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Will Wind Power Change Earth's Climate?

samzenpus posted more than 9 years ago | from the hot-breeze dept.

Science 883

lommer writes "The Globe and Mail is currently running an article on a recent wind power study. A group of Canadian and American scientists has modelled the effects of introducing massive amounts of wind farms into North America and have come up with surprising results. While still having only 1/5th the impact of fossil fuels, wind power will still adjust the earth's climate with the equatorial regions warmed while the arctic grows colder. Could this be a boon for the nuclear lobby, or is this just further evidence for a diversified power-generating system?"

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Finally! (3, Funny)

LinuxRulz (678500) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784134)

Wow! so we can affect temperature by building wind farms.
Just hope they will build a lot of these north of my town so we can stop that freezing north wind.

Re:Finally! (1)

aardvarko (185108) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784159)

Personally, I think it's just a lot of hot air.

Re:Finally! (1, Insightful)

Coneasfast (690509) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784207)

I think these scientists are exagerating a bit, you would need a HECK of a lot of wind farms to actually have an affect. The article didn't talk about this at all, it just made a general statement about the 'large-scale' effects of wind farms.

Re:Finally! (4, Informative)

Draveed (664730) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784309)

Actually the article said,

Specifically, if wind generation were expanded to the point where it produced one-10th of today's energy, the models say cooling in the Arctic and a warming across the southern parts of North America should happen.

So we would need wind farms to produce 10% of the world's energy to see the effect they're talking about.

Energy.... (4, Funny)

vwjeff (709903) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784345)

1. Walk to Taco Bell.
2. Buy 2 bean burritos.
3. Walk home.
4. Wait 8-16 hours.
5. Energy in the form of gas.
6. Sell gas to power company.

Repeat steps 1-6.

donald duck (0, Redundant)

DonaldDuckBigO (749237) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784139)

donald duck is going to have a screaming orgasm for his wind power fr1st ps0t!

Kyoto (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10784141)

I surely wish Bush would agree to the Kyoto Protocol

Re:Kyoto (1, Insightful)

davidbailey (661395) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784238)

The Kyoto protocol is an unfair and unlikely-to-succeed treaty that will cost the US jobs while failing to accomplish exactly what it is written to do. [usatoday.com]

It is well that the US does not sign it. Too much emphasis has been put on this treaty, not surprisingly from those who are effected least from it climatically (China/India/Mexico) and who are encouraging those to sign who it will impact the most (Russia/USA).

What is worse, it is designed with mandatory cuts based on emissions figures from over a decade ago that would make it even harder to comply with (IE- more damaging to industry) and at the same time exempt nations who emit far more greenhouse gasses from their industrial regions per capita.

Re:Kyoto (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10784265)

t is well that the US does not sign it. Too much emphasis has been put on this treaty, not surprisingly from those who are effected least from it climatically (China/India/Mexico) and who are encouraging those to sign who it will impact the most (Russia/USA).

Wow, agreeing with the Bush admisitration, brave soul, I give you 5 minutes before you are modded troll, offtopic, overrated.

Damn (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10784333)

You sure called that one right.

First read as "Will mind power..." (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10784142)

Yes, it will... maybe.

How will it affect anything? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10784149)

So, they are saying that we're still going to have global warming?

Woohoo! (2, Funny)

hypergreatthing (254983) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784152)

This means it will reverse global warming.

Re:Woohoo! (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10784215)

No it won't, because global warming has next to nothing to do with human activities.

The sun's output is not constant, it varies slightly over the years and people are able to see this by sun flare activity. Since all our energy, heat, radiation comes from the sun, it's increased output has warmed our tempurature slightly.

Of course we should care about the enviroment and air quality for other reasons.. Take smog for instance. We should care about that.

Global Warming? It's out of our control one way or the other.

Re:Woohoo! (1)

jusdisgi (617863) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784350)

George? Is that you?

Mr. President, just because you are the last person on Earth that doesn't "buy" the global warming "theory" doesn't mean you have to post AC...we /.ers are real freindly regardless of whatever crazy viewpoint you have.

Old growth forests. (2)

IronClad (114176) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784330)

We were already reversing it!

It seems all those old growth forests were getting in the way of that fragile air circulation. I'm so glad we deforested the entirety of North America enough to make the climate liveable.

We should cut the rest down now, just to make sure.

Probably not gonna be significant... (4, Insightful)

el-spectre (668104) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784153)

You think wind farms (which are, after all, designed to let most of the wind pass) are going to have more effect than cities full of blocky buildings?

