The wind turbine albedo effect

Via the Wakey Wakey thread, I got wind of this photo (seen below the continue reading line) which is a real world effect of the model at left.

It seemed worthwhile to share for the sheer uniqueness of it. The turbulence caused by the turbines is a catalyst for cloud formation. See photo:

IHorns Rev 1 wake effects. Photographer Christian Steiness. The above photograph shows the turbulence field behind the Horns Rev 1 offshore wind turbines. Unique meteorological conditions on 12 February 2008 at 1300 hours resulted in the wind turbines creating condensation (i.e. clouds) of the very humid air, thus making it possible to see the turbulence pattern behind the wind turbines. - Click for full sized image.

h/t to WUWT reader “Betapug”

UPDATE: In comments reader Mike G located the original photo as being from an offshore wind project by Aeolus called Horns Rev1. I’ve updated the caption and the photo as a result. Wikipedia has an entry with a map here

– Anthony

Horns Rev is located in North Sea

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Andy G55

Don’t clouds trap heat way more effectively than CO2 ?

DirkH

Stephen Salter, 2002:
“SPRAY TURBINES TO INCREASE RAIN BY ENHANCED
EVAPORATION FROM THE SEA”
http://www.mech.ed.ac.uk/research/wavepower/rain%20making/shs%20rain%20paper%20Feb.pdf
He wants to increase rain in arid regions by using a wind turbine and spray sea water into its wake.

Eyal Porat

Wow! What a picture!
Add this to the clouds made by ships and high altitude airplanes and you will find that the humanity is actually driving the earth into an ice age.

Metryq

Contrail to popular belief…

So they are useful after all! They create clouds which cool us down and reduce HICC-UP. And, as a fortuitous by-product, generate meagre amounts of electricity.

John

Nice visualization of the turbulence created by these things. I fly regularly from an airport that has numerous turbines in the area and with the correct wind direction and descending below the top level I can feel the turbulence and it spoils my nice approach to the runway. It might even become dangerous for a pilot if he/she is not prepared for these effects.

Dermot O'Logical

Just got to love the way that the turbines are neatly arranged to fall in the wind shadow of the first row. Another day when “rated capacity” fails to materialise…..

John Marshall

Looks the same as the condensation cones from wing tip vortices from aircraft wings in fact exactly the same.

philincalifornia

Wind turbines cause climate change ?? As if ….. !!!!!
Not that they’re a blight on the landscape or anything, but it’s OK though. If the albedo effects plunge us prematurely into the next ice age, I’m sure we can count on our elected politicians to help us muddle through it.

Peter Dunford

Do these reflect sunlight back, or intercept the outgoing?

So, – now more funding is really needed as this shows that more research is needed to establish “once and for all” whether clouds have negative or positive effects on Climate Change (CC). My plea to scientists is: “please form an orderly queue!”

Otto Weinzierl

I think that’s not a real photograph, rather a photo-shopped image.

Semi-relevant:
Here’s a NASA propaganda film from 1980 pushing the benefits of wind power. NASA started working on wind in 1973.
http://www.archive.org/details/those_magnificent_wind_machines
A few points:
1. NASA determined at that time that two blades were ideal, not three or more. Wonder why they changed to three?
2. It appears that the gov’t pushed the spread of cable TV across America to clear the way for wind power, because the blades created near-total interference with broadcast TV.
3. “We’ve found that the diesel generators used for backup have to be run at part-throttle when the wind turbine is producing, so we haven’t saved as much fuel as we thought.” Hmm. Seems that they still haven’t solved this one.
3. “The cost should drop to 5 cents per KWH.” That would be 13 cents after inflation today.
I can’t find a conclusive figure for real cost of wind power online, but a couple sources indicate that tax breaks amount to 23 cents, and the actual cost of operation and maintenance (not counting capital cost or the backup power) is 27 cents.
http://www.wind-watch.org/documents/true-cost-of-electricity-from-wind-is-always-underestimated-and-its-value-is-always-overestimated/
http://social.windenergyupdate.com/pr/new-report-explores-true-cost-wind-turbine-operations-maintenance

Baa Humbug

Wow is that photo real? Anyone know why the cloud trails are wider to the right? is it an optical illusion or something to do with wind direction? Inquiring minds pls

Tom Bauch

Wow, maybe Martha’s Vineyard is about to undergo a ‘sea change’ in its cloud patterns?

Mike McMillan

I have yet to get a handle on how a driven blade generates turbulence, my experience having been entirely on driving blades. All the turbines above are in the wake of the front row, probably reducing output and definitely putting more stress on the hubs and those long blades.
Neat, long rows may look tidy, but when the wind is just right, you lose efficiency. A pair of staggered placement grids would have been better, angled the way halftone screens are angled in color printing.

