We at CFACT prioritize responding to asserted climate scares immediately after they are asserted. Nevertheless, some topics are so consequential that they warrant us circling back and reminding people about the issue several months later. A 2018 study by Harvard University scientists documenting how wind turbines increase U.S. temperatures is one of those topics that deserve another look.

The Harvard scientists, while emphasizing they believe people need to take urgent action to mitigate global warming, observed that the interaction of wind turbines and the atmosphere slow down the wind as wind energy is extracted by turbines. This has a warming effect on temperatures. Moreover, they found that many of the best locations for wind turbines are already utilized. This means future wind power installations will utilize lower-quality locations requiring many more turbines and much more land development to produce as the same amount of wind power. As a result, the study determined that current government and industry estimates of wind power production per turbine are significantly inflated.

“This research suggests that not only will wind farms require more land to hit the proposed renewable energy targets but also, at such a large scale, would become an active player in the climate system,” states a Harvard press release announcing the study (https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2018/10/large-scale-wind-power-has-its-down-side/).

“Harvard University researchers find that the transition to wind or solar power in the U.S. would require five to 20 times more land than previously thought, and, if such large-scale wind farms were built, would warm average surface temperatures over the continental U.S. by 0.24 degrees Celsius,” through at least the year 2100, the press release observed.

The scientists studied 411 wind farms and 1,150 solar facilities to determine their results.

“For wind, we found that the average power density — meaning the rate of energy generation divided by the encompassing area of the wind plant — was up to 100 times lower than estimates by some leading energy experts,” one of the scientists explained in the press release.

“For solar energy, the average power density (measured in watts per meter squared) is 10 times higher than wind power, but also much lower than estimates by leading energy experts,” the press release noted.

According to the press release, “This research suggests that not only will wind farms require more land to hit the proposed renewable energy targets but also, at such a large scale, would become an active player in the climate system.”

To meet present-day U.S. electricity demand, the scientists determined wind turbine projects would need to cover one-third of the continental United States. Transforming transportation vehicles to electric batteries would require even more.

“The direct climate impacts of wind power are instant, while the benefits of reduced emissions accumulate slowly,” noted one of the scientists in the press release.

Author

  • CFACT, founded in 1985 by Craig Rucker and the late (truly great) David Rothbard, examines the relationship between human freedom, and issues of energy, environment, climate, economics, civil rights and more.