By P Gosselin on 7. May 2023
Plastering the landscape with wind turbines for producing renewable energy may lead to regional drought.
Germany has so far installed over 30,000 wind turbines, which is about 1 every 11 sq. km. Plans are calling for doubling or even tripling wind power capacity. But this may be detrimental as new studies show that wind farms are altering local climates, and thus may be having an effect on global climate and contributing to regional droughts.
Northern Germany, for example, has a high concertation of of wind turbines and has seen an unusual dry spell since 2019. Fortunately, recent rains have alleviated these drought conditions. Alarmist climate scientists of course blamed rising CO2 emissions for the North German drought.
Yet, a recent paper by Wang et al (2023) shows that wind farms reduce regional soil moisture, thus confirming earlier model simulations of wind-park-made climate change, e.g. by Zhou et al (2013).
German online SciFi site here reports in depth on the topic. “Climate change: Wind farms cause drought and dryness – Evidence is mounting [New study]“.
The site presents one chart depicting the wind energy installation concentration over Germany:
The North Sea region has an extremely high concentration of installed wind energy capacity. Conversely, Southern Germany has a very low concentration of installed wind energy capacity. Image: Bundesamt für Naturschutz.
Next we look at a chart depicting the ground moisture across Germany (2019). The left side shows the moisture anomaly down to a soil depth of 25 cm while the right chart shows moisture anomaly down to depth of 1.8 meters.
The legend shows, the redder the area, the drier it is. Germany’s drought happens to be worse in the regions with lots of wind turbines. Scientists suspect these turbines may be playing a role here. Image: Drought Monitor Germany.
“Is it a coincidence that the soils are driest where most wind turbines are located?” SciFi wonders.
Mounting evidence of link between drought and wind parks
In the article, SciFi examines a number of published research papers on the subject and summarizes:
As a conclusion, it can be said that it is certain that wind farms change the local climate. Very large wind farms or many wind farms also have an effect on the global climate. The results are mostly based on simulation models, whereby the study by Zhou et al. (2013), which was able to draw on comparative data, confirms the results found in the simulation models. The new study by Wang et al. (2023), which we discussed today, confirms the model calculations using real data obtained from a Chinese wind farm and shows for the first time that soil moisture is reduced by wind farms not only downwind but also upwind.
Wind farms thus contribute significantly to the drying out of soils, and to drought.”
There is a wind farm at Altona, NY. Looks like it triggered some weather in this old .gif animation.
They sure cause real estate values to change.
And not in a good way.
“…over 30,000 wind turbines…”
Comes to around $100 Billion.
This is what is pushing electricity prices up.
That and having to pay for a second power source for when renewables fail.
How many SMRs could they have built with that amount of money?
That’s a lot of additional CO2 created in manufacturing, delivering, installing, and maintaining them. I can’t help but wonder if they have saved as much CO2 as they have added to the atmosphere.
Tear them all down.
Give it 10 years and nearly all of them will be worn out
But the UN experts told us this wouldn’t happen! There would be no changes to weather or climate from building a bunch of windmills.
It is FREE fuel, right? No costs at all to extract energy from the wind?
Wind farms have two significant local effects, maybe more: they slow the air movement’s horizontal component (both upstream and downstream) just as any obstacle can, and the rotating arms increase vertical mixing. While the former could be expected to reduce soil moisture evaporation, the latter would increase it: When water is evaporating from the soil, the water vapour is most concentrated just above the soil. If left in place or if moved mainly horizontally, this layer of water vapour slows further evaporation. When wind turbines mix the air vertically, the water vapour is carried away from the ground thus increasing the rate of evaporation and reducing the soil moisture content.
Overall, there would be an increase in the hydrological cycle, ie, more rainfall, but the increased rainfall would be a long way downwind from the wind turbines.
In general, wind increases evaporation. When you slow down the wind you will decrease evaporation. Evaporation is a known cooling agent and thus this should lead to more warming and more drought.
