "In a study just published in Geophysical Research Letters, a team of engineers at Stanford has harnessed a sophisticated weather model to recommend optimal placement of four interconnected wind farms off the coast of the Eastern United States, a region that accounts for 34 percent of the nation's electrical demand and 35 percent of carbon dioxide emissions"

                  ""It is the first time anyone has used high-resolution meteorological data to plan the placement of offshore wind grid," said senior author Mark Z. Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering. "And this sophistication has provided a deeper level of understanding to the grid plan."

                  Beginning with 12 energetic potential locations, the engineers winnowed down the sites to four optimal sites. Total maximum capacity of the interconnected grid is 2000 megawatts, roughly equivalent to the yearly capacity of one-and-a-half conventional coal-fired power plants. Each farm would have approximately 100 turbines, delivering an individual maximum capacity of 500 megawatts.


                  "Beyond matching production and demand cycles, the researchers had to balance several technical challenges in their models.

                  "The farms had to be in waters less than 50 meters deep to allow use of bottom-mounted turbines and near urban load centers like Boston and New York," said Jacobson. "And, we wanted to smooth power output, ease hourly ramp rates and reduce hours of zero power."

                  The engineers took a novel approach, choosing to interconnect the offshore farms. Offshore wind farms in other parts of the world today are connected individually to the onshore grids.

                  "The goal is to even out the peaks and valleys in production," said Dvorak. "In our model, expensive no-power events -- moments when individual winds farms are producing zero electricity -- were reduced by more than half from nine percent to four by connecting the farms together."

                  In the final analysis, the interconnected grid was able to yield a year-long capacity factor of over 48 percent, meaning that the grid could reliably produce close to 1000 megawatts on average over the course of a year.

                  "Generally, with wind farms, anything over 35 percent average capacity is considered excellent," said Jacobson.

                  Location. Location. Location.

                  Among its findings, the Stanford model recommended a farm in Nantucket Sound, precisely where the controversial Cape Wind farm has been proposed. The Cape Wind site is contentious because, opponents say, the tall turbines would diminish Nantucket's considerable visual appeal.

                  By that same token, the meteorological model puts two sites on Georges Bank, a shallows located a hundred miles offshore, far from view in an area once better known for its prodigious quantities of cod. The fourth site is off central Long Island.

                  The researchers last looked at the economics of installing their offshore grid, which they said would have the advantage of sharing costs across several states, potentially increasing political support for the plan.

                  "This paper should be seen as a tool for energy planners to better inform their renewable energy decisions across a densely populated area," said Jacobson. "It is an opportunity to collaborate on a shared system that reduces costs while benefitting a large and important center of electrical demand in the U.S."

                  •  Good site for what it is, near shore (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    CentralMass, jim in IA

                    no doubt. Dead/weak spots nearby show off the quality of the Cape Wind site. Poor wind is found just on the other side of Marthas Vineyard, and south of Long Island.

                    Its ironic that from Nantucket, Cape WInd would 12+ miles away, barely visible.

                    Sites along the continental shelf of the east coast, spearheaded by HVDC trunkline projects probably offer the best large scale long term ooportunities. From N Carolina to Maine.... on the order of 60 gigs or more.

                    Areas like this are not found on the west coast of the US. The North Sea is similar, shallow, 50 meters or less between the UK, Germany, France & Norway. HVDC undersea installs are slated for the North Sea area.

                    High ground: Always pick where you want to fight, find your spot, get to it. Never fight where your opponent choses to, they pick that spot for a reason.

                    My AWC diary

                    FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

                    by Roger Fox on Tue May 01, 2012 at 02:07:20 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

            •  Lets choose the most poorly planed offshore wind (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              jim in IA

              project on the East coast and use it as an example.


              Cape Wind will probably never be built, Atlantic Wind connection will be built and as an HVDC backbone it will support 1750 4MW turbines 15 to 20 miles offshore.

              7 gigs.

              Renewable price points are trending down, try and distort that as best you can, but the market is moving to HVDC and renewables.

              FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

              by Roger Fox on Tue May 01, 2012 at 12:08:30 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  i find it hilariously ironic (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Miggles, Roger Fox, Calamity Jean

          that a shill for the hamilton project feigns concern for wealth and income inequality.

          •  I care more about wealth and income inequality... (0+ / 0-)

            ...than the so called Dems who argue for policies which would exacerbate wealth and income inequality.  Policies such as but not limited to...