I think not.

Re:Probably not gonna be significant... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10784247)

Windmills take energy from the wind.

Buildings do not move at all and therefore do not absorb any of the wind's energy.

Re:Probably not gonna be significant... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10784287)

Uhh, that totally ignores the nuclear strong force. That is if i push on a wall as hard as I can I am still doing work.

No one has yet been able to tap into the nuclear strong force for a power generation method, but some day we might figgure that out.

Re:Probably not gonna be significant... (4, Insightful)

John_Allen_Mohammed (811050) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784311)

" Windmills take energy from the wind.

Buildings do not move at all and therefore do not absorb any of the wind's energy.


*GASP* !! Is this what the american educational system is producing ? *sigh* This nation is completely fucked if this is the truth :( We might as well dump evolution and newton's laws from high school science and start teaching creationism again.

This almost makes me feel like suicide, there's no point in this experimental union of 50 states, it has failed completely.

Re:Probably not gonna be significant... (2, Interesting)

sl3xd (111641) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784327)

Wind farms certainly will cover as much (if not more) surface area/acerage as the tall blocky buildings. And the blocky buildings aren't designed to be as efficient as possible in removing kinetic energy from air -- the streets of Chicago are still windy. Large buildings also are generally clumped tightly together, acting more like a single unit on a large scale than the relatively widely-spaced wind turbines.

Newton's laws can't be repealed (4, Insightful)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784154)

Energy cannot be created nor destroyed. There's a finite quantity of it in this universe, and it's not changing. Of course, Planet Earth is constantly gaining energy on a daily basis thanks to the generosity of The Sun.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that any form of energy capture, no matter how you do it is going to take energy out of the environment and that as a result changes the environment. I'm pretty sure if we had massive solar panels all over the place, that'd effect the temperature by taking sunlight that would have heated the ground and diverting it. There's no free source of energy, you've gotta take it from somewhere!

Re:Newton's laws can't be repealed (5, Funny)

bleakcabal (719309) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784195)

Don't listen to him ! It's just this kind of thinking which is keeping people from investing in my perpetual motion machine !

You obviously haven't seen The Matrix (2, Funny)

JavaTHut (9877) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784231)

Or else you'd know all we have to do is plug a couple cables into Daryl McBride and, combined with an advanced form of fusion, we can have an infinite self-renewing energy source.

Then again, perhaps it wouldn't be such a bad idea to at least try ...

Re:Newton's laws can't be repealed (1)

fossa (212602) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784258)

Planet Earth is constantly gaining energy on a daily basis thanks to the generosity of The Sun.

Slight nitpick: I was under the impression that Earth (on a global scale) was in an equilibrium with the Sun (radiating at night the energy gained in the day). Otherwise, the planet would be getting hotter, yes? (Well, some say it is getting hotter, but dismiss global warming for a moment).

Re:Newton's laws can't be repealed (1)

pikine (771084) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784343)

Even taking global warming into account, carbon dioxide is simply changing the rate at which energy is radiated at a given temperature level. This raises the equilibrium temperature of the Earth body, but at the new equilibrium, the energy gained and lost would still be equal.

Re:Newton's laws can't be repealed (0)

Chuck Chunder (21021) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784264)

Energy cannot be created nor destroyed. There's a finite quantity of it in this universe, and it's not changing.
Other than the sort of energy created all the time by The Sun etc etc.

Re:Newton's laws can't be repealed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10784276)

Energy is not created in a fusion reaction.

Re:Newton's laws can't be repealed (2, Informative)

Atzanteol (99067) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784282)

"created" != "transformed"

It's called the law of conservation of energy [nasa.gov]

Re:Newton's laws can't be repealed (1)

quetzalc0atl (722663) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784281)

yes, but you cannot deny that nuclear power is simply harvesting the potential energy already present in matter..in a sense, taking energy from a more cosmic source (i.e. the sun) than from the local energy distribution on earth.

ostensibly, the problem comes in where the energy is returned, as you have pointed out, mainly in the form of heat.

but the majority of that heat is generated as waste, simply a byproduct of inefficient processes. if we were to improve the efficiency of these processes then the effects could be greatly reduced locally, to the point where the energy return back to the local system (earth) is little different than that which has been going on here for the last billions of years.

nuclear power could do this, coupled with more efficient technology.