Not saying regional effects won’t be different, just looking at it from a global perspective.
What else reduces evaporation? Ocean pollution which stays near the surface. Plastics are a good example. Higher salinity is a natural way to warm the oceans.
What increases evaporation? More IR radiation towards the surface. Yup, more CO2 will lead to more evaporative cooling.
Warming doesn’t cause drought, Richard M. Drought causes warming.
So long as there is moisture retained in the soil, surface temperature will be moderated by the latent heat of vaporization being drawn from the surface as water evaporates.
If you look at the picture at the top of the head post with the downwind contrails (and yes they are condensation trails), it’s apparent that the windmills are breaking the laminar flow near the surface, stripping off turbulent eddies full of relatively warm water vapor which is quickly condensing as it mixes into the turbulent flow of the bulk wind flow.
This is exactly what Mike Jonas described. Normally there is a skin layer at the surface which gets sheared off by the turbulent flow of the wind. It appears that the turbine blade is dramatically disrupting that layer, greatly increasing the evaporation rate.
Similarly, the radar image downstream of the wind farm demonstrates that the wind farm stimulated a massive amount of evaporation, producing clouds immediately after passing through.
On further consideration, while Mike Jonas may be right that the blades are disrupting the boundary layer and adding to the evaporation effect, I think that the main reason for the cloud formation behind the wind turbines is the pressure drop in the wake, in the presence of saturated water vapor.
The partial pressure of water vapor is suddenly too high relative to the total pressure and also, since the Ideal Gas Law says PV=nRT => T=PV/nR, a lower pressure in the same volume and number of moles of gas must yield a lower temperature where the air will become supersaturated.
“a lower pressure in the same volume and number of moles of gas must yield a lower temperature where the air will become supersaturated.”
This is how air compressors accumulate water, and need to be purged.
I didn’t say it did. Sorry I wasn’t clear. Less evaporation would be the cause.
Do you mean less evaporation upwind? Yes, that could be the cause of less rain, which is the cause of drought, which is the cause of hot weather in drought-stricken areas.
Seems however that less rain can be for many reasons. It could be because of less sunshine, more clouds, weaker solar output, or more aerosols. But it could also be that you’re in the part of a Hadley cell where dry air descends. It could be that winds driving up a mountain range precipitate moisture (orographic precipitation) so that the air reaching you is dry.
Most of the conditions I mentioned are fairly stable year to year. Mountain ranges don’t pop up in a season. The Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone moves north-south in a predictable pattern.
What if UK windmills are precipitating North Atlantic moisture before the air reaches Germany? Well, anyway something is causing there to be less rain or faster evaporation or both.
Wind power flux IN the atmosphere reaches over 1000 times more than the long wave radiative power flux OUT of the atmosphere. And the wind acts over a vastly larger area from ground level to more than 14,000m altitude.
Convection/advection of air is so important to global climate. Orders of magnitude more important in controlling the distribution of heat over the planet and the resulting average temperature than radiative balance.
ANYTHING that interferes with the movement of air is going to have an impact on the surface temperature in far greater ways than minuscule changes in radiation balance.
Mid level wind power flux over North Atlantic reaching 113,700W/m^2 today:
The reason offshore wind turbines achieve relatively high capacity factors is the persistence of onshore winds from normally warmer oceans to cooler land. But that also depends on the moisture over the land. Slowing down onshore winds to extract power lowers the atmospheric moisture and the convection shuts down if the TPW in the atmospheric column does not reach 30mm. Then advection from ocean to land stops and Sahara like conditions expand over an increasing area of land. Familiar conditions over central Australia during El Nino phase of the tropical Pacific.
The unintended consequence of vast arrays of wind turbines will be to warm the regions where they are sited.
What Rick is talking about (and greatly exaggerating since heat can only escape the planet by radiation and sunlight reflection) for interested readers…..
See the “advective flux” example on page 35 of this textbook
and advection starting page 65 here.
The irony….it burns….
