Just Because Windmills Don't Cause Global Warming Doesn't Mean They Don't Suck

We know that: windfarms ruined the ocean view of late Sen. Ted Kennedy’s Cape Cod home; are shredding birds to smithereens like carrots in a Cuisinart; and are too intermittent and unreliable as a stand-along energy source and usually needs back up by awful fossil fuel sources. But do they also cause global warming?

A frontpage story in the London’s Telegraph earlier this week citing a study that examined temperature data from Texas suggested that they did. (Texas is the biggest wind energy producer in the U.S.):

Usually at night the air closer to the ground becomes colder when the sun goes down and the earth cools.

But on huge wind farms the motion of the turbines mixes the air higher in the atmosphere that is warmer, pushing up the overall temperature.

Satellite data over a large area in Texas, that is now covered by four of the world's largest wind farms, found that over a decade the local temperature went up by almost 1C as more turbines are built.

This could have long term effects on wildlife living in the immediate areas of larger wind farms.

It could also affect regional weather patterns as warmer areas affect the formation of cloud and even wind speeds.

The study, published in Nature, found a “significant warming trend” of up to 0.72C (1.37F) per decade, particularly at night-time, over wind farms relative to near-by non-wind-farm regions.

The team studied satellite data showing land surface temperature in west-central Texas.

“The spatial pattern of the warming resembles the geographic distribution of wind turbines and the year-to-year land surface temperature over wind farms shows a persistent upward trend from 2003 to 2011, consistent with the increasing number of operational wind turbines with time,” said Prof Zhou.

But after the article made this the biggest enviro story of the week, the study’s authors did a Q&A, pointing out that the notion that windmills cause climate change is not quite true. They noted that the warming they observed was "local and small compared to strong background year-to-year land surface temperature changes." In other words, it's not global warming.

The irony that a cure for global warming is actually causing global warming might be too good to be true. But what is true is that had wind energy not been powered by crony capitalism, it would have been long ago blown away by the gales of destruction unleashed by its more viable competitors.

Capitalists like T. Boone Pickens have been peddling wind’s potential to their Congressional cronies for years. Consider some of Pickens pronouncements that Heritage’s Robert Bryce fracked in the Huffington Post last year:

About three years ago, one of the wind industry's biggest boosters, T. Boone Pickens, was claiming that natural gas prices had to be at least $9 for wind energy to be competitive. In March 2010, Pickens was still hawking wind energy, but he'd lowered his price threshold saying, "The place where it works best is with natural gas at $7." By January of this year, a chastened Pickens was explaining that you can't "finance a wind deal unless you have $6 gas."

That may be true, but on the spot market, natural gas now sells for about $4 per million Btu.

The upshot is that global warming or not, despite massive subsidies, wind power ain’t going anywhere fast. Bryce again:

During the first half of this year, the U.S. installed just 2,151 megawatts of new capacity. That means that 2011 may be even worse for the domestic wind industry than 2010, when U.S. wind generation capacity grew by 5,100 megawatts. And that 2010 total was about half of the 10,010 megawatts added in 2009. Indeed, this year domestic wind additions may be smaller than at anytime since at least 2006.

The bald eagle can soar again. Long Live the U.S. of A.

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  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    In all fairness, I don't think living, or very recently living, birds are dense enough to shred like carrots.

  • BakedPenguin||

    You have to try harder, NEM

  • fried wylie||

    what about frozen birds in polar climates, huh smartguy?

  • Sevo||

    Well, there is no 'low-priced spread'.

  • Paul.||

    But on huge wind farms the motion of the turbines mixes the air higher in the atmosphere that is warmer, pushing up the overall temperature.

    I'm having a hard time believing this.

    Wind turbines don't cause airflow, they harness it.

    In fact, if my physics and thermodynamics serves me, they would actually reduce it. They would take the energy in the wind and bleed some of that off into the spinning windturbine which then produces electricity.

  • kinnath||

    Can you say t-u-r-b-u-l-e-n-c-e?

  • kinnath||

    Wind turbines disturbe airflow, and they steal a small bit of the energy in the airflow.

  • kinnath||

    Of course, natures steal part of that back due to friction (heat) in the generators and heat in the powerlines.

  • Bardas Phocas||

    Windmills do not work that way.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQg8JKo_3ZQ

  • Paul.||

    But turbulence doesn't sound like the mechanism they're suggesting is causing a mixing of "higher atmosphere" air. Still sounds dubious.

  • kinnath||

    motion of the turbines mixes the air higher

    The air strikes the fan blade. Some of the energy is transfered to the blade, and and the blade moves (displacing some other air).

    The original are is deflected in a new direction. The direction of the new airflow will depend upon the design of the blade, but presumably, some of the air flows outward from the tips of the blade. So some air goes up, some air goes sideways, and some air goes down to the ground where it has to spread out.

    It should not be surprising that some of the air that was near the ground is going to get pushed way up above the top of the windmill.

  • Paul.||

    What I mean is, it seems to me that turbulence wouldn't be enough to actually move large enough volumes of upper atmosphere air to the lower atmosphere to change the climate.

  • kinnath||

    But after the article made this the biggest enviro story of the week, the study's authors did a Q&A, pointing out that the notion that windmills cause climate change is not quite true. They noted that the warming they observed was "local and small compared to strong background year-to-year land surface temperature changes." In other words, it's not global warming.

