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 …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    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.

    1. Charles Manning

      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.

      1. itzman

        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.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          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.

          1. Orv Silver badge

            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.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        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.

        1. Some Beggar

          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?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            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.

            1. Some Beggar

              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.

          2. Thorne

            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

    2. Some Beggar

      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.

      1. mark 63 Silver badge

        Re: sure

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

        1. PyLETS

          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.

  2. jpg

    clod air?

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

    1. 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?

  3. Astrodude

    So do concretes and skyscrapers... I bet.

    1. hplasm Silver badge

      What of

      concretes boats?

      1. Astrodude

        Re: What of

        I meant to say asphalt... not concrete.

      2. whaleboy7

        Re: What of

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

        1. jake Silver badge

          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.

  4. jake Silver badge

    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.

    1. LateNightLarry

      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.

      1. jake Silver badge

        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 ;-)

  5. roger stillick

    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 ).

    1. AndrueC Silver badge

      Re: We Just Got these Things !!

      >Our unused aluminum plants

      A picture of an aluminium plant:

  6. David Kelly 2

    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!

    1. Filippo

      Re: Earth's Rotation?

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

      1. Alan Mackenzie

        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.

    2. Some Beggar

      Re: Earth's Rotation?

      You forgot the "joke alert" icon.

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

  7. Silverburn

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

  8. Thought About IT

    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.

    1. Thought About IT

      Re: Basic physics

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

      1. Tom 13

        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?

        1. NomNomNom

          Re: Basic physics

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

          1. Tom 13

            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.

            1. NomNomNom

              Re: Basic physics

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

  9. Anonymous Coward
    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.

    1. Astrodude

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

  10. Purlieu


    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

    1. Alex Rose

      Re: Oil

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

      Oh, wait.....

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oil

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

  11. Fenton


    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.

    1. DJ Smiley

      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 ;)

  12. Desk Jockey

    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.

    1. kryptonaut

      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.

      1. Desk Jockey

        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?

    2. DrXym Silver badge

      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.

    3. PatientOne

      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.

    4. jake Silver badge

      @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.

  13. Omgwtfbbqtime Silver badge

    Of course they cause local heating...

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    taking this theory further...

    Maybe the heat during summers is actually caused by everyone turning on their desk and ceiling fans?????

    1. Some Beggar

      Re: taking this theory further...

      Not quite as daft as it sounds. Ever stood by the exterior vent of an air conditioning unit? In built-up areas, air conditioning contributes a non-negligible amount to the heat and humidity of the immediate surrounding area.

      1. SYNTAX__ERROR

        Re: Humidity?

        Heat yes, but the radiators of an air conditioning unit do not release moisture.

        Dehumidification happens inside the building, and condensate finds its way to the drains.

        1. Some Beggar

          Re: Humidity?

          Built-in aircon drips the humidity into the drains. The units that are bolted to the side of existing buildings don't. You can steam clean your clothes outside half the residential buildings in Kowloon.

    2. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: taking this theory further...

      Its to be noted that a lot of towns in summer are 15C warmer than the surrounding countryside due, partly, all the air conditioning units heating up the outside. When you consider the average air con can only manage a 15C drop in temperature so places like Dallas could just turn off all their Aircons and things would get back to normal for free.

      But then there's always some BMW driver-manager pushing in at the front so everyone has to suffer.

      1. Some Beggar

        Re: taking this theory further...

        Most of that 15C is because urban areas are made of brick, concrete and asphalt and act as massive solar ovens storing up the sun's heat and blocking any cooling winds. Pompeii is effing hot in the summer and I don't think there are many Roman aircon units still running.

  15. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Nothing to see here

    So, a power generation plant has an affect on the local micro-climate. How does 0.72° C compare with the temperature increase of around any plant that requires cooling? I'll note in passing that France regularly has to grant exceptions on water temperature limits in order not to have shut down many nuclear plants in the summer and heating water 0.7° C takes a fuck of a lot more energy than heating air because of the density (and, as long as we're willy-waving our knowledge of physics, specific heat capacity). Planting a few trees should neutralise any effects.

    1. Matthew 25

      Re: Nothing to see here

      Surely the branches would catch in the blades

  16. Spud2go

    Think I have a solution to all of this

    Gather all the climate-change botherers in all their denominations (be it scientist, activist, politician or general loud-mouth) together, seal them all in giant barges constructed from all those over subsidized solar panels & driven by all those over subsidized windmills, steer them to the deepest abyss of the Mariana Trench & sink them all so that myself & all the multi millions of other averagely bright, averagely paid, hardworking, generally tolerant folk on this planet can get on with having a life minus the parasitic affliction that this self appointed minority has foisted upon the global population. Climate has always changed, will always change & will change forever more & there is not one damn thing humanity can do to alter that irrepressible & uncontrollable force of Nature. Earth has been cycling through climactic variations for millennia & has generated extremes the likes of which we could scarcely imagine & will continue to do so without regard to human perceptions or affectations.

