Wind farms have been tipped as the solution to global warming, but a new study suggests they could actually heat the planet up.
A study found that the US would warm a few tenths of a degree if the number of turbines were increased dramatically.
Researchers say they’ll require much more land than previously thought, needing five to 20 times more space than earlier studies have suggested.
And, persistent gusts created by vast fields of turbines could mix the normal layers of warm and cool air in a way that makes the surface toastier.
Despite the potential drawbacks, however, the researchers argue wind energy still makes more sense for the environment than fossil fuels.
Researchers came to their finding after running a number of computer simulations that modelled how wind power might affect the climate of the United States.
Specifically, they investigated how the atmosphere would change with the installation of enough wind turbines to meet present-day US electricity demand.
Large-scale wind power generation would warm the Continental United States 0.43F (0.24C) because wind turbines redistribute heat in the atmosphere, they found.
‘Wind turbines generate electricity but also alter the atmospheric flow,’ study coauthor Dr Lee Miller explained.
‘Those effects redistribute heat and moisture in the atmosphere, which impacts climate. We attempted to model these effects on a continental scale.’
More than ten previous studies have now observed local warming caused by US wind farms.
Researchers suggested that solar power may offer a less damaging energy source in the fight against climate change.
‘In terms of temperature difference per unit of energy generation, solar power has about 10 times less impact than wind,’ Professor Miller said.
‘But there are other considerations. For example, solar farms are dense, whereas the land between wind turbines can be co-utilized for agriculture.’