Re:Newton's laws can't be repealed (3, Interesting)

deglr6328 (150198) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784322)

There is one "free" energy source. Thermonuclear fusion [wikipedia.org] . Running fusion reactors for a hundred generations at full world energy capacity would lower the level of the oceans by 1mm [madsci.org] . Again and again and again we come back to this in these conversations about future energy supplies. Fusion is the only realistic long term, clean and safe solution to the world's "constant on" high energy density and high power density needs. Yet even today we languish [interfax.ru] in pissing contests over where the first demonstration reactor will be built. Fusion is an extraordinarily difficult but ultimately solvable problem, and we will solve it. We have to solve it.

Re:Newton's laws can't be repealed (1)

wsherman (154283) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784334)

Energy cannot be created nor destroyed.

The problem isn't a lack of energy in the sense of total kinetic and potential energy, the problem is that the kinetic and potential energy gets evenly distributed over all the atoms in the system and can't be used to do anything useful.

With an incandescent light bulb, for example, if kinetic energy could be extracted from light bulb's surroundings to heat the filament then the heat and light radiated from the light bulb back to the surroundings would exactly match and there would be no change in the net energy of the whole system but the light would still work.

The whole problem is that there is no way to build a device that separates atoms either by position or by velocity without "un-separating" more atoms according to that criteria in the process (the Maxwell's demon/atomic one-way door paradox).

Re:Newton's laws can't be repealed (1)

merphant (672048) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784339)

I'm pretty sure if we had massive solar panels all over the place, that'd effect the temperature by taking sunlight that would have heated the ground and diverting it.

That would be a good thing actually, as long as we put them in the cities. All the concrete, tar, and asphalt on roads and buildings captures a tremendous amount of heat. Putting solar panels up might counteract some of the climate changes that huge heat-producing cities have made.

Can we stop polar ice from melting? (1)

PornMaster (749461) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784155)

The global warming issue is a problem at the poles, as it's been presented to me. If we can make the arctic colder... maybe we'll have more hurricanes in Florida, but perhaps the seas won't rise...

Re:Can we stop polar ice from melting? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10784203)

Correct me if I am wrong, but isn't it global warming that is causing more hurricanes to hit Florida?

This year, we had 3 direct hits!

Sure, it's good for us college kids, but horrible for the economy.

Re:Can we stop polar ice from melting? (1)

PornMaster (749461) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784263)

Yes. As I said, maybe we'll have more hurricanes hit Florida... Since this phenomenon warms things up nearer the equator, we'll still get warming in the Carribean.

Re:Can we stop polar ice from melting? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10784346)

If we can make the arctic colder... maybe we'll have more hurricanes in Florida, but perhaps the seas won't rise...

Looks like an "if ... then ..." to me.

Anyways, I understand what you meant now.

Re:Can we stop polar ice from melting? (1)

alphafoo (319930) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784344)

Would melting the north pole really cause the seas to rise? The ice would be replaced by an equal mass of water, right?

Now if the south pole were to melt, and all that ice slid off the continent there and into the seas, that seems like it would cause the seas to rise.

Not advocating a new shipping lane or anything...just saying.

Wouldn't that be a good thing? (5, Interesting)

AyeFly (242460) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784156)

From what I understand of Global Warming, the arctic getting warmer is a problem. According to the article these non-polluting wind farms would make the arctic colder...Bonus!

Mix and match! (1, Funny)

nightsweat (604367) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784164)

Have big windmill/fans pointing at the nuclear plants so the radioactive steam goes AROUND my house and hits Indiana.

They won't notice.

Re:Mix and match! (1, Insightful)

bluGill (862) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784208)

Slight correction, you want them pointing at the coal plants so the radioactive, mercury filled smoke goes around your (and my) house. The Nuclear plant in my town is a good neighbor, paying lots of taxes, while being invisible. The coal power plant just a few miles away is a bad neighbor, doesn't pay taxes (not in my town, I presume they pay taxes to their local town), and feed tons of poisons into the air every day.

Nuclear plants may not be perfect, but compared to the alternatives they are.

Re:Mix and match! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10784228)

Just ignore the 3 eyed fish...

Re:Mix and match! (1, Insightful)

nightsweat (604367) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784331)

The best part is watching all the trucks deliver and take away the radioactive fuel and waste. Good thing there aren't ever any highway accidents.

I want to like nukes, but Chernobyl shows just how bad an accident could get.

Re:Mix and match! (1)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784347)

The Nuclear plant in my town is a good neighbor, paying lots of taxes, while being invisible.

