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Large-Scale US Wind Power Production Could Contribute To Warming Climate: Study

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This Arizona wind farm is just one of many wind farms providing renewable energy for the needs of Americans. However, a new study suggests that wind power may also contribute to a warming climate.   ( Pat Edwards | Pixabay )

A new research finds that wind farms have direct and instant contributions to a warming climate, with the benefits accumulating slowly through many years. Experts criticize the study, but the authors believe it is something that must be looked at in terms of the transition from coal and gas to renewable energy.

Wind Power Warms Temperature?

Wind farms and solar farms are major sources of renewable energy, with wind power providing about 8 percent of the United States' energy needs. In fact, authorities expect the country's wind turbine capacity to multiply by over four times by the year 2050.

A new study by a pair of Harvard researchers suggests taking a closer look at wind power and offers a rather controversial take on wind power as a contributor to the warming climate. According to researchers, if wind power was used to generate the country’s energy demands, the Continental United States’ surface could grow warmer by 0.24 degrees. This is because as the wind turbines generate energy from the air, they also slow down and alter the moisture, heat, and momentum exchange between the atmosphere and the surface, producing some degree of warming.

Instant vs Long-Term Effects

It’s worth noting that the effects the researchers describe are direct and instant, meaning that the supposed warming would take effect in decades' time. However, the researchers note that in the long-run, perhaps in a thousand years, wind power still has much less climactic impact compared to coal or gas.

Other experts and proponents of clean energy criticize the study, stating that the simulation they used is known to do a “poor job” of predicting flow in real wind farms and that more realistic simulations predicted little temperature change.

Further, the American Wind Energy Association also challenged the research findings, stating that renewable resources still fare infinitely better than fossil resources if the researchers had looked at the global and long-term timescales instead of local and short-term ones since the study focused mainly on the Continental United States and did not analyze impacts in time periods beyond a year.

Making A Choice For Low-Carbon Technologies

Even so, the authors of the study published in the journal Joule suggests taking a much closer look at wind power before pushing it as a major source of renewable energy. Interestingly, one of its authors, David Keith of the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, is actually a stalwart proponent of clean energy.

He also states his awareness that their research will likely be used to argue against the use of wind power but notes that it would be unethical for them to hide their findings regarding renewables.

“Wind beats coal by any environmental measure, but that doesn’t mean that its impacts are negligible. We must quickly transition away from fossil fuels to stop carbon emissions. In doing so, we must make choices between various low-carbon technologies, all of which have some social and environmental impacts,” said Keith in a statement.

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