Admit it – there’s no plausible mechanism here, it’s pure & simple coincidence. ##
and haha ‘models’
There are myriad ways in which soils are being dried out and windmills are not one of them.
(They did used to be certainly in this (The Fenland) part of England, windmills were used as water pumps. Blame the Dutch)
## Caveat: Would be when/where they’ve planted the things into wetlands/bogs/mires and have drained those places to both gain access and also to increase the stability of the soil/ground
Possibly also if they’ve cut a lot of trees to improve the windflow through them.
(As per Rhinegartens?? Forest = the 1,000yr old fairytale one they’re chopping to make way for windmills)
And as we all understand why Rainforests are called ‘rainforests’: Trees Make Clouds & Rain
But otherwise: foresters, farmers and city builders removed the water.
temps went updrought went up(flash) floods went upsea level went upCO2 went upparanoia skyrocketedjunk science flourishedplant-growing season went downi.e. All the trivia, junk and minutia ‘things’ went up and the only Really Important Thing that controls all the rest, went down
<laugh or cry>
Trivial Wonderation: What might be the ‘water footprint’ of your average VW or BMW motor car?
edit to ‘make clear’
Soil Moisture Content is a perfect and absolute proxy for Soil Organic Content
and it was a German Invention, the ammonia process, that removed it.
The soil organics were turned into CO2
Reap what you sow etc – soon to be at present rates: a Big Phat Nothing
Rutte is blaming the Dutch
Because there are too many white Dutch. Therefore, they replace them with other varieties.
Well, blow me.
Surely they modelled it /sarc
Not only am I going to shout: “Called it!!”, I want to rub my unlettered predictive observation (whirlygigs stealing rain, circa many moons ago) into the face of every jerk that has ever written in to this site, demanding only those with degrees on a subject are allowed to discuss said subject.
…though I must say, those little buggers have become more sophisticated; these days they come across as people just like us, albeit with “better information”, if you know what I mean.
P.S. McMillan’s .gif of the Altona whirlygig farm may be of interest to young farmers who don’t understand the real reasoning behind planting rows of trees next to your fileds as “wind break”. It is NOT about wind erosion…
The photograph of the Danish Windfarm vapour trails shows that, for that particular installation, at least 80% of the turbines will always be in windshadow no matter what direction the wind is blowing.
The Betz Limit for a wind turbine is 59.3%, so let’s say 20% of the kinetic energy is extracted by any turbine then the 10th one down wind isn’t going to have a lot available to generate power. Worst case about 15% left.
Or is it more complex than that? From the photograph it doesn’t look like there’s much vertical mixing to replenish what energy’s been used
Well, I didn’t quite have those words in mind (only just heard about Betz, yesterday). But my thoughts were the same.
Ben, I draw your attention to a little piece I wrote last year on this: https://cliscep.com/2022/02/20/the-turbine-wakes/
Jit, thank you for the link. It looks like the UK will eventually be taking the wind out of all of Denmark’s sails.
The sums are a little more complex than that. At lower wind speeds, wind turbines are quite inefficient, reaching maximum efficiency close to design speed – the wind speed necessary to drive the generator to maximum output. At higher wind speeds the energy extracted falls off as a proportion of the energy in the wind. See this chart
The turbine in that example is designed around lower wind speeds. Offshore turbines tend to hit maximum power at around 12-14m/sec and sacrifice low wind speed performance. In practice quite large wind farms like Hornsea (1.2GW) manage to achieve very close to capacity in a reasonable wind even if it is blowing down the long dimension. That said, there are beginnings of concerns about wake effects downstream.
Confounding factor: population density?
The beginning: “The effect of lots of wind turbines on weather and climate is a small but active research area. Wind power converts wind energy into electricity, thereby removing that energy from the air.
The research issue of how taking a lot of energy out might affect weather or climate seems to have emerged as early as 2004. Studies range from the global climate impact down to the local effects of a single large wind facility.
