back to article Wind farms create local warming

Wind farms heat up their local environment, creating an effect similar to the urban heat islands generated by cities’ intensive energy use. That’s the finding of a new paper, Impacts of wind farms on land surface temperature from Nature Climate Change, that reports on air temperature measurements across a region of Texas …

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Anonymous Coward

sure

It isn't just the mixing of air and if they actually can't see any deeper than that, they are morons. Add the facts that there are large, hot electrical generation engines in each turbine, plus the constant compression of air around the fan blades and the increased air friction from the constant turbulence and you have some nice heaters going there. You can't manipulate nature to create electrical energy without generating heat somewhere.. go ahead, try.

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But cooling elsewhere

Extracting energy and friction etc will cause localised warming around the turbines, but that is going to make the air move slower. It now has less kinetic energy.

Kinetic energy is released (mainly as heat) when the wind gets to where ever it is going and along the way (heating caused by fricton against the landscape etc).

That means less heat is being transported to where ever and where ever stays cooler.

Let's just down-vote the laws of physics and spend more money and all things become possible.

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Re: But cooling elsewhere

Now this is in fact interesting

if you regard the air as an insulator at night, allowing ground to get very cold while air is somewhat warmer, then destroying that insulation layer will keep the ground warmer. And mixing cold low level air with warmer upper level air will in fact lead to global warming overall, as it will lower the upper air temperatures slightly and decrease nighttime radiation from the high level atmosphere.

Of course during the day the reverse is true as it will toss hot air higher.

Sow whilst it will affect local microclimates a lot, the effect on global temperatures is less easy to state with certainty - the same goes with clouds which can both insulate at night, and block sun by day depending on the types of cloud and their altitudes.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: But cooling elsewhere

"That means less heat is being transported to where ever and where ever stays cooler."

Except you're forgetting convection and forced air cooling. Removing energy from the flow means that the flow can't reach as far as it once did, so 'where ever' doesn't get the cooling breezes it used to.Consequently, 'where ever' gets warmer.

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Headmaster

Re: sure

@Anonymous Coward

I suggest you swot up on the First Law of Thermodynamics. They are removing energy from the local system. If they are creating electrical energy and creating heat energy then somebody somewhere is losing energy.

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Re: But cooling elsewhere

Removing energy from the flow means that the flow can't reach as far as it once did, so 'where ever' doesn't get the cooling breezes it used to.Consequently, 'where ever' gets warmer.

First Law of Thermodynamics again. How does removing energy from the system cause another part of the system to gain energy in the form of heat?

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Anonymous Coward

Constant input

It is not a closed system as there is energy being put in from the sun all day long. If you have the same input and decrease the output you will have more.

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Re: sure

yeah the wind in the area is losing enery - some being piped off and some being released as heat

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WTF?

Re: sure

Similar things happen if you grow trees. Wind energy gets locally disturbed and absorbed generating heat through friction, solar energy gets stored as wood suitable for transport elsewhere. This activity can improve or reduce growing conditions, depending upon whether your tree planting is deciduous or coniferous, how densely you grow trees, whether local flora is highly light dependent, or could use some shading and wind sheltering. In practice if you had any rational objection to wind farms for these localised reasons you'd have to be opposed to anyone growing trees for similarly localised reasons.

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Re: Constant input

Quite. But that's the same constant input as is received by any other area at the same latitude. They are trying to explain why there would be local differences.

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Anonymous Coward

That's not how an insulator works.

>"if you regard the air as an insulator at night, allowing ground to get very cold while air is somewhat warmer"

Would you mind explaining exactly how the ground could "get very cold" if the air is acting as "an insulator", i.e. something that does not conduct heat through itself? Where is the heat that was in the ground during the day *going* if it can't leak out through the air?

Air isn't a great conductor of heat, but it's hardly an "insulator". Try an experiment to convince yourself if you don't believe me: put a hot cup of coffee out on the ground at night. Come back in a few hours. Is it still hot? If not, whatever was surrounding it can't be much of an insulator. That's why there's a vacuum between the two walls of your thermos flask, rather than the manufacturer just having left air between them. Leave your thermos outside for a couple of hours at night; the coffee will still be hot. The reason is that, although air is a lousy *conductor* of heat, it is rather good at transmitting heat by *convection*. (Aerogels make good insulators because they take advantage of air's poor conductivity while trapping it in tiny bubbles so that it can't effectively convect over significant distances. Put the cup of coffee on a slab of aerogel if you're worried about heat getting conducted away into the ground; it'll still get cold just as fast just from losing heat to the air.)

I also downvoted every other post that mentions physics because they're all equally riddled with flaws.

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Orv

It's cooled via radiation

On clear nights the ground loses heat to space via infrared radiation, actually becoming colder than the air temperature. This is why a car parked in the open will get frost on the windshield and one parked under a roof won't -- the roof blocks the car from radiating heat to space. The cold ground then cools the lowest layer of air, which is what causes inversion layers at night.