            (i) Carbon tax
            (ii) Cap and Trade
            (iii) Excise tax hikes
            (iv) Sugar Tax
            (v) Property tax hike
            (vi) Congestion pricing

            How many Dems, especially at the state and local level, are doing so as I type.  Heck, in California, the Dem Governor wants the working poor to vote themselves a tax hike, a tax hike on the sales tax which will EXACERBATE INCOME INEQUALITY.

            So, I ask, who cares more about the working poor, someone who opposes regressive taxation, or someone who is too coward to ask the really wealth to pay their fair share so he asks the working poor to ante up more.

            Learn about Centrist Economics, learn about Robert Rubin's Hamilton Project.

            by PatriciaVa on Tue May 01, 2012 at 10:25:00 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  An article from Forbes Magazine counters this. (0+ / 0-)

          "The Nstar PPA has yet to be negotiated, but prices the PPA with National Grid specifies prices starting at start at 18.7 cents per kWh, and increasing 3.5% annually. That’s quite expensive, when you consider that the 2010 average wholesale price of power on the New England ISO was 4.5 cents per kWh.

          Looking at those numbers, you would expect that when Cape Wind comes online, National Grid and Nstar customers will be seeing rate increases. But it’s not that simple.

          Auction Dynamics

          Electricity prices on the New England ISO are set in hourly auctions, with each generator bidding the price at which they would be willing to generate power. All generators receive a payment equal to the benchmark price, which is the marginal cost of production for the most expensive generator needed to meet demand.

          Since the most expensive dispatched generator sets prices for all generators, lowering the marginal cost of generation by adding Cape Wind to the mix (since wind’s marginal cost of generation is zero) will have the effect of lowering the price for all power on the New England market, an effect known as price suppression.

          How much lower? A 2010 Study by Charles River Associates [pdf] found that Cape Wind would lower prices on the New England wholesale market by 0.122 cents on average. Since Cape Wind itself would be producing about 1% of all power on the New England market, the extra 14 cents per kWh on that power would be offset by a savings of .122 cents per kWh on all other power. By my calculations, the combination of price suppression and the increased direct price of power from Cape Wind, the net effect on the average price of power in New England of Cape Wind would be an increase of only $0.0002 (0.02 cents) per kWh, assuming the Charles River Associates study is accurate. Put another way, even if customers pay a 12.2 cent per kWh premium for power from Cape Wind, the net effect on utility bills would be zero because of price suppression."

          "Dollar Wise

          While it might seem foolish to pay over 18 cents per kWh for new offshore wind generation today, wind power is not nearly as expensive as it seems. Because of price suppression, the extra cost to New England customers of Cape Wind is likely to only be a fraction of a cent per kWh on their electricity bills. As the offshore wind industry in the Northeast develops, the cost of developing offshore wind farms is also likely do decrease, since current prices are predicated on relying on expertise and equipment imported from Europe and the offshore oil industry in Gulf of Mexico.

          According to several speakers at Offshore Wind Power USA in Boston last week, the surest way to develop a local offshore wind industry and gain the benefits of lower offshore wind prices, economic development, and lower pollution and carbon emissions, is to give industry certainty that there will be consistent building of offshore farms for several years to come.

          Will it be worth it? If we continue to rely on cheap fossil powered electricity generation in the Northeast, we’re likely to end up like the guy who buys the cheapest furniture he can find, only to have it break within a few months, leaving himself still needing furniture and having a pile of trash to get rid of. Not only will we eventually have to buy renewable power like offshore wind, we’ll have more pollution caused by mining, drilling, and burning fossil fuels which we’ll have to clean up. Anyone worried about how wind turbines might look cluttering up our coastal waters might pause to consider what is in our water now: the mercury we worry about in seafood all comes from burning coal. Just because something is out of sight does not mean it’s not causing problems."

      •  Is this really a big issue? (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Roadbed Guy, Miggles

        These are windmills, not propellers. I would think disease and habitat loss would be a far greater threat to bats.

      •  It appears there is a preventive (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        The bigger concern than killing birds (which cats and communication towers already do really really well) is probably killing bats.  
        strategy for that: (pdf).  It seems that most bat kills are on low-wind nights, when wind turbines could be stopped with very little loss of generating capacity.  On nights with strong winds, bats apparently fly less or fly lower.  

        Renewable energy brings national global security.     

        by Calamity Jean on Tue May 01, 2012 at 04:12:39 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  If the magic pixies would do their share, (5+ / 0-)

      we wouldn't need to worry about this!