Bill Marsh

Interesting. So what albedo effect do the low clouds (assuming they are low clouds) have? Do they raise temps or lower them?

Ron Cram

Very interesting photo. Where was it taken?

Roy

Wow. It also clearly shows that most of the windmills are in the turbulent wake of the front ones, so their already dismal efficiency is even worse.

kim

Heh, I’ve been saying for years that the energy from a windmill is less than the energy taken out of the atmosphere, energy that is no longer available for those downwind. Efficiency losses mandate that the cure for such a tort is not available.
===================

That is an amazing photo. I have observed the same sort of effect trailing behind a fast boat with a complex mast like a Destroyer. Albeit to a much lesser degree.
And speaking of fresh snow, we awoke to an inch or so this morning. Latest accumulation I have ever seen.

Chris H

Commentators on the previous “Wakey-wakey” thread seemed to have missed the obvious that this turbulence equates to noise. Wind turbines would be noisy even if the incoming airstream was laminar and all at the same velocity. Add in wind shear when velocity at the top of the blades is greater than at the bottom of the sweep and inflow turbulence either from natural changes in wind speed and direction or fixed structures such as trees, hills and buildings or other upwind turbines then the noise becomes much worse with a thumping quality that travels long distances and ruins sleep.
The wakey wakey tag is thus highly appropriate as that is what they do, wreck sleep patterns. As some other commentators have pointed out, much of this work was done by NASA in the 1980s and is conveniently ignored by today’s wind industry.
Wind turbines generate three things, subsidies, enriching the developers and pushing the poor into fuel poverty, noise, ruining the sleep and health of those unfortunate enough to live nearby and electricity, in small varying quantities that gives the grid operator endless headaches.
I share the concerns about what will happen to these giant symbols to political gullibility when the penny finally drops and the subsidies are axed. The developers will simply walk away, leaving them to desecrate our skylines for decades to come.

David L. Hagen

That is is clear evidence of anthropogenic warming by increasing the climate greenhouse effect by “trapping” long wave radiation.
OR
That is clear evidence of anthropogenic cooling by increasing earth’s albedo.
Calling climate modelers and experimentalists to rescue us from our plight!

DLBrown

Beautiful picture, but I would not like to live ‘down wind’ of these monstrosities. You would never see the sun.

OK I don’t like windmills which are for me, expensive 17th century technology in a new form.
Yeah! And they cause rotation of air. Fueling tornados! Sorry, couldn’t resist after yesterday tornado outbreak.
It wouldn’t surprise me at all if some of today’s climate scientists would suggest such connections given current standard in the climatic research community.

sasquatch

We saw that picture of the Horn’s Reef wind farm before but it was not greatly noted for it’s influence on cloud formation……
I speculate this is not a unique event for that site…..

RockyRoad

Murray Grainger says:
April 28, 2011 at 4:18 am

So they are useful after all! They create clouds which cool us down and reduce HICC-UP. And, as a fortuitous by-product, generate meagre amounts of electricity.

I completely agree–now all they need to do is paint the turbine blades in fantastical colors and patterns so we can enjoy them like the toy pinwheels we all had as children.

The original for this appears to be at http://ict-aeolus.eu/about.html
The home page of the Aeolus website says:
“Aeolus is an European research project funded by the European Commission under the IST framework programme 7 for Information and Communication Technology, ICT.”

The site describes the conditions present at the time of the photo:
“Horns Rev 1 wake effects. Photographer Christian Steiness. The above photograph shows the turbulence field behind the Horns Rev 1 offshore wind turbines. Unique meteorological conditions on 12 February 2008 at 1300 hours resulted in the wind turbines creating condensation (i.e. clouds) of the very humid air, thus making it possible to see the turbulence pattern behind the wind turbines. “

Jay

Polistra wrote-
“1. NASA determined at that time that two blades were ideal, not three or more. Wonder why they changed to three?”
I heard that with three blades, you have asymmetry, so the wind mill will always start turning even in low wind conditions. With 2 or 4, the symmetry can stall rotation in low wind speed conditions.
That’s the explanation I read.
-Jay

vboring

Whether these clouds trap or reflect heat is complicated and depends on where they are as well as the prevailing weather conditions at the time.
To whoever asked about the switch to three blades instead of two as NASA recommended, in most wind conditions three blades transmit more consistent stress to their mounts, making the total turbine more reliable. Two blade designs are preferable in some wind conditions, but three are preferable in most.