Here is a nontechnical article on a key global climate scale paper in 2011: “Wind and wave farms could affect Earth’s energy balance“in New Scientist magazine, March 30, 2011. Must register to read here: https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21028063-300-wind-and-wave-farms-could-affect-earths-energy-balance/
Here is the seminal technical paper: “Estimating maximum global land surface wind power extractability and associated climatic consequences” by L. M. Miller, F. Gans, and A. Kleidon; Earth System Dynamics, February 11, 2011. Article is open access here:
Lots more in the article.
“Regional Drought”?It was snowing yesterday in Moscow.
It was the COLDEST day in history.
when Germans stop the westerly wind over the North Sea, the air must be sucked in from the Arctic, or from the South. So, it will be either cold, or dry.
This means, the whole Eurasia may become a desert, would the EU plan to install 300 GW windmills in the North Sea be realized.
Whether Russians will tolerate these plans?
So … we, the enlightened … have been asking for decades, “How can a tiny bit of added CO2 in the atmosphere cause this thing called, ‘global warming'”? Now the other side gets to ask, “How can a few windmills change the climate?”
over 30,000 wind turbines…”
How many years will it take before these turbines cut enough co2 to offset the co2 released to create them?
Best case, 30,000 turbines produce enough power to build 4,000 more turbines a year with nothing left over to replace coal.
The vertical mixing causes increased nighttime temperatures, like putting fans on tall poles in orchards to prevent frost. One can expect about 1/2 degree of local average ground level warming at wind farms. NOT caused by CO2….
What is so surprising?
Wind turbines take energy out of the air to generate expensive electricity, that cannot stand on its own, because it needs the OTHER generating plants to expensively counteract its variable and often-deficient output.
Any conditions just above condensation, will cause visible plumes downstream of wind turbines for miles.
Then, that cooled air will meet the next array (never call them farms) of wind turbines.
Drought conditions will prevail, because cool air holds less moisture.
This is not rocket science
Per IPCC, reducing CO2 will cool the earth, and reduce the greening of the earth, including food crop growth. That seems to me subversive.
More CO2, say to 600ppm, would greatly increase the greening, including food crop growth.
That seems to me helpful.
We cannot go above 600ppm, because we will have run out of fossil.
Therefore, it would be wise to build as many U239 breeder plants and thorium/uranium plants as possible.
If we run out of fossil then there is limestone for concrete
But how will you heat the limestone, with biomass?
I’m sure the wildlife loves wind turbines. Slicing up birds on the fly. Not to mention the aesthetic look they give the landscape.
Coming soon from a think tank study funded by your tax dollars:
The blood of slaughtered birds is actually helping to replenish the soil moisture beneath wind turbines!
Ugly is in the eye of the beholder. I agree with your implied sarc that they are a hideous scar on the natural environment, but more than once I’ve heard people say that windmills are beautiful.
It’s all in the meaning that people associate with the object. If you see a windmill as saving the planet and fighting the evil capitalist fossil-fuelmongers, you see beauty. You can overlook the objective reality of cutting down old growth forests, shredding endangered raptors, and marring the landscape with industrial apparatus. You imagine that high prices and low reliability are “worth it”.
If your focus is like mine, no matter whether the machine is a mechanical marvel, sleek and symmetrical and turns rhythmically in an idyllic venue, it is hideous like a disease-ridden whore.
I would venture that those who find windmills beautiful in that way also prefer concrete jungles to natural ones.
Wow….what an amazing photo at the top…just look at all that CO2 the wind farm is producing. Just like we see every night on TV coming from coal/gas/nuclear power stations!
Whoda thunk that messing with natural wind patters would have side effects…
Note: I think “SciFi” as an abbreviation for “Science Files” is a rather unfortunate choice, as is it probably better knows as short for “Science Fiction”
Always use CliSciFi when referring to the political climate-hysteria/industrial complex. Its where Marxism meets crony capitalism.
Always use CliSciFi when referring to the political climate-hysteria/industrial complex. Its where Marxism meets Crony Capitalism; Fascism.
