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Those 'Green' Wind Farms May Actually Be Causing Local Warming

Those 'Green' Wind Farms May Actually Be Causing Local Warming

"might have noticeable impacts on local-to-regional weather and climate"

A new study has found that in addition to unintended consequences like killing some flying wildlife, wind farming may also be influencing the environment in other ways. For the first time, research has shown that this renewable form of energy can have a localized warming effect.

The University at Albany-State University of New York and the University of Illinois analyzed data from NASA satellite-derived land surface temperatures of regions around large wind farms in Texas over a nine year period. What researchers found was the wind farms contributed to a 0.72 °C rise in local nighttime temperature over this time. It's not that the wind farms are actually producing more heat per se, but that they're pulling warmer air down.

"This warming effect is most likely caused by the turbulence in turbine wakes acting like fans to pull down warmer near surface air from higher altitudes at night," Professor Somnath Baidya Roy at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, a co-author of the study, said in a statement.

It is important to note this is not linked to "global" warming. The Wall Street Journal explains this is the first time wind turbines have been shown to affect to local temperatures over such a timeframe and notes researchers think there is more investigation needed:

"We don't know whether there is a change in weather due to the temperature change," said atmospheric scientist Liming Zhou at the University at Albany, who led the study, which was funded by the National Science Foundation. "The temperature change is small."

As wind farms become popular and much more widespread, however, they "might have noticeable impacts on local-to-regional weather and climate," Mr. Zhou said. But more research is needed, he said.

Discovery News (via Fox News) has more on an idea that could help curb this effect:

One solution could be to change the shape of the turbine blades, according to John Dabiri, director of the Center for Bioinspired Wind Energy at the California Institute of Technology who is an expert on wind power design.

"Smaller turbines can avoid this problem," Dabiri said. "However, this presents a tradeoff, because wind speed decreases as you move closer to the ground; so the smaller turbines would experience lower incoming wind speeds on average."

That means a smaller turbine makes less power.

Prof. Chris Thorncroft, a coauthor of this study and chair of the Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences at Albany said the researchers will be expanding to include other wind farms and building models to better understand how wind turbines and the "atmosphere boundary layer near the surface" interact.

Roy said in a statement he believes wind power is a good energy solution but notes understanding its impacts is "critical for developing efficient adaptation and management strategies to ensure the long-term sustainability" of the technology.

But the latest news on wind turbines isn't all as controversial. A French engineering firm recently announced an advancement in wind turbine technology that is leading it to develop a method of obtaining moisture from humid air to derive drinking water. The Daily Mail reports Eole Water has deployed a prototype of this technology in Abu Dhabi that is producing 62 liters of water a day -- from thin air. Here's more on how it works:

The turbine works in the same way as the turbines currently seen dotting horizons around the world -- and the electricity produced also helps power the water manufacturing process.

Air gets sucked into the nose of the turbine and is directed to a cooling compressor. The humidity is then extracted from the air and condensed and collected.

The water then travels down stainless steel pipes under the forces of gravity into a storage tank, where -- with some filtering and purification -- it is then ready to drink, wash, or cultivate with.

The developers believe this technology could be used to obtain clean water in third world countries without the proper infrastructure to do so or in areas where it is geographically difficult to get water.

Check out this promotional video on the tech for more info:

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