The European Union has an aggressive plan to go green. Nicknamed the “20-20-20” program, the idea is to reduce EU greenhouse gases by 20 percent (compared to levels in 1990), improve energy efficiency by 20 percent, and ensure that 20 percent of energy consumption is produced from renewable resources. For maximum thematic resonance, the deadline they have set to achieve those goals is 2020.
But in the seven years since the targets were set, concerns have been raised about the effect of wind farms on their local climates. The rotor blades on wind turbines displace a lot of air as they whirl around, and in particular, they pull warm air down to mix with cooler ground air. This is especially obvious at night, and it can raise local temperatures very slightly (0.72 degrees Celsius over a decade, according to this study).
These concerns gave people with a grudge against renewables a little bit of short-lived firepower. But today, a new paper published in Nature has extinguished the matter for good. Led by Robert Vautard of the French Laboratory for Climate and Environment Sciences, the study simulated the effect that wind farms would have on their regional environments if the EU's 20-20-20 program is implemented in full.
The team's calculations were based on temperature and precipitation measurements made on wind farms in 2012, and included the ever-growing industry of off-shore wind turbines. The paper confirms that wind farms alter local conditions, but only in winter when ground temperatures are more acutely affected by the circulation of warm air.
An example of these "unacceptably ugly" offshore wind turbines outside of Copenhagen. Image: Leonard G/Wikimedia Commons
Even then, the temperature difference is only 0.3 degrees Celsius at most, though precipitation might be increased by as much as five percent in some areas. Still, the team concluded that the environmental effects of wind farms are absolutely dwarfed by the effects of greenhouse gas emissions. In short, they do far more good than harm.
In a wonderful display of kismet, today's study coincided with the news that Donald Trump lost a legal battle to halt plans to build an offshore wind farm near his golf course in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. He wanted to block construction because it would, according to him, spoil the view. Renewable energy be damned! Donald Trump wants to play golf unmolested by the sight of 11 pesky wind turbines.
In response to Lord Doherty's ruling that Trump's appeal be denied, the Trump Organization released a statement saying, “Today's decision has not altered our unwavering commitment to protect our investment in Scotland. Communities worldwide continue to challenge the destructive proliferation of wind turbines and we will remain a fierce opponent at the forefront of this battle.”
Is Donald Trump just a professional troll these days? Because if so, he's really acing it. "Destructive proliferation of wind turbines" is definitely among our favorite comedic phrases of 2014.