Wind Energy and Climate Change - It's All Connected

by: Heather on 01/31/2011

My partner is a member of the IEEE - an international engineering organization made up, as far as I can tell, of very smart people who spend a lot of time thinking about technology. I like the fact that he belongs to this group, because he tends to leave the IEEE magazine lying around, which exposes me to a lot of material that most non-techie types don't normally come across. It also reassures me somewhat when I see how much time the group of engineers who belong to the IEEE seem to spend thinking about the sustainability of technology, because I don't really think that this perspective has filtered down to the mainstream (and you can expect to hear more from us on this topic in the months ahead).

Anyways, in the most recent issue, I read a thought-provoking article called "A Less Mighty Wind", which makes the argument that wind power may not make up as much of our future renewable energy supply as previously anticipated. The rub is climate change - specifically faster warming over higher latitudes. Because wind is, at its most basic, an airflow between areas of two different temperatures, the shrinking of the "temperature gradient" caused by climate change is measurably impacting wind speeds, and thus decreasing the power that could be produced by wind turbines. In China alone the decrease amounts to an estimated minimum of 14%. Experts are concerned that this could have a serious impact on the economics of the wind industry. This is scary stuff when you consider that wind has been the world's fasted-growing energy source. The predictions is that wind energy will still be viable, but wind farms may take longer to become attractive to investors and their planning may become more complicated. Fortunately it seems to me that the impact will not be felt in the same way on small-scale wind production, which in many ways is a more attractive solution at the local level anyway.

This issue is a good example of how interconnected so many of the problems we face are - it seems that no matter where you pick up the thread, it will lead inevitably to all other parts of the whole. Climate change, economic crisis, energy depletion, food, water, public health - it is all connected at a fundamental level.

Fortunately, solutions are interconnected as well. Pick any positive action and follow it through. Invariably the repercussions will not be limited to what you originally hoped to achieve. For example, if you choose to walk more in order to use less fossil fuels, you will also improve your health, contribute to a more vibrant community, and become a positive role model. You may lose weight, and you will ease a tiny bit of the stress of our transportation infrastructure. See how it works?

Back to wind - to learn more about wind energy at the home and small business level, check out Power from the Wind - the comprehensive guide to the design, purchase and installation of small-scale wind electricity systems.

Power From the Wind


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