Not invisible to the places polluted by uranium tailings, or that have to store radioactive waste.

Nucular (5, Insightful)

celeritas_2 (750289) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784167)

Why is it that people are so scared of nuclear plants, i would find global climate change to be a lot worse than the ever reducing risk of a nuclear accident. I'd rather have a few square miles potentially ruined than a certain change to the global system.

The answer to energy problems... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10784171)

...is fusion power plants!

Or solar cells in space!

quiet in here (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10784173)

*sounds of crickets*

Well I have to say I told you so. (4, Insightful)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784174)

"Could this be a boon for the nuclear lobby, or is this just further evidence for a diversified power-generating system?"
Yes and yes. Of all the alternative power sources wind is just about the least practical for large scale explotation. Use the right system in the right place.

Newton's Law (0)

BlueJay465 (216717) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784177)

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. It would take something this large of a scale to add enough drag to the airflow to affect climate. I still feel that there are better options to natural power, like tidal flow. The Moon still contains much more potential energy in it's motion to satisfy demands than atmospheric flow.

Besides, windmills are unsightly.

Re:Newton's Law (1)

audacity242 (324061) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784222)

Yeah, but one could easily argue harnessing energy from the tides could change ocean currents, and, I hate to tell ya this, but ocean currents largely drive wind currents, so tidal flow-derived electricity could also cause global climate change.

-Jenn

Re:Newton's Law (1)

binarybum (468664) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784293)

Besides, windmills are unsightly.

Au contraire! [art.com]

I'm sorry (4, Insightful)

nwbvt (768631) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784178)

Does someone out there really expect wind power to become the major supplier (more than fossil fuels and nuclear) of Earth's energy? Is anyone out there really that naive?

Re:I'm sorry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10784328)

Maybe! Please move along...

Having stood next to one of these things (5, Interesting)

darnok (650458) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784179)

...I was amazed by:
- how big it was (huge!)
- how noisy it was (I sort of thought it'd be silent; not sure why...)
- how still the air was immediately below it, even though the windmill itself was turning at a moderate rate

Quite an amazing piece of gear; if you ever get the chance to get up close to one, take it.

Re:Having stood next to one of these things (4, Funny)

g-san (93038) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784244)

Quite an amazing piece of gear; if you ever get the chance to get up close to one, take it.

take it? and where the heck am I gonna go with a big noisy windmill sticking out of my pocket?

Pick your joke! (2, Funny)

shigelojoe (590080) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784329)

a) Is that a wind-powered generator in your front pocket, or are you just happy to see me?

-OR-

b) You know, a big, noisy, wind-propelled generator in one's front pocket would go perfectly with the big, noisy, wind-generating repeller that everyone carries around near their back pocket.

Re:Having stood next to one of these things (1)

Osty (16825) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784337)

take it? and where the heck am I gonna go with a big noisy windmill sticking out of my pocket?

No, not your pocket. Pick it up with your ball and turn it into a star, obviously [gamerankings.com] .


Look (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10784182)

I don't care what anyone says. Nuclear power is not bad. It is not bad for nature. In fact, compared to nearly any other source of energy, it is incredibly clean. Sure, we have some nuclear waste to deal with, but come on, we are dealing with it. It's not a problem. Either way, the three safest sources of energy are:
  • Solar Energy (Not yet feasible)
  • Nuclear Power (Here and now)
  • Geothermal (Barely even considered
With those options, until Solar becomes feasible, let's stick with nuclear. Mmmmmk?

Why is there an assumption... (4, Interesting)

mcg1969 (237263) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784183)

...that any man-made alteration of the ecosystem is necessarily bad?

Seriously. OK, so a few species will go extinct. But who's to say that some species won't flourish as a result. The ecosystem will be different, but it won't necessarily be worse. The ecosystem will adapt.

I think it's safe to say that the poisons introduced by fossil fuel burning have a net negative effect. But wind farms? I mean, solve the bird blender problem and what's the harm otherwise?

I also wonder what effect huge solar farms would have on the ecosystem. Extracting energy from sunlight that would normally heat the crust of the earth might also have an interesting impact. But again, I don't think we should automatically assume that change is bad.

Re:Why is there an assumption... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10784325)

Wind turbines don't have much of an effect on birds.

Yes, they do kill birds. But they kill about as many per year as a smoke stack on an oil burning power plant does in a day. Skyscrapers also have more of an effect on birds than wind farms.

my thoughts (2, Insightful)

rock_climbing_guy (630276) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784184)

It's my personal theory that no matter what happens, the "environmentalists" will find something to complain about no matter what source of power we find. As far as they are concerned, humanity is the thing causing an impact on the environment.