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Re: But cooling elsewhere

Because the removal of the energy isn't 100% efficient. There is friction of the air on the blades which make them spin as well as generate heat, not to mention bearings, brushes and such.

Wherever there is movement, energy is being lost as heat

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jpg

clod air?

of course clod air falls, have you ever seen a clod float?

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jpg

Re: clod air?

I tried to reply by email, but no joy. Failed to get through twice.

Hi, Simon.

No problem... All the best to you. I have wondered about unintended consequences of energy removal form the winds. And now, do we see downwind weather effects like those downwind of large cities?

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So do concretes and skyscrapers... I bet.

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Angel

What of

concretes boats?

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FAIL

Re: What of

I meant to say asphalt... not concrete.

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Re: What of

You can make boats out of concrete, I've seen it done in Malawi

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Re: What of

It's not concrete, it's ferrocement. Think inverted in-ground swimming pool. I have owned a 54 foot commercial salmon trawler and a 65 foot catamaran built with this material. Both were good, solid seaworthy vessels. I sailed the cat to Hawai'i and back once. The trawler is now a crab boat out of Anchorage.

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Duh! Hot air rises. Cold air sinks.

Think birds soaring on thermals. Or human piloted gliders. Or thunderstorms.

Why do you think we employ large fans to mix higher level air with colder air at ground level in lower level vineyards? Cold air can pool in low lying areas, causing frost damage to crops even when the ambient air temperatures are well above freezing. Disturbing the air's normal thermal gradient causes local ground level warming. Thankfully.

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Pint

Re: Duh! Hot air rises. Cold air sinks.

Jake has hit the nail on the head... Nearly all the vineyards in Napa and Sonoma Counties have large propellers to force the air to move on cold nights so that the cold air won't settle in the lowest spots and freeze the newly formed grapes. As long as the air doesn't actually get to settle in low spots, the temperature can actually drop several degrees below freezing and the grapes won't be harmed. Fifty years ago, the grapegrowers used smudge pots... burning low grade oil (bunker oil?) in dozens of locations in each vineyard. The growers had to have crews going around all night to ensure that the smudge pots didn't run out of oil or the flames go out. Much cheaper to have an automatic propeller/fan move the air around.

Have to pretend it's a glass of Napa Valley Chardonnay instead of horse piss...It's Wine O'Clock somewhere.

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Pint

Smudge pots. (was: Re: Duh! Hot air rises. Cold air sinks.)

Or sawdust from the sawmills. Are you old enough to remember the big burners at the mills along 101 in Redwood Country? Hard to believe the commodity was considered waste back then ...

If you're ever at Buena Vista in Sonoma on a slow day, ask for a "behind the scenes" tour of the grounds. They have all kinds of century and a half year old hardware lying around.

Beer, because we make pretty good beer here in Sonoma County ;-)

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Joke

We Just Got these Things !!

Our unused aluminum plants, all over the NW USA powered by cheap Hydro power made metal for those hordes of Bombers and fighters of WW2... Multi-megawatt lines to every river port that could land a ship able to haul off ingots of that silvery stuff... lines have been repurposed to haul the product of thousands of wind generators back to the main distribution nets, and on to end customers...

The Climate Change Religion folks passed on banning wind power, If they ever see this, We're Hosed...

He He, let the huffing and puffing begin...( those guys are fun to watch sweating ).

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Joke

Re: We Just Got these Things !!

>Our unused aluminum plants

A picture of an aluminium plant:

http://www.thetortoisetable.org.uk/site/plants_19.asp?catID=566

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Earth's Rotation?

What about the torque coupled into the earth by wind turbines? Surely this must be affecting the earth's rotation? Or even our path around the sun!

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Re: Earth's Rotation?

Not only that, but tidal energy plants will eventually cause the Moon to fall.

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Boffin

Re: Earth's Rotation?

On the contrary, the Earth's tides, generated by the Moon (and Sun), are causing the Moon gradually to move away from the Earth. It's being pulled much the same way as a rope is, when swung around ones head.

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WTF?

Re: Earth's Rotation?

You forgot the "joke alert" icon.

At least I really really hope you forgot the "joke alert" icon.

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Joke

In other news - prolonged use of hydro causes downstream environments to get wetter, while those upstream to get drier.

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Boffin

Basic physics

"Explanations for the rise seem to rest on some basic physics"

Much like the greenhouse gas effect causing global warming, but that's never bothered some of the leading lights here on El Reg.

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WTF?

Re: Basic physics

I'd like to see those who down-voted my post justify their willful ignorance of basic physics.

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Re: Basic physics

Physics 01: When analyzing data for an unknown sample, your data sample needs to be at least the length of the baseline before you can characterize the curve.

What is the baseline for the standard earth Ice Age to Warm Age and back again cycle?

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Re: Basic physics

that isn't physics. or logic for that matter.

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Re: Basic physics

I see, you graduated from the same school that graduated my Astrology teacher who thought he was competent to teach Astronomy and deduced that ALL UFO sitings were the results of comets.