  • ||

    In harnessing energy, they in turn change local air pressures, which causes air to move.

  • Zeb||

    I had a different problem with that passage. I'm not sure what they mean by "overall temperature", but it seems to me that it is only increasing the local, ground level temperature and slightly cooling higher altitude air temperatures. Which to me means that overall temperatures stay the same on average (approximately).

  • Blake||

    It would be more accurate to say it slows cooling because it steals/deflects air flow that would otherwise be used to dissipate heat.

  • Abdul||

    Finally, a reason to support Green energy, because fuck the Eagles!

    Oh wait, they don't mean Joe Walsh?

  • The Fatman||

    Don Henley must DIE!

  • BakedPenguin||

    When a means of effectively accessing gas hydrates becomes possible, it will further push "green" energy to the sidelines. There are enough hydrate reserves to fill current use for 1,000 years.

    Peak energy my left testicle.

  • Paul.||

    Peak energy my left testicle.

    Peak oil! Peak oil!!!

  • Pro Libertate||

    If anyone is running around saying "Peak Energy", they're nuts. Until the heat death of the universe, that is. Then they're spot on.

    We could run out of oil that's cheap enough to be worth the effort, but I'm highly doubtful that will happen before we switch to other energy sources. There's always nuclear if the shit hits the fan with fossil fuels (which won't be for quite some time).

  • JW||

    Peak Entropy!

  • Pro Libertate||

    It's coming. Though I suppose there are entropy Deniers.

  • ||

    "I am Molecule Man. I scoff at entropy."

  • Auric Demonocles||

    Wouldn't "peak" entropy imply that at some point entropy would start declining?

  • Pro Libertate||

    Let's not quibble over marketing terminology.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    My entire job is based off of math. I'll keep these terms accurate, thanks.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Oh, very well. Peak Order!

  • Zeb||

    Maybe "plateau entropy" would be better?

  • JW||

    Fine. It's plane entropy!

    Not quite as catchy.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    "Asymptote entropy"?

  • Pro Libertate||

    Peak Order.

  • ||

    The peak isn't about "running out". The peak is when you can't get it out of the ground any faster. Long before you run out, the inability to grow production causes serious economic problems. When production actually begins to decline, it doesn't take too much of a drop to cause a collapse, due to the Perpetual Growth assumptions built into economies based on debt money.

    Humanity will adapt and move on, of course, but that adaptation might be "get a whole lot poorer".

  • Pro Libertate||

    If we had no oil, we'd focus on other stuff and make other stuff cheaper. Like nukes, biofuels, whatever. The issue with alternatives right now is the relative cheapness of oil, etc.

    Of course, we still have coal and natural gas in large quantities.

  • ||

    HERESY!

  • Mr. FIFY||

    The best thing, apparently, is to just stop using ANY form of energy, and wait until all of humanity dies off.

    Did that sum up the greentard movement sufficiently? I tried to keep it pithy.

  • robc||

    Windmills, like any other source of energy creates waste heat.

  • ||

    Capitalists like T. Boone Pickens have been peddling winds potential to their Congressional cronies for years.

    Yes, he has. Often. It's great he wants to invest in natty gas (OK has a shit ton of it) but he also wanted include in the deal he was trying to broker using eminent domain to buy up land in OK for the cheap. The OK legislature responded by specifically ending those eminent domain practices for windfarms so he couldn't game the system. I would imagine he's pretty sore about that still, considering natty gas is sitting around 2.30 USD/MMBtu avg.

    Disclosure: T. Boone has been very generous to my alma mater, considering they are one and the same.

  • Brandon||

    You went to Oklahoma State? And now you're claiming to be a doctor? That's fucked up, Groove.

  • ||

  • mad libertarian guy||

    They noted that the warming they observed was "local and small compared to strong background year-to-year land surface temperature changes." In other words, it's not global warming.

    Perhaps not.

    But the phenomenon is surely sending false readings when determining temperature which would lead to the false assumption that the earth is warming.

  • ||

    That may be true, but on the spot market, natural gas now sells for about $4 per million Btu.

    Today, $2.34. It's going to rise pretty quickly, though, 'cause NG companies are throttling back hard.

  • Ken Shultz||

    The big story in alternative energy right now has got to be solar.

    First Solar is shutting down factories because thin film is losing its cost competitiveness--thin film's whole reason for existing in the first place.

    The price of solar panels has dropped like a rock and is likely to continue to drop. American producers of solar panels see this as a problem, but consumers and environmentalists should be thrilled.

    Unfortunately for consumers and environmentalists, the Obama Administration doesn't give a shit about them.

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/uc.....lar-goods/

  • R C Dean||

    over a decade the local temperature went up by almost 1C as more turbines are built.

    This could have long term effects on wildlife living in the immediate areas of larger wind farms.

    I can assure you that a change of 1C in local temperature will have no effect on Texas wildlife.

    None. The weather here is so variable, and periodically gets so hot all on its own, that 1C is decimal dust.

    There is not a single animal that will notice, care, or be affected if the summertime highs are 105 instead of 103, or the winter lows are 35 instead of 33.

  • ||

    someone can just price the carbon foot print [cost] of : resource exploitation/use in building - transportation - maintainance - scrapping the so-called efficient windmill [fraud].

  • TingoZing||

    Dude knows he is like totally rocking it. Wow.

    www.Privacy-Dudes.tk

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