Impact Of Wind Farms At Sea

In the past few decades extensive wind turbine farms have been installed offshore around the world. The logic is simple: in shallow coastal waters turbines can be built to harvest strong and frequent winds, while remaining close to the grid on land, and minimizing interference with human activities.

Wind farms obviously distort the natural wind flows, but what about other side effects?

NASA satellite imagery has documented that some wind farms are definitely impacting the sea environment, producing large plumes of sediments that flow with the currents. The plumes are apparently generated by the currents flaowing past the supports of the turbines.

NASA Earth Observatory images by Jesse Allen, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey. Caption by Kathryn Hansen.
NASA Earth Observatory images by Jesse Allen, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey. Caption by Kathryn Hansen.

The implications of these plumes is not known, though it is known that these shallow areas are important for fish feeding and breeding, and for marine fish eaters. It is hard to imagine that such large scale phenomena—which are visible from outer space—could have no effects. But they may be both good and bad, promoting some biological activity and suppressing other activity [1]. We don’t know.

Wind energy may be “renewable”, but it isn’t “free”, or free of possible harmful consequences.


  1. Quinten Vanhellemont and Kevin Ruddick, Turbid wakes associated with offshore wind turbines observed with Landsat 8. Remote Sensing of Environment, 145:105-115, 4/5/ 2014. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0034425714000224

 

Space Saturday

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s