Saturday, July 12, 2008

Turbines can alter local weather

(submitted to HDN July 12, 2008)

There are many serious implications of wind energy development when it is close to rural or urban residences and we can be sure that those anxious to jump on the wind energy bandwagon haven’t considered more than a fraction of them.

We have heard about the problems with continuous noise penetrating people’s houses up to a mile away and causing chronic illness. We have heard about the shadow flicker and strobing that can induce seizures and declining property values as people flee formerly peaceful rural environments to escape this large-scale industrialization. We have heard about construction impacts and possible damage to water tables, soil profiles and natural vegetation, not to mention bird and bat kills and wildlife being driven away. But it doesn’t end there.

A recent study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres by Princeton scientists used computer modeling to simulate the effects of a large array of wind turbines (100 of them each 325 feet high and spaced 2/3 of a mile apart) in a Great Plains environment. Parameters were set to mimic wind speeds and weather patterns typical of Oklahoma. The objective was to identify possible impacts on local climatic conditions.

The study found that large arrays of wind turbines actually raise nighttime surface temperatures in summer. Cool air typically pools close to the ground at night, leaving hot air to circulate at higher levels. Turbines disturb this thermal stratification and encourage the mixing of the hot air higher up with the cooler air near the ground, thus raising surface temperatures and eliminating the cool air effect at night that is such a welcome respite during hot summer weather.

This important result adds to other studies in Europe that reveal local changes in climate due to large arrays of wind turbines. In the coastal plain of Denmark, moisture arrives as very low-lying cloud and fog cover that either condenses out onto vegetation or falls as gentle drizzle. The turbulence caused by large arrays of wind turbines diminishes this effect and has actually reduced soil moisture in the region, causing farmers to lobby the government to shut down turbines during spring months so that crops can receive adequate moisture during critical growth stages.

There are many, many implications to consider before we rush ahead blindly with a massive industrialization of this county from which there will be no turning back. With all due respect, few of our elected officials are qualified to evaluate the full impact of these projects on our community - beyond the shortsighted economic promises made by the developer. This would require careful, balanced analysis by a team of unbiased, independent experts. I find it ironic that we are supposed to accept turbines in the interest of diminishing global warming (a contention that is highly doubtful) in the face of real evidence to suggest we risk raising our temperature locally and possibly diminishing our rainfall.

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