Their protests that we're destroying the environment is a basis for them to derive power from so that they can demand change to our way of life.

So, seriously, no matter what happens, they're going to complain.

Re:my thoughts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10784241)

As far as they are concerned, humanity is the thing causing an impact on the environment.

So you are telling me that humanity is NOT causing an impact on the environment!?

Shut the fuck up.

Re:my thoughts (2, Insightful)

PlazMan (40335) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784348)

It's my personal theory that no matter how much scientific evidence is thrown in their face, the right wingers will continue to shut their eyes, plug their ears, and pretend that they can consume as many resources as they want, indefinitely, with no consequences.

The article isn't complaining about anything, it's simply pointing out the obvious: that extracting massive amounts of engery from any terrestrial source is going to have some effect on the Earth's ecosystem.

And yes, humanity is causing an impact on the environment. Duh. That's life on Earth.

IANAE, but maybe their protests that we're destroying the environment has more to do with trying to make sure we manage limited resources so that our way of life won't abruptly run off of the proverbial cliff someday. But no, I'm sure they really just doing it to "derive power" because they personally don't like your way of life. That makes much more sense.

Don't Panic (1)

AFCArchvile (221494) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784185)

I heard this story last night on All Things Considered (NPR radio show); FWIH the wind power array size necessary to alter the climate would be able to supply the world's power today, and we know that's not happening anytime soon.

Re:Don't Panic (1)

TykeClone (668449) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784307)

If it could power the world today, what about tomorrow or the next day when it's not windy :)

Effect vis a vis global warming. (0)

Yartrebo (690383) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784187)

This would tend to moderate the effects of global warming, as it would warm the arctic far more than the equator.

I'd be more worried if the wind stations did the reverse. Some arctic cooling will help to keep the ice caps stable.

windy (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10784188)

I know that on a cold day, when I emit a little wind, my midsection gets warmer.....

This blows (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10784189)

So does this mean the United States is going to start invading windy countries?

I just hope this gets people to think a bit more (1)

Gadgetfreak (97865) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784190)

I really don't think there's a perfect energy solution, especially not on the scale that we consume it. I think there are definitely ideal sources for certain uses, too.
This just shows that people largely thought that 'green' energy solutions were harmless, but they can still have a negative effect.

I'm all for making steady progress, and trying new stuff, but people also need to sit down and think about these solutions and their ramifications before passing laws in the name of environmentalism.

Yeah, it could definitely do it (1)

Dancin_Santa (265275) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784191)

IF IT WERE A VIABLE MEANS OF MASS PRODUCING ELECTRICITY

To generate a useful amount of power from a wind turbine, it would require massive farms of these things which would devalue property in the surrounding areas, kill the birds flying overhead, destroy the natural habitat of the area, and be completely dependent upon having WIND at a constant or controlled speed. One tornado and your beautiful windmill farm is kaput.

If you want to do something like this, you want to have a predictable source of energy. Coal, oil, and natural gas are pretty predictable. It's predicted that they will be depleted in the next xx number of years. Nuclear power is predictable. It's predicted that the underground caverns in which we toss our nuclear waste will contaminate the ground water and kill wildlife for miles around not to mention any humans who depend on the contaminated water table.

No, the only power generation system that is both clean and dependable is one based on harnessing the tides. The Moon isn't going to be hurtling off into space or crashing down to Earth any time soon, so the tides aren't going to stop either. Other ideas like Geothermal are dependent on underground flows of magma which are inherently unpredictable.

So the answer to "Will wind power change Earth's climate?" is NO. Wind power will never reach sufficient capacity to have that kind of effect.

what about the surfers?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10784288)

proposed tidal energy plants that I have seen would ruin the near-shore environment and destroy the surf breaks. So, no thank you. Throwing more crap into the ocean isn't going to solve anything.

Re:Yeah, it could definitely do it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10784291)

Erm.. so messing around with the tides wont have any effect on marine life? I'm not saying its a bad idea, but im guessing taking energy out of the tides on any really large scale would have negative effects on sea life in the surrounding area. I'm not saying its a bad idea but its not like its consequence free. Also by Newtons laws you would probably effect the trajectory of the moon somewhat, but its highly unlikely it would be enough to be noticable.

