A new story in Scientific American reports that wind farms cropping up along the landscape are changing local temperatures. According to a study, the giant turbine blades chop up the incoming wind, mixing different layers of the atmosphere.
Temperature readings taken at the San Gorgonia Pass Wind Farm near Palm Springs, Calif., showed an increase in nighttime temperature, and a decrease in daytime temperature.
However, an atmospheric scientist, Somnath Baidya Roy of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, says this may not be a problem, with warming and cooling effects canceling each other out. However, it’s worth studying because, according to Roy, “We have a unique opportunity to solve a problem even before it becomes a major issue.”
The SciAm story is based on a study published online in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Based on the findings, the researchers suggest either designing wind-turbine rotors to minimize turbulence or siting wind farms where natural atmospheric turbulence is high, such as the Midwest or large parts of northern Europe and China, to cut down on any surface-temperature impacts, if necessary. Of course, wind farms typically sprout up in exactly such turbulent spots, as that’s where the wind is strongest-and it’s by capturing the energy in the wind that they create more turbulence in the first place, exactly what wind turbines are designed to do, says Mark Ahlstrom, CEO of WindLogics, a wind analysis and forecasting company.