Wind Turbines Cool Off Agriculture as Planet Heats Up

wind turbine fanDo wind turbines cool crops below?

In a new study with applications for the Middle East, a pair of US researchers finds wind turbines could help to reduce the adverse effects of climate change on agriculture, during the hotter summers that we expect in our future.

We already know that wind power is a way to prevent climate change, because it reduces our dependence on fossil fuels. But what if wind turbines can also reduce the effects of our fossil energy dependence: the rise in temperatures, and the catastrophic effects that that is predicted to have on agriculture?

What if wind turbines can provide a little cooling effect – almost like giant fans in the sky – helping to also mitigate the effects of climate change? It turns out, that is exactly what happens.
Researchers have completed a months-long research program aimed at studying how wind turbines on US farmlands interact with their surrounding crops.

The preliminary findings were announced at the annual meeting in San Francisco of the American Geophysical Union by Ames Laboratory associate and agricultural meteorology expert Gene Takle, a researcher at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory and Julie Lundquist, assistant professor, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, at the University of Colorado at Boulder, joint appointee at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and Fellow of the Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute.

Lundquist’s team uses a specialized laser known as a lidar to measure winds and turbulence from near the Earth’s surface to well above the top tip of a turbine blade.

“Our laser instrument could detect a beautiful plume of increased turbulence that persisted even a quarter-mile downwind of a turbine,” Lundquist said.

The study did not assess whether the effects were in fact beneficial to the health and yield potential of soybeans and corn planted nearby. However, their finding that the turbines increase airflow over surrounding crops, suggests this is a realistic possibility.

“The turbulence resulting from wind turbines may speed up natural exchange processes between crop plants and the lower atmosphere,” Takle said.

For instance, crops warm up when the sun shines on them, and some of that heat is given off to the atmosphere. Extra air turbulence likely speeds up this heat exchange, so crops stay slightly cooler during hot days. On cold nights, turbulence stirs the lower atmosphere and keeps nighttime temperatures around the crops warmer.

Moving air reduces moisture by helping dry the dew that settles on plants beginning in late afternoon. Reducing crop moisture reduces the likelihood of fungi and toxins can grow on plant leaves.

In addition, having drier crops at harvest could help farmers reduce the cost of artificially drying corn or soybeans, the researchers surmise.

Although the study was based in the US Midwest – because turbines and farmland already share space there, and are like to do so even more in the future – applications for other nations and crops too.

Typically, these are regions, like Egypt, that have good wind speeds to drive turbines. However, the wind speeds are greater at a higher level, so that without turbines sweeping air downward, at ground level air movement  can be negligible on hot summer days, even in regions with good wind speed.

The researchers believe a potential benefit to crops could be that increased airflows could enable plants to more readily extract atmospheric CO2, a needed “fuel” for crops.

The effects are subtle, says Takle, “But in certain years and under certain circumstances the effects could be significant.”

“When you think about a summer with a string of 105-degree days, extra wind turbulence from wind turbines might be helpful. If turbines can bring the temperature down below 100 degrees that could be a big help for crops.”

Previous  studies have found that US corn and soy crop yields in the Midwest could decrease by up to 82 percent under the most likely scenario, due to too many heatwave days (anything over 86%) in summers by as soon as 2080.

In Egypt, wheat production is estimated to lose up to 36% if average temperatures rise by just four degrees.

If nearby wind turbines could shave a few degrees of local heat waves, we could save agriculture in regions in which it is expected to be destroyed.

Via Wind Daily

Related stories:

Climate Change Killing the First Crops in the Cradle of Civilization
Egypt Teams With Abu Dhabi on 200MW Wind Farm Near Suez
Abu Dhabi’s Climate Change Choice: Trees Or Water?
Egypt Builds Climate Change Plan For Cairo-Delta Region

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2 thoughts on “Wind Turbines Cool Off Agriculture as Planet Heats Up”

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  2. Wow.

    Anyone else think this reeks of just more desperate attempts to promote the now collapsing AGW theory as well as the benefits of this hugely unpopular and proven to be totally useless ‘technology’ of wind farms. The only thing wind farms generate is (more stolen taxpayers’) money in the pockets of those receiving the subsidies.

    I mean seriously, is this the best PR they can do? Especially seeing as all that marvelous turbulence drifting downwind from wind farms contains low frequency vibrations (sound) which causes anxiety, migraines, depression, insomnia, dizziness etc for the por local residents (research: wind turbine syndrome).

    Not to mention the fact that bats are having their lungs exploded by the low air pressure created by the blades and the bird death toll (including rare/ endangered birds) is horrific from these great ‘scythes in the sky’ – all of which is being largely swept under the carpet because it’s not so great for the ‘green’ image.

    UK energy Minister Charles Hendry told MPs recently that UK governments had spent £2.2 billion supporting wind power over eight years in the UK– but it it would be impossible to predict when the energy source would prove profitable without grants.

    And then there’s the whole floored premise that the world is indeed warming. Well that depends entirely on when you measure from. We have been generally (and naturally) warming since the ‘little ice age’ of medieval times – this is true – but before that it was much warmer than it is today and for the last decade the planet has actually been cooling.

    In fact, many scientists agree the sun (that big ball of fire in the sky which is the main driver of our climate) may be entering a period of long term minimal output, meaning we may be entering into a mini ice age. Wind turbines don’t do well in icy (or, rather ironically) windy conditions as we all know – like the last two winters which were blooming freezing despite Al Gore’s threats of ‘warmer wetter winters’ and claims that ‘our children won’t know what snow is’.

    What’s up with Al Gore these days…? Oh that’s right he’s being sued for fraud, banned from lecturing to children, had is ‘Inconvenient Truth’ movie ripped to shreds by a judge in a court case and banned from using his hockey stick graph because it was proven to be fake.

    But let’s not let science and common sense cloud our thinking. Instead let’s all just keep thinking in the most vague and emotive terms such as ‘saving the planet’ and let a bunch of giant faceless energy corporations and the global elite take care of everything for us.

    With that attitude, what could possibly go wrong?

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