Re:Yeah, it could definitely do it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10784292)

Thanks for your rant. Here are your errors:

1. Wind farms don't usually devalue land. Farmers generally get rental income from having wind turbines on their land, and can keep farming, as well. That usually increases land values.

2. Wind turbines aren't dependent on "constant" wind. Like many power sources, they vary their output. This is not an issue if you have other power sources (hydro, gas-fired, nukular) to switch on when demand exceeds supply.

3. Tornadoes are extremely unlikely to strike a specific turbine. Tornadoes are tiny, relative to the land mass.

4. Geothermal energy is dependent on "fossil" heat permeating vast amounts of rock. That heat will still be there in 500 years, because there really is a vast amount of it. It isn't dependent on "underground flows of magma".

5. Tidal energy, in case you didn't notice, has a huge ecological footprint. Messing with the flora and fauna of the intertidal zone will make wind power look benign in comparison. (For example, you might like to look up how many marine species breed in estuaries and shallow coastal waters.)

Well, duh! (1, Insightful)

Pyromage (19360) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784196)

Of course they'll have an effect! Cities full of buildings have an effect, don't they? We already know that significantly altering the wind profile of the land changes the climate.

Now, many people say that 'of course they won't have as big an affect as a big city'. Maybe not. But wind power on a scale large enough to power that same big city, it might. It'd be significant, anyway.

I'm glad there's a study saying it now, but dammit people, duh!

For the environment, everybody go, and... (4, Funny)

Spoing (152917) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784199)

...kill yourself.

Be quick about it, OK? OH, and when you kill yourself, do it in a forest by yourself so that you can be converted into plant material with the minimum of impact.

We can't get all of that last fifth of the 5 fifths -- though you worthless schmuck should do your part ASAP and stop ruining the environment with each extra breath or moment that you block the wind.

Thanks!

Re:For the environment, everybody go, and... (1)

myowntrueself (607117) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784240)

Yeah thats why I figure I'd never become a serial killer.

I mean, to make a difference to this planet I'd have to kill *billions* not just a few hundred here and a few hundred there.

Even if I managed to kill a million people, the human race would make that back up in the blink of an eye.

So I figure, what the heck? Its just not worth it.

Besides, the human race seems (on the whole) to have a defective survival instinct (eg cyclists) so I am sure that they will, ahem, take care of themselves.

Re:For the environment, everybody go, and... (1)

Spoing (152917) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784278)

  1. Yeah thats why I figure I'd never become a serial killer.

    I mean, to make a difference to this planet I'd have to kill *billions* not just a few hundred here and a few hundred there.

You know what to call those billions who won't kill themselves for the good of the environment? Inconsiderate, thoughtless, weenies! That's what! It's true!

hmmm... (4, Funny)

mangnato89 (759794) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784201)

would it help if they make the turbines spin the other way?

Re:hmmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10784302)

What do you suggest, solar powered windmills?

Human impact (1)

LTB_Enterprises (824336) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784202)

As pointed out in Bill Bryson's "A Short History of Nearly Everything", the Earth has gone through a number of heating/cooling periods (cycles) and the current cycle is way overdue. This got me thinking about how much of the current global warming phenomenon is actually due to the use of fossil fuels and how much is the inevitable. There's no denying that our overuse of fossil fuels and our energy inefficient lifestyle has some blame but it would put things into perspective to know just how much. Here [co2science.org] is a fairly reasonable article but if anyone else has any others please share.

Wind power is already a pariah... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10784204)

...in many areas. Locals object to the noise, and conservationists object to the occasional bird flying into them.

But either way, this 'study' doesn't prove very much. Computer models aren't very good at predicting world climate, and the global changes that they're suggesting would (0.3 degrees to 2 degrees) are so small as to be essentially unmeasurable.

totally dude. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10784210)

so like, who cares if it fucks up the weather in violent manner - more wind is more power right? itanium here i come baby.

but like, you know it'll like, all violent and windy right? when's the last time you watch some "doomsday" flick about the end of the earth due to man's pollution, blah, blah, blah....BUT, the "terrible" effect on the earth's weather is...serene 73% world wide, all year....with gentle showers on monday? Yeah, who knows.

um, if that don't make much sense...it's cause i'm high as a fucking kite.

Nuclear power isn't low footprint either (1)

NoTheory (580275) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784217)

Nuclear power always has to be near a water source, and always raises the water temp of the body of water that it sits on, usually by a number of degrees if i recall correctly.

This is a dramatic impact on the local habitat. No power source has no environmental impact.

