UNC/Harvard Research Suggests Scientists have Greatly Overestimated Capacity of Wind Farms to Generate Power

With thanks to Ron Huber for finding this.

Research Suggests Scientists have Overestimated Capacity of Wind Farms to Generate Power

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Feb. 27, 2013 - People think of wind as an energy source with few limits, offering an unending power source with distinct capacity advantages over sources that deplete, such as fossil fuel.

Yet, new research in mesoscale atmospheric modeling by UNC Charlotte's Amanda S. Adams and Harvard University's David W. Keith, published Monday in the journal Environmental Research Letters, suggests that the power capacity of large-scale wind farms may have been significantly overestimated.

With large-scale wind farms, as many as hundreds of turbines mounted on tall towers and connected to the electrical grid capture the kinetic energy of the wind. Each wind turbine creates a "wind shadow" behind it, in which the turning blades slow the air. In an effort to reduce the impact of the wind shadows, wind farms space the turbines apart, while still locating as many turbines as they can on the land.

Current estimates of the global wind power resource over land range from 56 to 400 terawatts. Most of these estimates assume implicitly that the turbines extracting the wind energy have little impact on the atmosphere and, therefore, little effect on the energy production.

The new research says that scientists have underestimated the impact that large numbers of wind turbines have on energy production within large farms. Estimates of wind capacity that ignore the effect of wind turbine drag on local winds have assumed that wind power production of 2 and 4 watts per square meter could be sustained over large areas.

The new modeling results suggest that the generating capacity is more likely limited to about 1 watt per square meter at wind farms that are larger than 100 square kilometers.

"It's easy to mistake the term renewable with the term unlimited when discussing energy," said Adams who is lead author.  "Just because you can keep generating new energy from a source does not mean you can generate energy in an unlimited amount."

The research suggests the potential for wind energy could be significantly less than previously thought.

"It's important to take into account all factors impacting the wind energy, so we can assess the capacity of this critical power resource," Adams said. "One of the inherent challenges is how harvesting the resource changes it, making it difficult to accurately calculate how much energy can be produced. The modeling we have done provides information that can help in the understanding of our ability to count on renewable energy sources."

The research also considers the impact of wind energy production on temperatures and by extension possibly climate. Wind farms change the natural wind shear and produce various scales of turbulence. Higher potential temperatures are mixed downward due to this turbulence and result in low level warming, the research indicates.

"Our research suggests that how densely the turbines are placed affects not only energy production but also environmental impacts," Adams said. "We see this impact on average temperatures not only at large-scale farms, but also in small-density wind farms. Some things to consider are the magnitude of temperature changes and also the size of the area affected. We think these findings indicate that additional research is needed in these areas."

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada funded the research.

Adams' primary research interests focus on mesoscale phenomena, processes, and modeling with an emphasis on phenomena that involve boundary layer processes and/or topographic influences. In recent years, she and her research group at UNC Charlotte have focused on the link between small-scale processes and climate, particularly at the atmosphere and earth surface interface. Her research group concentrates primarily on question at the interface between energy, weather and climate.

Current questions her group is addressing include: How will large scale wind energy development impact the Great Plains low level jet? What are the meteorological conditions that lead to wind turbine icing? How does temperature variability in urban areas impact electricity demand? Can we quantify the risks of off shore wind turbines to hurricanes? The energy-related research that Adams' group is conducting includes collaborations with San Diego Gas & Electric, Xcel Energy, and the Weather Underground.

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Media Relations Contact: Buffie Stephens, 704-687-5830, buffiestephens@uncc.edu

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Contact:  Lynn Roberson, 704-687-0082, LynnRoberson@uncc.edu

Source: Amanda Adams, 704-687-5984, manda.adams@uncc.edu

http://publicrelations.uncc.edu/news-events/news-releases/research-...

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Comment by Barry @ SaveOurSeaShore on March 22, 2013 at 8:55am

Thanks for sharing...it is just amazing the bait and switch of renewable energy. It needs and endless supply of money...and always produces less than promised. 

Comment by Willem Post on March 21, 2013 at 6:10pm
Comment by MaineHiker on March 21, 2013 at 5:02pm

Then these were never "real scientists" in the first place. A scientist would maybe make some temporary "quesstimations" to attempt to determine approximate boundary values for an investigation and then perform a differential analysis based on observations using a sound investigative methodology and publish their findings for the "real" scientific community to empirically scrutinize and respond to. Real scientists do not commit the crime of publishing bullshit estimations for economic or political gain. People who impersonate real scientists should be freeze dried, crumbled and sold as pet fish food; and the people who pay or pressure them to commit those crimes should be dealt with likewise.

Hannah Pingree on the Maine expedited wind law

Hannah Pingree - Director of Maine's Office of Innovation and the Future

"Once the committee passed the wind energy bill on to the full House and Senate, lawmakers there didn’t even debate it. They passed it unanimously and with no discussion. House Majority Leader Hannah Pingree, a Democrat from North Haven, says legislators probably didn’t know how many turbines would be constructed in Maine."

https://pinetreewatch.org/wind-power-bandwagon-hits-bumps-in-the-road-3/

 

Maine as Third World Country:

CMP Transmission Rate Skyrockets 19.6% Due to Wind Power

 

Click here to read how the Maine ratepayer has been sold down the river by the Angus King cabal.

Maine Center For Public Interest Reporting – Three Part Series: A CRITICAL LOOK AT MAINE’S WIND ACT

******** IF LINKS BELOW DON'T WORK, GOOGLE THEM*********

(excerpts) From Part 1 – On Maine’s Wind Law “Once the committee passed the wind energy bill on to the full House and Senate, lawmakers there didn’t even debate it. They passed it unanimously and with no discussion. House Majority Leader Hannah Pingree, a Democrat from North Haven, says legislators probably didn’t know how many turbines would be constructed in Maine if the law’s goals were met." . – Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, August 2010 https://www.pinetreewatchdog.org/wind-power-bandwagon-hits-bumps-in-the-road-3/From Part 2 – On Wind and Oil Yet using wind energy doesn’t lower dependence on imported foreign oil. That’s because the majority of imported oil in Maine is used for heating and transportation. And switching our dependence from foreign oil to Maine-produced electricity isn’t likely to happen very soon, says Bartlett. “Right now, people can’t switch to electric cars and heating – if they did, we’d be in trouble.” So was one of the fundamental premises of the task force false, or at least misleading?" https://www.pinetreewatchdog.org/wind-swept-task-force-set-the-rules/From Part 3 – On Wind-Required New Transmission Lines Finally, the building of enormous, high-voltage transmission lines that the regional electricity system operator says are required to move substantial amounts of wind power to markets south of Maine was never even discussed by the task force – an omission that Mills said will come to haunt the state.“If you try to put 2,500 or 3,000 megawatts in northern or eastern Maine – oh, my god, try to build the transmission!” said Mills. “It’s not just the towers, it’s the lines – that’s when I begin to think that the goal is a little farfetched.” https://www.pinetreewatchdog.org/flaws-in-bill-like-skating-with-dull-skates/

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