Donald Mitchell

I will be very surprised if anyone ever gets a good model on the effects of clouds on the heat transfer problem. Years ago, I was flying over western Kansas when I noticed that the clouds formed a reasonably precise checkerboard. I finally noticed that the farmland below had been plowed on a checkerboard pattern. I suppose that the farmers had some kind of pattern where alternate sections were used on alternate years with the remaining sections allowed to rest for a year, but the result was a set of clouds that exactly indicated the plowed/not plowed surface beneath them. It would be very difficult to convince me that enough data could be gathered to input to a model so that something like this could be accounted for in computations. To suggest that models could effectively utilize that vast amount of data would only serve to reduce (if possible) my estimation of your credibility.

David L. Hagen

Jay
3 also gives more uniform moment of inertia about the vertical axis – less jerk when changing orientation.

DJ

Anyone check out the poll from the page with the original graphic of the wind turbine aerodynamic modeling??
http://www.ssdl.uvic.ca/index.php/component/poll/16-do-energy-costs-need-to-rise-to-avoid-climate-change
Looks like drastically higher energy prices are the solution to climate change!!

Darrell

Are we sure ths pic is real? I saved it thinking it would make a great desktop background but enlarged the windmills look kinda “funny”

DesertYote

#
Dermot O’Logical says:
April 28, 2011 at 4:22 am
Just got to love the way that the turbines are neatly arranged to fall in the wind shadow of the first row. Another day when “rated capacity” fails to materialise…..
###
That was my first thought too. Must just be a coincidence, but maybe not. I have seen a company who likes to put up Press Release generating solar panels up on their campuses. At one the panels are tilted towards the east, at another they are tilted towards the west. Not only did they get it wrong, but they were not even consistent in their wrongness which means they were built just for show. But they sure are photogenic and look all cool and s**t over the parking lots they now cover.

cwj

Chris H wrote-
“Commentators on the previous “Wakey-wakey” thread seemed to have missed the obvious that this turbulence equates to noise. Wind turbines would be noisy even if the incoming airstream was laminar and all at the same velocity.”
So where do I go to hear this noise? I have been in the wake of a windmill and not noticed it, though I wasn’t listening or trying to discern the source of noises around me.
After reading previous reports of the noise from windmills I have driven to near the base of a windmill only to have the noise of the machine drowned out by the noise of the birds in the bushes nearby. I returned later and could hear the machine: it sounded similar to my neighbor’s air conditioner, but not nearly as loud as the AC. It was more the same level of noise as the tires of the traffic on the interstate a half mile away over the hill. The generator sounded like a bearing was failing.
I’m guessing I was probably too close to hear noise of turbulence. (about 300 ft from the base of the windmill)
Where in the wake, at ground level, do you have to be to hear the noise of the turbulence, and where do you have to be to not hear it for a comparison?
Regarding the drying effects, in Iowa and the corn belt there are at least some observers have noticed fewer high temperatures in the summer and fewer droughts. This they attribute to the effects of the increased density of planting corn shielding the ground from the sun. In the last 20 years the average density has gone from mid-20’s thousand plants per acre to mid-30’s thousand plants per acre. That increased crop density should also protect the ground from the turbulence of a windmill.

Douglas DC

yes it is real seen the same effect with our local “Nowhere Oregon” wind farm.
Vestas has been revealed as the true owner. BTW. That gives me even less confidence.
Being an old Fire Dog (Wildland, Aerial) i keep wonering what these thing would do to a fast moving wind driven fire? Especially the big ones….

jorgekafkazar

This is the only picture I’ve seen of a wind farm with the contrails. My conclusion is: it’s a rare phenomenon.

Julian Flood

Andy G55 says: April 28, 2011 at 4:06 am
quote
Don’t clouds trap heat way more effectively than CO2 ?
unquote
No. Not low level cloud. Low level clouds reflect sunlight (albedo around 60 to 70 compared with calm ocean albedo of effectively zero). Those who doubt that low level clouds are a cooling phenomenon should book an open-ended holiday on the north-east coast of England and wait for the haar. This is a drift of low level fog/stratus/stratocumulus cloud from the sea onto the land. Sit on the beach on a summer’s day under the haar and you will learn about albedo. Bring a fur coat.
JF

Jim G

Everyone is asking whether clouds trap heat or cool the surface. I asked it too, once. One analysis we received in a recent post was that it all depends on yata, yata, yata. In other words, no one really knows the overall result of clouds on temperature. Sometimes warmer and sometimes cooler. The when and where of each does not seem to be very predictable.

