A followup to my energy post on the long-term future of windfarms:
My burning question about wind is: if climate change can impact the weather so much, and change the life-sustaining ocean conveyor belt, then can’t it affect wind patterns? so what’s the point of doing 1-3 years of wind studies to site a turbine farm if the wind might change?
I posed this question to a fellow student at the last BGI intensive, and he suggested that what shapes the wind is the ground shape, and that’s not likely to change. So I finally did a little websurfing.
I found a blog (I can’t tell who they are, but they’re really into renewable energy.) talking about how wind energy is really another version of solar energy (wait… familiar.. that was in our book!)
“All the mountains, oceans, valleys and whatnot effect the way the wind goes, but for the most part these large scale patterns develop and stay pretty consistent. You have to remember that wind patterns are driven by the difference in temperature between different parts of the earth, the temperature difference between the surface of the earth and space, and the turning of the earth. It can get complicated fast. ” ok, we’re validating my friend’s thinking…
“So how does global warming figure into this? Global warming is causing a lot of the parts of the earth to get warmer. The poles are warming very fast, as are the oceans. So that means that places that used to be cold are now getting hot. So in some cases global warming is making wind patterns weaker. Because the difference in temperature is less the wind will blow less.” Aha, so there is an effect. The blog goes on to talk about that impact on moisture distribution and how unpleasant that can be.
This NOAA site gets into how wind currents are created by the combination of high-pressure nodes, low-pressure nodes and the earth’s rotation. the high/low pressure areas are caused by humid air moving around (warming, rising, cooling, falling) which is again, something that is being changed by climate change, but this also seems like it would impact strength more than direction.
Last May an NOAA scientist named Gabriel Vecchi published a paper suggesting that global winds across the pacific have slowed 3.5% since the mid 1800s and will likely weaken another 10% by the end of this century.
Since the life expectancy of a wind-farm is far short of 100 years (more like 25), that’s not too concerning. So I guess that’s my conclusion: climate change (unchecked) *will* impact wind strength, if not patterns, but not within the lifetime of any windfarms we’re building now.