This is good news. What would be most helpful is a map of the soil moisture content before the wind mills. We need to take those wind mills down and the solar panels. People can keep them for personal use but not connected to the grid. More important we need to figure out a way to utilize the material these things were made with, not only utilize but make money off of them.
It’s not surprising that large numbers of wind turbines may be contributing to local drying of the climate.
A wind turbine needs to be mounted on a thick, and relatively wide concrete pad to prevent it from toppling over in high winds, since the wind has a long moment-arm on the turbine relative to the ground, and wind speeds increase with height above the ground. The concrete pads are probably sloped so that rainwater flows toward the edges instead of collecting in puddles, so that there would be little evaporation of water from the concrete pads.
Also, unless the wind turbines are mounted in a pre-existing agricultural farm (where the land has already been cleared of trees), developers of wind “farms” will clear away nearby trees whose frictional drag would tend to slow down the wind hitting the turbines. Tree leaves emit much more water vapor to the air via transpiration than an equivalent area of grass, so that clearing the land around the wind farms would tend to decrease the humidity during the growing season, which is also the season of maximum solar heating.
You would think that most everyone with half a brain would come to realize that there really is no free lunch. Everything humankind does, including even addressing the most basic necessities of life, has an impact on the environment. Always has, and always will, to varying degrees. Coal – requires mining, and burning it causes actual pollution (unless filtered out). Oil – requires drilling, and can spill and cause damage. Gas – requires drilling/and/or fracking and pipelines are needed for distribution. Wood/biomass – requires lots of land to grow and harvest and when burned can cause particulate pollution. Solar – eats up vast quantities of land, and the panels themselves contain toxins and cannot be recycled. Wind – also takes up lots of land, and the turbines and their structures consume a huge amount of materials and once they are decommissioned, also cannot be recycled. Nuclear – if mishandled, can cause escape of radioactive materials into the environment. Also, waste must be safely stored.
Sorry – it matters not what door you knock on, there will always be caveats. Of all of the above, it seems that only nuclear and natural gas have few drawbacks. But of course the green crud doesn’t want either of those used. There is still no free lunch with nukes and gas, but at least that lunch is a good bit “cheaper” than other forms of energy.
The results are mostly based on simulation models…
In simulations we trust ! (when it suits us)
Meanwhile, out at sea
As the industry pushes to ‘go higher’, with the deployment of larger, higher capacity turbines, there is significant concern from risk management professionals across the on- and offshore wind sector that this ambition is coming at the cost of one too many hair-raising moments.
An unprecedented number of mechanical breakdowns, component failures and serial defects are damaging the profits of manufacturers, placing pressure on the supply chain to keep up and leading to mounting project delays.
While there is currently no shortage of capacity in the market, insurers are now reconsidering the risks of underwriting larger, newer offshore wind turbines.
We must wake up to the reality of these challenges. On account of growing failure rates, coupled with ongoing supply chain challenges, participation in the offshore wind market has become a risky business, not only for insurers, but also manufacturers, developers, and supplier companies – with some now facing a material risk to their survival. With so much at stake, we must ask ourselves, have offshore wind turbines gone too big, too fast?
Vertical Limit : GCube Insurance » (gcube-insurance.com)
Getting to be a big difference between wind speed at the top and bottom of the rotor swept area, which implies stresses on the hub bearing that keep changing as the blades rotate. Bit like repeatedly throwing a wrecking ball at it. Leads to faster wear and breakage risk.
The same phenomenon applies to underwater tidal turbines, with their size being restricted in order to avoid being wrecked in short order. Some early designs were too big a diameter, and failed rapidly. The limitation on rotor size and hence turbine power is why tidal stream turbines will never be economic. Note that the constraints on hydro turbines are rather different.
I had forgotten about the case that led to this – a payment of about £2m a year in compensation for wake effects of adding a new wind farm (Burbo Bank Extension) upwind from another (the original Burbo Bank):