    I'm being presumptuous in saying this, but i'm pretty sure I speak for a lot of people when I say I'm simply tired of all the bollocks around the entire climate charade, so for all the climate charlatans out there, get your thieving hands out of my pockets, STFU & go home.

    OK, rant over. Sensitives, do what you will.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Ok. I'll yawn mostly.

    2. NomNomNom

      Re: Think I have a solution to all of this

      "Gather all the climate-change botherers in all their denominations (be it scientist, activist, politician or general loud-mouth) together, seal them all in giant barges constructed from all those over subsidized solar panels & driven by all those over subsidized windmills, steer them to the deepest abyss of the Mariana Trench & sink them"

      Norway gives prisoners internet access?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      No, that's quite alright, I think you expressed the anti position perfectly.

      "Who needs proof, or evidence, or theories, or testing, or experimental results? I'm just right because I just know I am, and everyone who disagrees with me should be killed".

      "Presumptuous" isn't quite the right description, though. It's more like arrogance mixed with a touch of megalomania and topped off with a healthy dollop of overweening self-regard. Please do excuse me for briefly intruding into the great love affair between yourself and yourself.

    4. Some Beggar

      Re: Think I have a solution to all of this

      I went in your pocket but all I found was a receipt for a Tesco Value pasty and a photograph of yourself when you still had hair and a single chin.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Its to be noted that a lot of towns in summer are 15C warmer than the surrounding countryside due, partly, all the air conditioning units heating up the outside."

    ... and you have proof of this - not just you sticking a thermometer where the sun don't shine?

    So you claim the average temperature in the centre of Manchester, Birmingham or London is 15C warmer than the average temperature 5 miles outside the capital?

    I'll give you it may be warmer (due to the extra cars, tarmac etc.) but 15C is a massive difference - i.e. when it's 30C in my garden, people in the city centre will be literally roasting at an average of 45C - think not.

    1. PatientOne


      Just to note, the OP did say 'a lot of towns'. They didn't say where, but in some Cities in America it's often been commented on. However, it's quite likely what's been quoted is the night time temperatures, not the daytime. If so, it is possible there is a 15C difference for quite a lot of reasons, not least of which is the 'thermal blanket' created and enjoyed by towns and cities.

      1. Tom 13

        @PatientOne: re 15C

        I'm betting brain fart on that one. More likely 15F, which is a lot less than 15C and believable.

  18. Armando 123

    Wind farms change local conditions

    Stop press shocker! I know the wind farms on I-65 north of Lafayette, IN, cause more accidents as people from out of state try to take pictures of them while driving at 50-95 MPH. And such distractions of drivers at a wide range of speeds has been a boon to the collision repair business in the area.

  19. Paul Shirley

    usual Reg selective reporting

    As usual important details missed to provoke the kneejerk reactions and misleading implications.

    Lets start with that .72C/decade. That's extrapolated from 2 averages taken 5 years apart, before and after 2K+ turbines were installed. So actually .36C measured and reported. The researchers state that .72C figure should *not* be interpreted as a continuing trend, they believe its a one-off hit. Wonder why that wasn't reported? Wonder why the researchers picked such a misleading way to report it?

    It also appears that the effect isn't just 'mostly' on night temperatures, it's almost completely night time only. This is hardly surprising, in daylight solar warming happens on the ground, mixing the air column brings colder air down to ground level which seems a useful cooling side effect to me. Warmer nights aren't necessarily desirable but a hell of a lot less damaging than raising daytime temps.

  20. hugo tyson

    Telegraph idiots....

    ...say "Wind farms cause climate change". Deliberately misleading dontcha think?

  21. Mips

    Of course it does

    But it is not the only energy device that affects local climate. Look an London the temperature is well above the surrounding areas.

    Then we have heat pumps these take heat from outside and put it inside. This reduces temperatures locally and, here is the joke, the heat loss from the building you are trying to heat is more. The same sort of thing happens with ground source heat pumps where the water in the ground flowing through the site is cooled so that the next building cannot get any heating because the water is already too cold .

    It is not so bad with air conditioning because hot air rises away from the cooled zones.

    1. Some Beggar

      Re: Of course it does

      Do you have any citations for that ground source claim?

      There's a convenient "experiment" been built close to us (in southern France) that appears to completely contradict it. A row of essentially identical villas (in terms of area/volume) running along a gently sloping road all built with identical ground source heating systems. As far as I am aware, they are all running as efficiently as expected. If cooled ground water was a real problem, shouldn't the chap at the bottom of the hill have lost some benefit?

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019