  •  They seem not to mention another possible cause (4+ / 0-)

    for the warming - simply having these huge machines suck up heat (and then release it over time . . .).

    Similar to why Phoenix never goes below 90 F in the summer why the surrounding desert cools into the 70s each night.

    •  I think that would be very very small an effect. (6+ / 0-)

      The machines are white, absorb little and radiate it quickly. It might be a consideration the researchers have thought of. I could see nothing in their report about it.

      That 'heat island' effect is certainly a real phenomenon.

      Democracy seems a charade. Participation declines. Policy gets driven by the extremists. ~Lawrence Lessig

      by jim in IA on Tue May 01, 2012 at 08:12:50 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm not really an expert on this topic (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        matching mole, jim in IA, craigkg

        but a quick internet search seems to indicate that the towers are almost always concrete or steel, both of which could absorb substantial amounts of heat in the sunlight.

        The blades themselves, however, seem to be made out of many different materials . . ..

        •  The windfarms I've seen (4+ / 0-)

          have a very low density of 'structure' compared to an urban environment.  Phoenix has well over 50% (probably a lot over 50% but I'm not sure how much) of the ground covered with pavement or buildings.  The towers are largely vertical and going to absorb a lot less heat per unit of land surface area.  I'm sure it has some effect but my guess is that it is pretty small.

          "We are normal and we want our freedom" - Bonzos

          by matching mole on Tue May 01, 2012 at 08:27:01 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  That mostly makes sense (0+ / 0-)

            except that if they are largely vertical, doesn't that mean that they'd be able to absorb a lot MORE heat per unit area of land?  Similar to why they build tall buildings in Manhattan and Hong Kong?

            •  except that turbine towers (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Miggles, jim in IA, Odysseus

              are hollow steel tubes. Much less thermal mass than a building.

              Causation was, is, and ever shall be a slippery bitch, so we're best sticking with noting the facts

              by jam on Tue May 01, 2012 at 09:37:23 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  No, it is their overall footprint projected (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              jim in IA, Odysseus, Calamity Jean

              onto the ground that determines the total absorption.  Even the equipment of a dense wind farm occupies maybe 0.5 to 1% of the land footprint.  By nature they are slender structures that have to be spaced fairly far apart.  So any effects on heat capacity of the land will be negligible.

              •  It seems to me that they are something like (0+ / 0-)

                those molten salt solar collectors, but in reverse.

                That is, a tall structure could very well radiate heat to the surrounding territory as well as collect it?  Really, why not?

                If not, fine - just show me the calculations!

                •  At high noon, a structure with a footprint of (0+ / 0-)

                  1 square foot will absorb the same amount of sun whether it is 1000' tall or 1' tall.  

                  •  OK, that's a good start (0+ / 0-)

                    now let's figure out just what proportion of a day "high noon" comprises!

                    •  how about (3+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Roadbed Guy, Odysseus, Calamity Jean

                      the white towers have a higher albedo than the surrounding land area so they will reflect more heat than the ground would have.

                      It is a known problem with PV. It isn't with wind.

                      Causation was, is, and ever shall be a slippery bitch, so we're best sticking with noting the facts

                      by jam on Tue May 01, 2012 at 10:55:47 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  OK, if you say so. (0+ / 0-)

                        This is just all very counterintuitive to me.

                        Having visited modern wind turbines in person, I can testify that they are indeed massive structures.

                        And not really "white" per se - more grayish, actually.

                        In any event, if Phoenix can be warmed by 20 F, and it's a very low density city - it seems intuitive to me that a wind farm could warm the very local area by 1/30th that much.  

                        Somehow, that just makes way more intuitive sense than invoking explanations like the wind turbines change macro wind flow patterns.  Again, I've been near the turbines and haven't noticed a noticeable change in wind velocity near or far from them . . ..  (which made me wonder why they don't build them at somewhat higher densities!)

                        •  I'm a wind engineer (5+ / 0-)

                          I've been to a couple dozen sites pre and post construction and have worked on 1500 MW of installed capacity. The turbulence effect is primarily in the rotor swept disk and behind the turbines (up to 20 rotor diameters). The spacing is based on that turbulence. The column spacing (side to side) can be reduced depending on how unimodal the prevailing winds are. The more the wind blows from one direction, the closer you can put the turbines. The row spacing (front to back) is generally >10 rotor diameters.

                          And according to vestas specs documents, the towers are available in Ral 9010 (white) and Ral 7035 (light grey).

