Clean Power

Published on February 12th, 2014 | by Joshua S Hill


European Wind Farms Only Have Minimal Impact On European Climate

February 12th, 2014 by  

A new study has found that the development of wind farms in Europe only has “an extremely limited impact” on the continental climate, a situation that is expected to remain the same until 2020.

The research was led by two French laboratories — the Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement (CNRS / CEA / UVSQ), which belongs to the Institut Pierre-Simon Laplace, and the CEA’s Institut de Technico-Économie des Systèmes Énergétiques. The results of the study were published in the journal Nature Communications.


Image Credit: Augustin Colette, by way of CNRS

The study used climate simulations that included the effect on the atmosphere of European wind farms based on a realistic two-fold growth of the wind industry over the remaining decade.

Fears had been raised that the massive-expected growth of European wind installation could have a deleterious effect on the continent’s climate. According to the authors, “several recent studies have shown that atmospheric circulation ca be modified, as well as temperatures and precipitation” by the growing number of wind farms.

The studies have shown that wind turbines mix the atmosphere more at night than they do during the day, reducing cooling near the ground. These studies were limited to specific locations, rather than looking at a continental scale.

The study compared climate simulations performed both with and without the effect of wind turbines, and found that differences caused by wind turbines remain comparatively small compared to natural climate variability.

The authors conclude that “these small differences could partly be due to a combination of local effects in areas densely covered with wind farms, and by a slight northward deflection of westerly winds in Western Europe.” That being said, the effects are “considerably smaller than typical differences in temperature and precipitation from one winter to the next, and their implications for the Earth’s overall energy budget are considerably less than that of greenhouse gas-induced climate change.”

Further study is required, as the authors also note, so that a more concise understanding of the continental-climatic impact can be revealed.

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About the Author

I'm a Christian, a nerd, a geek, and I believe that we're pretty quickly directing planet-Earth into hell in a handbasket! I also write for Fantasy Book Review (, and can be found writing articles for a variety of other sites. Check me out at for more.

  • eject

    Would it be possible to state a full citation of the Nature Communications article? Preferably the DOI but I would settle for the specific issue.

  • Isn’t the point that, on average, any effect is beneficial. They will remove energy from the wind (converting it to electricity) whereas global warming puts energy in.

    There is a US study showing with a sufficiently large wind farm (we’re talking absolutely massive) you can even reduce the chances of extreme weather events like hurricanes:

    • Matt

      The model was for 10s of thousands of turbines outside one city. Now for scale the largest site to date is the London Array which has 175 turbines. So the model was looking at something at least 100 times the London Array. Yes I would call that massive.

    • beernotwar

      A lack of cooling at night could have implications for wild or agricultural species. It’s good to know that we aren’t simply ignoring these possible effects and are studying the extent of them. I think the last sentence quoted from the article says it all, though. Whatever impact wind farms will have, it will be far, far less than climate change.

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