Can Wind Farms Impact Local Weather?

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Bismarck – With more than 15-hundred wind turbines spread across the state, North Dakota is 11th in the country in wind power, but all these turbines could result in an unexpected consequence.

Towering  over 300 feet above the ground, we all know wind turbines take the energy from the wind and convert that energy into electricity we use every day. But a study by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign those same turbines can also have significant impacts on the agriculture community.

“There is some very small influence on the weather, immediately around wind farms, in some cases perhaps a quarter mile downwind, perhaps even a half mile downwind, dependent on how strong the wind flow is to begin with, there can be some very small scale influences on temperature and humidity in particular right around wind farms. Said Chauncy Schultz, Science Operations Officer with the NWS Bismarck.

The studies have shown that the turbines, especially at night, can mix the atmosphere around them, which in turn can keep nighttime temperatures warmer,  even keeping frost at bay in some cases.

KX News talked with the State Agriculture Commissioner who tells me even a small change in temperature or humidity can make a huge difference to farmers.

“If you’re gonna be 1, 1.5 degrees warmer at night, your humidity might be off by three or four percent. So, that may be a bigger issue if you’re looking at more so with corn pollination”. Said Doug Goehring, North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner.

The national weather service says in some cases, the warming and cooling the Turbines can cause, can cancel each other out, and no discernible change is evident.  But a study done by the University of Calgary showed that wind farms used on a large scale basis and not spaced far enough apart could even have a direct impact on global climate patterns.

Despite this research, Goerhing says he hasn’t seen complaints from farmers about the potential for new wind farms.

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