By Eric Watkins
LOS ANGELES, April 30 – Donald Trump was surely nodding sagely over his scones and tea at breakfast this morning as he read headlines in the papers saying that wind turbines could have adverse environmental effects. A little curd, please.
Researchers who analyzed nine years of satellite readings around four of the world’s biggest wind farms discovered that the facilities slightly increase temperatures near the ground as the turbines’ rotor blades pull down warm air.
In a word, the researchers found for the first time ever that even as wind farms of a certain scale do produce clean, renewable energy, they also have a potentially negative long-term effect on the immediate environment.
“The warming trend corresponds very well with the growth of the wind turbines,” said Somnath Baidya Roy of the University of Illinois, who was part of the research group. “The warming is going to level off when you stop adding more turbines.”
According to the report, published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Climate Change, the nighttime air around the wind farms in central Texas became about 0.72 degree Celsius warmer in 2003-11 as farms grew from a few dozen turbines to 2,350.
SMALL TEMPERATURE CHANGE
The scientist who led the study, Liming Zhou of the University of Albany, had to admit that the temperature change is “small” and that the researchers “don’t know whether there is a change in weather due to the temperature change.”
However, Zhou insisted that more research is needed as the popularity and increased numbers of wind farms “might have noticeable impacts on local-to-regional weather and climate.”
That will likely release a new outburst of hot air from Trump who has been at odds with the government of Scotland for months now, recently saying that “wind turbines will destroy one of the great environments of the world.”
In fact, Trump is opposed to a proposed $371 million experimental offshore wind farm in sight of the development he is opening in July at Balmedie, north of Aberdeen. The development is comprised of a golf resort with two courses, a 450-bed five-star hotel, 500 homes and 950 short-term rental apartments.
SNAFU IN THE PLANS
The snafu in Trump’s plans came in August when the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre, a venture between Vattenfall, Technip and Aberdeen Renewable Energy, applied for planning permission to construct 11 640-ft-high wind turbines about 1.5 miles offshore in Aberdeen Bay.
That decision surely put the wind up Trump.
As it turns out, though, Trump is in conflict with a key policy of Scotland’s leader Alex Salmond that sees the land of William Wallace as Europe’s windiest and the eventual home to about 25% of Europe’s offshore turbine capacity.
Translated into political terms, Scotland’s government predicts the wind industry could create at least 28,000 new jobs and boost the Scottish economy as much as 5% of current gross domestic product by 2014 – the year that Salmond hopes Scots will vote in a referendum to leave the United Kingdom.
“The demonstrator plant is about consolidating the northeast of Scotland’s position as an energy capital of the world,” said Salmond, underlining the importance of the area to his policy. “Frankly, I don’t think 11 turbines off shore is a difficult proposition for most people to accept,” he said.
“I’m afraid Donald Trump and I are destined to disagree on this matter,” said Salmond, a few weeks back. “It would probably be best to allow energy policy of the country to be determined by the people who are democratically elected to determine it.”
Salmond, of course, is drawing attention to the fact that Trump – an unsuccessful US presidential hopeful – has no elected role in any government on either side of the Atlantic. It is, naturally, a duff shot.
It is especially duff when you consider that Trump can count on the support of the Royal Aberdeen Golf Club and the Scottish Golf Union. It is unclear just how many votes either will be able to muster in the 2014 referendum, but in a democracy all voices must be heard.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that Salmond appears to have public backing for his windy schemes, though Scots may also have some preference for other forms of renewable energy.
Pollster YouGov published two polls on April 23. One of them, commissioned by Scottish Renewables, found that more than 70% of Scots supported the continued development of wind power.
The other poll, on behalf of Friends of the Earth, showed that 32% of Scots favor tidal and wave power as their first choice for future energy, almost twice as many as the 18% that have wind power as their first choice.
That’s not exactly a hole-in-one for Salmond, but it surely trumps Trump. Pass the toast?
© Glamma Productions Inc 2012