Yeah, I never bothered much with him either. Signal to noise ratios matter no matter what you are studying. And you can't establish either without knowing the frequency.

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Re: Basic physics

greenhouse gases are known to warm the earth through physics, not statistical correlations

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Anonymous Coward

With all these problems sounds like nuclear would be safer - don't fancy the earth slowing down or being thrown off it's trajectory.

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Mushroom

Except that nuclear also heats up massively. Oh, and Fukushima.

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Oil

I wonder who "sponsored" this research

Clearly since heat is allegedly being released into the turbine-rich area, it is not being released elsewhere. Total global change = 0

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Facepalm

Re: Oil

Exactly Purlieu, maybe the Reg should think about adding the word "local" to the article's title.

Oh, wait.....

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Oil

That assumes turbines actually replace other generating sources.They don't.

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Thermodynamics

mmmmm sounds wrong to me.

Kinetic energy is converted to electrical energy hence energy is taken out of the wind.

This has the concequence that

a) The pressure behind the blade will be lower

b) The temperature behind the blade will be lower.

Think of a turbine in a Gas turbine engine. Hot fast air flows in and turns the turbine (windmill blade) the air exits at a lower pressure and lower temperature.

The mixing of air is going to be insignificant except maybe for the local environment.

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Meh

Re: Thermodynamics

Except it all got warmer.

You just explained its got cooler.

I ponder about when the generators are active and when they aren't. Where are the batteries, and when do they charge/discharge? So many variables, such pointless research ;)

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Basic errors?

"Per decade"? As wind farms have only really been operational the last decade and measurements did not start until 2003, I would question the timelines and associated measurements quoted! Aren't most wind farms in Texas only 3-5 years old in any case?

Also since when did wind turbines "stir the air about"? I thought the idea was for the air to stir the turbines thus generating power! Sure farmers can use helicopters to warm the ground, but those helicopters use high powered engines to do it. No such thing on a wind turbine... The reference to friction by an earlier poster made more sense!

I do not claim to be an expert on physics, but I think this study is rubbish and the supposedly simple physics do not stand up to scrutiny.

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Re: Basic errors?

When pushing the blades in one direction, the air experiences an equal and opposite force - as described by Newton's laws, which could be called basic physics. So the air downwind of a rotating turbine will itself be rotating, causing the stirring mentioned in the article. When generating power, the more resistance put up by the turbine (i.e. the harder the wind has to work to turn the blades) the more stirring there will be.

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Re: Basic errors?

But surely that is a short range thing? Over distance, the stirred air would merge with the normal air pattern and the wind currents would revert back to how it was before the wind turbine? As wind turbines are built high and as I expect the 'stirring' to be rather short in duration/distance, this would have a negligible effect on warming the local ground air?

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Re: Basic errors?

I expect if you threw any large structure into a windy place that it would disrupt the airflow. A building for example, or even a forest. I really don't see any surprise that a turbine would add turbulence to relatively laminar wind potentially leading to different temperatures on the leeward side. I doubt friction or heat in the actual turbine has anything at all to do with it, just the temperature difference in the air itself.

The story however smacks of typical Register behaviour when it comes to climate change - utilising cherry picking and confirmation bias to deny it is happening.

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Re: Basic errors?

Wind farms have been around for some time. Much longer than 10 years. I was down Cambridge and there was a cluster of turbines running there - small farm powering the site. Can't recall what it was called, but I passed it most days while I was down there.

America and Japan have also been investing in Wind farms for some time, back to the 80's as I recall.

As to the physics: Wind farms are known to have a localised effect on temperature and weather certainly back into the 90's. Operators have noted the difference although it was not 'studied' scientifically. A lot of knowledge isn't accepted until the scientists have been at it to quantify and qualify and explain it all away. But that's just science for you.

Now, wind turbines do cause turbulence in the air flow. Basic physics - wind is hitting the blade forces the blade to turn but also deflects the wind which then collides with other air flow, causing the turbulence. It settles down again, yes, but the turbulence extends several meters past the blades and out further from the blades than the diameter of the turbine. If you want to see how it works, you can stick a propeller blade into flowing water and watch the turbulence form behind the propeller. It's the same principal, just a different medium.

That the turbines are also warmer than the surrounding air (friction from turning and the flexing of the blades) means you'll get warming in the area. Again, this gets balanced out eventually, but locally you have a 'warm' spot form. People who have been running turbines have known about this for years. Scientists have only just gone and taken a look.

So yes, the physics does hold up. What's more, the only thing 'new' is that scientists have started taking a look and reported it's happening.

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@Desk Jockey (was: Re: Basic errors?)

One of the first contracts I landed as an independent contractor was for the remote telemetry of part of the Altamont Pass wind farm here in California. In the early 1980s. Thirty years ago.

The turbines have a noticeable affect on ground-level air movement downwind.

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Flame

Of course they cause local heating...

http://www.tunesbaby.com/watch/?x=yt-MOfHxINzGeo

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