7B.1 Does it matter to the atmosphere where wind farms are located?

Thursday, 27 January 2011: 1:30 PM
4C-2 (Washington State Convention Center)
Amanda S. Adams, Univ. of North Carolina, Charlotte, NC

Location of wind farms is critical for maximizing electricity generation and minimizing costs associated with the energy extraction. Location of wind farms also matters for preservation of ecological habitats. Sometimes location of wind farms even matters for summer vacationers that don't want their ocean view obstructed by wind turbines. But does it matter to the atmosphere where wind farms are located? Wind turbines impact the atmosphere by removing kinetic energy from the flow and generating turbulence on a variety of scales. The generation of turbulence can lead to additional mixing in the atmospheric boundary layer, and changes to wind speed can impact fluxes of heat and moisture from the earth's surface; all of which could have impacts on the atmosphere that manifest themselves as changes in weather and climate. While most modern wind farms are small enough in scale to have minimal impacts on the atmosphere, as the installed capacity of wind energy grows, it becomes increasingly important to understand the possible impacts. Using a wind farm parameterization (developed by Adams and Keith) and the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model, simulations were designed to examine the role of turbine spacing, wind farm scale, and wind farm location on impacts to the atmosphere. Results to be discussed will show that location may play a role in the extent and type of atmospheric impacts. This talk will discuss the local processes that may be responsible for different impacts at different locations. This work implies that better understanding of local processes and how they interact with wind farms can help in siting wind farms in a way that minimizes impacts to weather and climate while still maximizing electricity production. This also raises the question can wind energy be used for small scale geo-engineering, such as extending the growing season in specific locations?
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