Reports suggesting that wind farms cause global warming have heated up the internet, but not everyone agrees with those claims. Some experts claim those reports stem from a misreading of a scientific study which doesn’t even point to global warming.
The study in question was conducted by Lee Miller and David Keith at Harvard University. According to the study published in the journal Joule, wind turbines will heat up the surface area over the continental U.S. by 0.24 degrees Celsius. For those who are worried about rapid global warming, 0.24 degrees Celsius is quite a lot, but there’s much more to the story.
It must be noted that the study was limited to the U.S. only. The pair wanted to simulate the consequences if the nation’s entire electricity needs were fulfilled solely by wind turbines. However, this is unlikely to happen because the electricity supply depends on a mix of sources. Nevertheless, the pair of scientists still wanted to see how the scenario would go.
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Forbes contributor Michael Marshall pointed out a number of shortcomings with this study. He noted that the warming only occurred over the U.S., which is a rather small portion of our planet. He added that much more energy is required to warm the entire planet’s surface for 0.24 degrees.
Further, he argued that wind farms don’t generate extra heat that would warm our planet. Instead, he said they move the existing heat around, causing it to circulate. The air located above ground cools during the night, while the wind turbines drag the warmer air down from higher up. He explained that wile the air under the turbines gets warmer at night, the air at some other location cools down. It means that overall, the planet isn’t warming up.
According to Marshall, this is different than what greenhouse gases are doing as they damage our planet. Greenhouse gases trap heat from the sun, causing global warming, unlike wind turbines, which only moves warm air from one location to another.
While many headlines grabbed onto the detail about wind turbines causing warming, Miller and Keith made it clear in their paper that their findings were localized, meaning they don’t affect the entire planet. Instead, the study should send different messages to the world, Marshall argues. The first message is that we need to mix renewable sources of energy like solar and wind farms to reduce global warming. There are also more types of renewable energy to tap into: tidal, wave, bioenergy, geothermal and others.
The second message should encourage us to consider which renewable source we’ll place where and how we’ll use them. Nevertheless, we shouldn’t question which energy source is better. While wind farms are better for some parts of the world, putting them close to an endangered species population could jeopardize the animals because of the heat being pulled close to the ground around the turbines. Proponents of renewable energy say all sources will suit different parts of the planet perfectly.