Kelvin Vaughan

This is an example of turbine cooling primarily causing human-induced climate change.
This could mean that current IPCC model predictions for the next century are wrong, and there will be cooling in the North Sea.

Chris H

ewj. 300ft is too close to really get the thumping swooshing noise that is so annoying.
All turbines produce this noise pattern but in some it is worse than others. The problem is that the industry doesn’t seem to have a clue what causes it or how to prevent it. Factors that seem to be important are turbine size, blade length in relation to tower height (long blades and short towers), blade design, hilly terrain, high wind shear, multiple turbines in lines and too close, ridgeline arrays.
The lack of studies of the human effects rather than abstract calculations is disgraceful.

George E. Smith

That is an amazing photograph. One could certainly claim that it proves that extracting energy from the wind, results in a Temperature drop. I’ve observed the same auto cloud production around cars on the freeway; often when going over the Grapevine to SoCal. With the cars moving through the saturated air, just the Bernoulli pressure drop is enough to cause condensation.
And since these turbo-clouds are low level we know from climatism 101 that they cool the earth; unlike those high noctilucent clouds that warm the earth because they are so high, and don’t block much sunlight. Well we do know that the noctis do block some sunlight, because that is why they light up, since they are in daylight.
How did this nonsense gain traction, that those white puffy clouds heat the earth surface, by “reflecting” sunlight off their sides down to the earth.
Draw a picture of the sun earth illumination system. If you are in daylight, and lets say not within 20 minutes of sunrise or sunset, then the sun is likely of the order of five degrees above the horizon or more.
And you see a nice white puffy cloud above you raining down excess sunlight on you to warm you up.
Now disappear that very cloud; and what happens ?
Well the sunlight that was raining down on you from that cloud, now goes whizzing right on by you and slams full force and unscattered (largely) into the ground, just a little bit closer to the sunset horizon.
So you now get all of it on the surface, whereas, with the cloud there, the sunlight scattered off the cloud side, goes about half up, and half down, since the scattering is essentially isotropic, so about half of the sunlight that hits that cloud can hit the earth, and the other half must exit to space. Remember it is solar spectrum sunlight; and not cloud sourced LWIR thermal radiation.
The very fact that clouds increase the earth albedo; by ANY amount, is proof positive, that they ALWAYS reduce the amount of solar energy that strikes the earth surface, to be (mostly) stored in the deep oceans.
So can we please stop saying that extra sunlight off the side of white puffy (ok, cumulus) clouds, increases the Temperature.

MarkW

Now that’s one weird negative feedback.
Increased temperatures causes greenies to panic and start blaming enhanced CO2
To replace the CO2, greenies start planting wind turbines.
Wind turbines cause an increase in low level clouds which start cooling the earth.

MarkW

polistra: I remember reading somewhere that one blade was even better. The article had a picture of a single bladed turbine with a small counterweight on the other side.
Though from a purely economics standpoint, a zero bladed turbine would be even more efficient.

MarkW

“The developers will simply walk away, leaving them to desecrate our skylines for decades to come.”
Dynamite is your friend.

MarkW

jorgekafkazar: I suspect you need air that’s pretty close to the saturation point. On the other hand, I’ve read that oceans are the new prefered places for putting wind farms.

George E. Smith

“”””” jorgekafkazar says:
April 28, 2011 at 8:35 am
This is the only picture I’ve seen of a wind farm with the contrails. My conclusion is: it’s a rare phenomenon. “””””
Well those particular turbines aren’t going to go anywhere any time soon, so I imagine that they are going to sit there in that ocean proximity nearly saturated air , and when the wind blows, I imagine that you could see this on a regular basis.
Let me put it this way; I believe I could make more money running sightseeing tourists out to watch this phenomenon; than I could running whale watching trips out to the same place.
The wind farm, in California’s Pacheco Pass, has the same phenomenon, because of the close proximity to the San Luis Reservois.
If you go out in Monterey Bay in the summertime, you will often encounter low level fog offshore; and as you drive through it, you will notice one other thing; it is virtually always blowing underneath that fog. The wind over the surface carries off the water vapor, leaving an H2O deficit, and normal evaporation proceeds apace, putting a lot more water vapor into the air. I can’t say that I have ever encountered offshore fog without it being windy; and it has always been in summertime; which is not to say we don’t get offshore fog at other times, I’ve just never been out in it at other times.

dave ward

That picture is genuine. There’s a detailed investigation into efficiency losses due to wake vortices effecting downstream turbines here:
http://www.dongenergy.com/SiteCollectionDocuments/NEW%20Corporate/PDF/Engineering/40.pdf