                          Causation was, is, and ever shall be a slippery bitch, so we're best sticking with noting the facts

                          by jam on Tue May 01, 2012 at 11:31:44 AM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

          •  Compared to a parking lot (0+ / 0-)

            huge difference

            FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

            by Roger Fox on Tue May 01, 2012 at 12:19:20 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  I think that Phoenix is a case of the urban (4+ / 0-)

      island effect, but I don't think a wind-farm would have the same magnitude of concrete and asphalt.

      Whatever it is, we know that it is simply a redistribution effect, the turbines should not create net heat energy, they are subtracting energy from the airstream.

      That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

      by enhydra lutris on Tue May 01, 2012 at 09:23:31 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Random turbulence from turbines ... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    matching mole, Miggles, Odysseus

    .. would not have the effect of moving air in a specific vector on a consistence basis. If this is a real problem, the fan blades could be designed to not pull air down from higher altitudes.

    Still, as long as air were only pulled down from within the troposphere, there would be no impact on the climate. Moreover, if the turbines could somehow move warm air up to the stratosphere, this would help combat Global Warming, by getting warm air past the limit of the greenhouse effect.

    "The Obama Administration has been an unmitigated disaster" - Osama Bin Laden

    by Explorer8939 on Tue May 01, 2012 at 08:11:07 AM PDT

  •  So these would be good around fields that are (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bear83, Ender, Miggles, Calamity Jean

    frost sensitive.

    Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.

    by Horace Boothroyd III on Tue May 01, 2012 at 08:31:26 AM PDT

  •  Some commentary about bat fatalities... (4+ / 0-)

    from the USGS web site.

    Foremost, the majority of bats killed by wind turbines are species that rely on trees as roosts throughout the year and migrate long distances; we call these species “migratory tree bats.” Currently, migratory tree bats compose more than three quarters of the bat fatalities observed at wind energy sites. The other striking pattern is that the vast majority of bat fatalities at wind turbines occur during late summer and autumn. This seasonal peak in fatalities coincides with periods of both autumn migration and mating behavior of tree bats. Seasonal involvement of species with shared behaviors indicates that behavior plays a key role in the susceptibility of bats to wind turbines, and that migratory tree bats might actually be attracted to wind turbines.

    Democracy seems a charade. Participation declines. Policy gets driven by the extremists. ~Lawrence Lessig

    by jim in IA on Tue May 01, 2012 at 08:36:26 AM PDT

    •  The $ range is so large as to be almost (0+ / 0-)

      meaningless, but still, bats do seem to be important! (so thanks for including that!!)

      Gary McCracken, head of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, analyzed the economic impact of the loss of bats in North America in agriculture and found it to be in the $3.7 to $53 billion a year range.

      The point being, if the bats could be taxed adequately, they could pay for their share of our foreign wars . . ..  

  •  Geezus it's hot enough already in Texas (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    George, jim in IA, Roadbed Guy
  •  Thanks to the diarist for this report (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jim in IA, boophus, wu ming, Calamity Jean

    I've only heard rumblings that the talk-radio yappers were trying to make an issue of this. It's best to be informed.

    Miniscule increases in soil temp might make the land more hospitable to microbial plant pathogens, so the phenomena deserves study.

    I hope someone is monitoring the soil temps here too:

    Have you noticed?
    Politicians who promise LESS government
    only deliver BAD government.

    by jjohnjj on Tue May 01, 2012 at 08:56:12 AM PDT

  •  Much ado about nothing? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jim in IA, Calamity Jean

    It's not like windfarms are responsible for the thawing of permafrost and the sudden release of billions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere or anything...

    It's not like windfarms are responsible for the melting of polar ice caps and the resultant rise in sea levels and temperatures.

    It is quite possible there is some incremental cost to the utilization of renewable energy sources but in my view, the issue you raise of changes in surface temperatures is specious and of no consequence to the issue of global climate change. And you have failed to list even 1 risk or issue it might raise to the local micro climate.

    The amount of energy we could harvest to replace the fossil fuels we burn is such an infinitesimal percentage of the total kinetic energy of wind on this planet, but the impact of reducing particulate levels in the atmosphere from fossil fuels would save our planet.  

