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.
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.