Nobody's Happy! (2, Insightful)

beaststwo (806402) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784219)

So after hearing for decades about how wind power can save our future, then hearing citizens groups griping about the eyesore they create on the horizon, someone tells us it's bad for the climate.

Maybe we should just hold our breath and sufficate. That would solve the whole problem...

Yo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10784221)

Isnt current global warming working faster at the poles? Lets just put up a bunch of wind mills. They dont even need to be hooked up to generators. Problem solved.

Somewhat Offtopic: Nuclear Reactors (4, Insightful)

fossa (212602) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784224)

I've heard numerous times that for the same power output, a nuclear reactor generates less radioactive material than, say, a coal fired plant. The problem is that the nuclear waste is in a big chunk, and must be stored somewhere. My question is, why not pulverize said nuclear waste and pump it into the atmosphere? At worst, we'd be doing slightly better than coal plants right? And we'd have solved the waste storage problem... right? I'm sure there's something I'm missing (other than the obvious: that's just insidiously stupid).

Re:Somewhat Offtopic: Nuclear Reactors (1)

asadodetira (664509) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784312)

I thought the same, if you dilute it enough the waste is not as harmful. They should put it in a boat that spreads it by microgram on the oceans. Same thing with batteries, heavy metals and stuff. The only problem I see is the bioaccumulaiton. I.e. some metals accumulate in fish livers and stuff and then we eat them.(In japan they used to have a big problem with mercury pollution in fish, with dozens of people going blind)

Re:Somewhat Offtopic: Nuclear Reactors (1)

quetzalc0atl (722663) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784314)

im not exactly sure why this post was moderated as 'funny', since this is all perfectly logical.

I'm disappointed (0, Offtopic)

naer_dinsul (784040) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784225)

I'm a little disappointed... I mean, I can understand CNN or NBC or someone like that getting a story before /., but NPR? [npr.org]

Nuclear heat (5, Insightful)

sunderland56 (621843) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784226)

How can this possibly be good news for nuclear energy? A nuclear reactor produces huge amounts of heat - hence the huge, highly visible cooling towers. This point generally gets ignored, since people are far more concerned with other side effects of nuclear power - but any unbiased study of the total global side effect of each kind of energy generation is going to show wind ranking far above nuclear.

Balance Out? (1, Troll)

God_Retired (44721) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784229)

Not buying this. Seems like if the difference grew larger the winds would grow stronger, and balance would be maintained. Just at a little different level.

Also, building enough windfarms to power the world just isn't going to happen. At least until long after this jackass administration is gone. And even then....

conservation, conservation, conservation (2, Interesting)

Doug Dante (22218) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784234)

I recall attending an environmentally oriented summer camp while in High School (Back in the dark, dark, 1980s when we had the worst environmental US President ever. Oh, never mind).

Anyway, the Prof in charge of the camp did some calculations showing that at the rate of growth for demand for electrical power, in order to switch to Nuclear, we would have to make enough plants so that no person in the Continental US would be father than 100 miles from one (don't remember all of the constraints - perhaps it was BS).

Anyway, if we use less power ( more efficient windows, LCD displays rather than monitors - the basics), we need less power, and we can cause less environmental impact for the same level of "goodness" of power benefits. Of course, we need to make some capital investments to get the same "goodness" with less power.

("goodness" in the Adam Smith's "The Wealth of Nations" sense).

Let's face it... (2, Interesting)

Pollux (102520) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784280)

I think there's something to be said from this:

No matter what we try and harvest as an energy source, we're always going to screw up this planet in some way.

Of course, that is until the invention of Mr. Fusion [sergioleone.net] !

Course, on the other hand, since we're already warming up the planet with global warming, perhaps we can use this "side effect" of Wind Energy to balance the equation!

why not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10784295)

why not construct a 10 sq. mile large solar panel out in space. have it shoot a laser back to earth for 8 hours a day, that heats up a huge copper block that in turn causes water to boil and the steam then fed into turbines to generate power? Work on battery powered cars and screw all the drama over oil.

Nothing to see here (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10784298)

please move along.

No magic bullet to generate power yet. (4, Informative)

sl3xd (111641) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784299)

I have yet to see a 'magic bullet' in terms of generating electrical power. There just isn't one yet. Every single kind of power generation has problems involved with it.

Wind -- Mentioned in article, provides a place for raptors to perch, allowing them to expend much less energy when hunting for prey, which decimates rodent populations (bad thing? depends on who you ask...) Also has been known to kill birds in the rotors. Plus rather complex and expensive engineering problems in generating the power to begin with as well.

