Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Cloud over the wind farm industry

A wind farm is a group of wind turbines in one location that is used to produce electrical power. There are two main locations of these wind farms; offshore and onshore. Offshore wind farms utilize the sea winds. The Capricorn Ridge Wind Farm has a capacity of 662.5 megawatt that is capable of generating electrical power to more than 200,000 homes in Texas. Another notable wind farm is the Dabancheng Wind Farm in China with 118 turbines and is one of Asia’s biggest wind farms.

They can be a sight to behold, but unfortunately, I have no pictures of wind farms.

A wind turbine is a machine used for converting the kinetic energy in wind into mechanical energy. If the mechanical energy is used directly by machinery, such as a pump or grinding stones, the machine is usually called a windmill. If the mechanical energy is then converted to electricity, the machine is called a wind generator.

Wind turbines are devices that generate electricity from the wind. 

It converts kinetic energy or energy that is created due to motion, into mechanical energy. Mechanical energy is used in numerous ways every day. One of its most important uses is as electrical energy. This electrical energy in turn allows us to power our light bulbs, refrigerator and television set.

Imagine wind turbines as electric fans, but instead of electricity producing air, it works the opposite. Wind turbines are connected to a generator and in turn convert wind into electricity. There are two groups of wind turbines, the vertical-axis design and the horizontal-axis variety. The horizontal-axis turbines have the main rotor on top of the tower and need to be pointed into the direction of the wind. The vertical-axis turbines on the other hand have the main rotor faced vertically and does not need to be positioned in the wind direction. It is the horizontal-axis that is the most commonly used while it is the vertical-axis that is highly advantageous.

In the Philippines’ Laoag City, three wind power developers were given the green light to build new wind farms last year, reinforcing Ilocos Norte’s bid to become the home of renewable energy (RE) in the country.

Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos, according to a Philippine Inquirer article, said the Lopez family-run Energy Development Corp. (EDC) would operate a $310-million facility in Burgos town. Energy Logics will put up its own plants in Burgos and in neighboring Pasuquin town at the cost of $380 million.

The UPC Renewables, an affiliate of the Italian UPC Group, will also build plants in the villages of Balaoi and Caparispisan in Pagudpud town.

The new wind energy sources were part of the governor’s report in her state of the province address, marking her first year in office.

“Today, we decide to break our dependence on fossil fuel and within the next few years, we must generate 50 percent of the energy used by the province from renewable energies,” Marcos said.

“We were the first [to harness wind power in the Philippines]. We will not stop until we achieve all our dreams.”

Now the bad news

Despite being hailed as a leader in "green" innovation, wind farms might cause a warming effect on local climates, concluded a new study. The newfound revelation casts a shadow over the alleged accomplishments of wind power, and will likely ignite controversy among lawmakers and advocacy groups.

Researchers at the State University of New York at Albany observed satellite data circling areas around wind farms in Texas, where four of the largest farms in the world are stationed. The researchers’ data, published in the Nature Climate Change journal, uncovered a warming trend of up to 0.72 degrees Celsius per decade — using data from 2003 to 2011 — in regions over the wind farms, compared with nearby areas without farms.

In contrast, scientists report that the Earth’s average temperature has increased by only 0.8 degrees Celsius since 1900.

"We attribute this warming primarily to wind farms," reported the study’s authors, which is likely due to the impact of the energy discharged by farms, as well as the turbulence ignited by turbine rotors. "These changes, if spatially large enough, may have noticeable impacts on local to regional weather and climate."

Many experts say wind power complements the generation of solar power, because solar power is only generated during daytime hours, while nighttime hours often experience stronger winds. However, the study’s authors and their colleagues deduced that turbulence behind the farm’s turbine blades force cooler air to the ground at night, and mix in warm air higher in the atmosphere, resulting in an elevated overall temperature.

"Given the present installed capacity and the projected growth in installation of wind farms across the world, I feel that wind farms, if spatially large enough, might have noticeable impacts on local to regional meteorology," Liming Zhou, one of the study’s authors, wrote in an email to Discovery News. "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."

But John Dabiri, director of the Center for Bioinspired Wind Energy at the California Institute of Technology, warns that jumping to conclusions as to what are the best energy "solutions" — particularly when such action involves government interference — may be imprudent. Zhou and his colleagues’ findings show "that we need to think carefully about the unintended environmental consequences of any large-scale energy development," Dabiri averred, "including green technologies."

The purported research, if validated by future studies, should help reveal the fatuity of doling out massive taxpayer-backed subsidies to so-called green energy "solutions." In an effort to abate climate change, the advocacy of wind energy is possibly adding to climate change (even if the impact is "localized" and minimal). Furthermore, hundreds of thousands of birds die every year from turbine blades.

Globally, wind farms last year had a 21-percent increase (over 2010) in their capacity to produce electricity, and this capacity is expected to rise further as more, and larger, farms are constructed, according to the Global Wind Energy Council. China is reportedly building 36 wind turbines every day, while Texas holds the reign as the number-one producer of wind power in the United States.


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  1. This is an eye opener article re wind farms. The last article I read was about the 'noise pollution' they generate. Great article...

  2. It just so happens I'm featuring a picture of a new wind turbine in Sydney today.
    Sydney - City and Suburbs

  3. I think the comment that jumping to conclusions is a dangerous move is correct. The real problem, that I see, is the general decline in education which may preclude a fair field of general good, and valid judgement. Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

  4. Gorgeous! Have a wonderful weekend!

    Sky Shots in Disney World, please come and see.