    And in the comments, all this kavetching about subsidizing Tesla owners. Boo F**king hoo... How much has carbon burning activities been subsidized over the last 160 years compared to the minuscule amounts of money spent on renewables?  Come on, get real.  A new industry is being born and it has the great potential to solve several major problems.  
    At some point not too far from now, the technology pioneered by Tesla will be available in your average car.  If it means Larry Ellison got a small tax credit then a small price to pay for the long term benefits it will bring including the very probability of the average person being able to continue affording a personal vehicle. $200/barrel oil would mean $7/gal gas. Can you afford to drive today's cars on $7/gal gas?

    --Mr. President, you have to earn my vote every day. Not take it for granted. --

    by chipoliwog on Tue May 01, 2012 at 09:04:08 AM PDT

    •  The diary is not an indictment of the wind... (5+ / 0-)

      industry. It shows how satellite technology can be used to study the small surface layer effects of large wind farms.

      "We are now expanding this approach to other wind farms and building models to understand the physical processes and mechanisms driving the interactions of wind turbines and the atmospheric boundary layer near the surface."
      I hope readers will take the time to read the full diary. I advocate the use of wind technologies.

      Democracy seems a charade. Participation declines. Policy gets driven by the extremists. ~Lawrence Lessig

      by jim in IA on Tue May 01, 2012 at 09:17:15 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I guess I'm trigger happy (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jim in IA, jam, Roger Fox

        The implication of your headline was similar to alarmists who manufacture concerns about renewable energy.  

        Yes, from an overall policy perspective, understanding the impacts of any technology we deploy is important.  I just don't want to give any ammo to those that would want to curtail the deployment of solutions for transitioning the planet off fossil fuels.

        --Mr. President, you have to earn my vote every day. Not take it for granted. --

        by chipoliwog on Tue May 01, 2012 at 10:39:38 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Higher Surface Temperature may not be bad (0+ / 0-)

    for climate change.

    Really need to run computer models to see the impact if on a very large scale.

    As radiative energy transfer increases proportional to Temperature to the 4th power, this may result in greater cooling of the earth (Temperature measured relative to absolute zero) as the only way heat leaves earth is radiative transfer.

    The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

    by nextstep on Tue May 01, 2012 at 09:13:46 AM PDT

  •  We think that all these wind farms... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jim in IA, Roadbed Guy, Miggles

    ...could actually blow the earth off its orbit.

    -- Consumers Power

  •  in general, the rise in temperature is (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jim in IA

    several orders of magnitude less than the impact of thermal generation effluents?

    Causation was, is, and ever shall be a slippery bitch, so we're best sticking with noting the facts

    by jam on Tue May 01, 2012 at 09:46:39 AM PDT

    •  Sounds like it to me. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      in general, the rise in temperature is several orders of magnitude less than the impact of thermal generation effluents?  
      If not more.  A fossil fuel burning generator would have both "waste heat" (hot exhaust) AND the heat retaining property of carbon dioxide and soot.  

      Renewable energy brings national global security.     

      by Calamity Jean on Tue May 01, 2012 at 04:02:34 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  i wonder how much warming this is relative (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jim in IA, jam, Calamity Jean, Roger Fox

    to parking lots, big box stores, suburban subdivisions, nuclear power stations, or coal- or gas-burning power plants.

    building anything should increase the surface heat, but wind shouldn't be measured against nothing, but rather against alternate somethings.

  •  Basic thermodynamics and conservation of energy: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jim in IA, jam

    The turbines are extracting energy from the atmosphere. The wind energy being used would have eventually turned into heat from friction. So if there is any large scale effect at this point it will be to cool the atmosphere.

    The extracted energy is turned into electricity,  used to do work, and the energy is then returned to the environment as heat. Therefore the only effect that the entire process can possibly have is to move energy from one place to another.

    (If the towers change the albedo of the area then more or less sunshine could be adsorbed and the total energy increased or decreased, but that is true for any structure.)

    •  Someone reaised heating oil. (0+ / 0-)

      #Heating oil generally is not a function of crude oil, not directly. Most heating oil sold in the N.E. is recycled motor oil. 99% of all motor oil goes to providing the basic feed stock of home heating oil.

      #Wind is still intermittent, and it's NOT "blowing someplace"...this is a useless phrase. No country or even region can run on wind. At best it needs to be supplemented by any on demand power: hydro, coal, gas (thermal or GT) or nuclear. Talk to any Independent System Operator and you will find that out, even the most pro-wind advocates among them.

      Dr. Isaac Asimov: "The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but 'That's funny ...'"

      by davidwalters on Wed May 02, 2012 at 10:45:44 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Sorry I missed this jim, very interesting. (0+ / 0-)

    Great diary!

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