This blog entry is part of a continuing series evaluating various future alternative energy possibilities. For reference check “Is Ethanol Worth It?“, “Down With Wind“, and “Down With Wind (2)“. (grammar check: yes, I am putting the period outside the quotation mark because the rest of the world outside the U.S. does it and it looks more logical to me). Also, I realize the title “Down With Wind” does come off as rather dramatic, however, I am not against using wind turbines as part of the mix of future alternative energy, I just don’t think it is prudent to spend a significant amount of money on expanding wind farms all over the planet. Sure, if oil and coal ran out tomorrow, I would be quite thankful for the installed wind power capacity. However, getting to industrial scale wind power generation across the globe will require millions of acres of land to be covered with wind turbines, and once a significant percentage of societal energy is generated from the wind there will be more signifcant impacts on the weather and climate.
Axel Kleidon of the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena, Germany claims that wind and wave power strategies are not “renewable” energy solutions on the large scale. The reason is that there is only so much “free” energy to exploit. Once our use of wind and wave power rises above a small percentage of the free energy available, there will be diminishing returns. Put enough wind farms in the Plains states and there will be less wind for the farms in Wisconsin to harvest. Falling wind speeds and other weather effects will become more noticeable as wind “farming” increases. Would it be worse than the theoretical future warming due to the use of fossil fuels. It is hard to say at this point because not much thought or research has gone into the subject. Neither the warming so far (however much might be linked to fossil fuel usage) or wind and wave energy applications have produced dire consequences for the climate or society.
Wind and wave energy also have a non-trivial effect on the flora and fauna of the planet – something I will touch on tomorrow.
Have a nice Wednesday! Meteorologist Justin Loew.
This post was written by jloew on April 6, 2011