Hydroelectric -- Trouble with fish populations, sediment issues, changes some local ecosystems. Removes hiking areas from lobbyists, prompting them to protect their recreation in the name of environmental protection (google 'drain Lake Powell.') But it's more straightforward to generate power than wind.

Coal -- Cheap, mature technology -- becoming MUCH cleaner than it has historically been. Lots of coal. Still quite polluting.

Oil -- Mature, relatively cheap -- also becoming more efficient, but still quite polluting, oil prices skyrocketing.

Biomass -- Uses biological sources (plant matter, leaves, food scraps, paper, etc.) to generate power -- less polluting than many think, since the 'fuel' used releases the same carbon into the atmosphere anyway (often within a few weeks/months) -- it just accelerates the process. Still, it's not the most optimal of solutions, and there are always valid concerns about toxic chemicals being released from burning garbage.

Natural Gas -- Cheap, cleaner than oil or coal, can be placed near suburban areas with few complaints (My job is next door to one, and I don't even hear it). Prices going up, limited fuel.

Nuclear Fission -- Can be very cheap, very little airborne pollution. Becoming very mature. Also has nuclear waste, public paranoia, U.S. refusal to reprocess used nuclear fuel that is 98% unburned -- they just 'dispose' of it. No new power-generating reactor has been built in the US in my lifetime. Although I hate to admit it, I personally think it may be something we'll have to rely on until well after I'm dead. Hopefully it'll buy time to get Fusion to a more practical state.

Nuclear Fusion -- Still experimental/unable to generate useful power, hopefully clean. Depending on the type of fusion, can be anywhere from near zero radiation (and radioactive waste) to levels (both instantaneous, and in terms of high-level waste) that have the same problems as fission.

Solar -- Woefully inefficient, one of the most expensive methods of generating electricity, although prices are dropping.

Geothermal -- I've heard this is (or has been) a maintenance nightmare, and is only practical in certain geological locations anyway.

Cold 'Fusion' -- not really sure if it belongs here, but there are still question marks about where the 'excess energy' generated is coming from. It simply sounds too good to be true - clean, safe power? I want to believe...

There are other types -- but I still haven't heard of the magic bullet. The best thing we can do as a society is strive for the highest efficiency in electrical use -- from generation to transmission to expenditure. Turn off those lights when you're not in the room (and, even if you are in the room if they aren't necessary...)

benefits (1)

Cognoscento (154457) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784301)

What with all the news about how fast the arctic is heating up, maybe a technology that has the large scale effect cools the poles and heats the equator isn't such a bad thing. Think of the bounty! A larger coffee-growing zone, great gobs of new skin-only beaches...

And malaria further north... Err... nevermind.

Deforestation (2, Interesting)

Omega1045 (584264) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784306)

Just put them in the deforested areas of the areas previously known as rain forests. The trees were there before impacting the wind - now we can replicate this with windmills!

Jousting at windmills (3, Insightful)

RealProgrammer (723725) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784308)

Their model is obviously not right. Maybe somebody slept through the class where they said, "If your program's output doesn't match common sense, it's probably your program that's wrong."

We occupy less than a third of the Earth's surface.

Windmills are maybe 100 meters high. The Earth's atmosphere is over 1000 times that thick (though it is, of course, thinner as you go up).

A windmill doesn't keep air from flowing even at the surface, it just slows it and disturbs it a little. Kind of like a tree. Are trees bad, too?

There is just no way we could build enough windmills to affect the Earth's climate.

Even if you could affect climate that way, who knows what other factors would show up to change the result? And that's ignoring the Earth's been getting warmer lately. Or has it? I can't keep up.

Taking energy out of the air doesn't destroy the energy - it just moves it. It'll get released into the atmosphere as heat somewhere else, eventually.

Replenishable resources? (2, Insightful)

RisingSon (107571) | more than 9 years ago | (#10784332)

Ha! I knew wind was not a replenishable resource. It will only be a matter of time before we realize the photons absorbed by solar panels will eventually send the Earth spiralling out of its orbit around the sun. Back to strip mining the shit out of nature and paving it over when we're done.

Seriously, though, it seems as though if we require extreme amounts of energy to power our world, we will alter the world we extract it from. There is no free lunch (lifted from the article). Perhaps the answer is in being more efficient with the power we use, thereby requiring less. But I hate those damn econo-flush toilets.

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