There’s No Free Lunch

As I started writing this I noticed that the Czar just penned a post on climate change so this one is timely and the two together are strong points to consider.

As my middle school and early high school children have learned, there is the Law of the Conservation of Energy – basically stating that within a system, energy cannot be destroyed or created but only changed in form or transferred.  There are nuances here but the broader implication is that the creation of energy cannot happen – it’s only a change or transfer of energy.  There is no ultimate power source that our Huckleberry is out to steal and then protect while making out with Elizabeth Shue.  So when the Big Environment people push for “green energy”, how does this law apply?

Well, solar panels change light energy into electricity and sometimes the solar panels are heating up water.  Hydroelectric plants use the force of the water to turn turbines to create transform kinetic energy into electricity.  Wind farms use the force of the air molecules on the blades to spin turbine to likewise generate electricity.  But in each case, something lost – the light from the Sun didn’t warm the surface under the solar panels, the river’s water is slowed and/or diverted from its natural course and the wind is likewise slowed and altered.

A recent study took a look at the latter case:

Usually at night the air closer to the ground becomes colder when the sun goes down and the earth cools. But on huge wind farms the motion of the turbines mixes the air higher in the atmosphere that is warmer, pushing up the overall temperature. Satellite data over a large area in Texas, that is now covered by four of the world’s largest wind farms, found that over a decade the local temperature went up by almost 1ºC as more turbines are built. This could have long term effects on wildlife living in the immediate areas of larger wind farms.

It could also affect regional weather patterns as warmer areas affect the formation of cloud and even wind speeds.
Liming Zhou, Research Associate Professor at the Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences at the University of New York, who led the study, said further research is needed into the affect of the new technology on the wider environment.

The study, published in Nature, found a “significant warming trend” of up to 0.72ºC (1.37ºF) per decade, particularly at night-time, over wind farms relative to near-by non-wind-farm regions.
The team studied satellite data showing land surface temperature in west-central Texas.
“The spatial pattern of the warming resembles the geographic distribution of wind turbines and the year-to-year land surface temperature over wind farms shows a persistent upward trend from 2003 to 2011, consistent with the increasing number of operational wind turbines with time,” said Prof Zhou.

Of course, I’m sure the IPCC has taken this into account in their climate models much like they’ve taken clouds, water vapor, oceans and solar activity into the models.

About GorT

GorT is an eight-foot-tall robot from the 51ˢᵗ Century who routinely time-travels to steal expensive technology from the future and return it to the past for retroinvention. The profits from this pay all the Gormogons’ bills, including subsidizing this website. Some of the products he has introduced from the future include oven mitts, the Guinness widget, Oxy-Clean, and Dr. Pepper. Due to his immense cybernetic brain, GorT is able to produce a post in 0.023 seconds and research it in even less time. Only ’Puter spends less time on research. GorT speaks entirely in zeros and ones, but occasionally throws in a ڭ to annoy the Volgi. He is a massive proponent of science, technology, and energy development, and enjoys nothing more than taking the Czar’s more interesting scientific theories, going into the past, publishing them as his own, and then returning to take credit for them. He is the only Gormogon who is capable of doing math. Possessed of incredible strength, he understands the awesome responsibility that follows and only uses it to hurt people.