Another blow for wind power, this time from global warming

Just when we thought that Global warming cannot get another hit…

It seems that there is another unexpected adverse effect of global warming that could affect energy production, in particular – wind power. According to a recent study, there is a global warming effect on the strength of winds as a result of the reduction in contrast between cold and hot regions. As it gets  hotter, the poles, since they tend to warm up faster then any other region, will suffer from a rise in temperatures and therefore the contrast between hot and cold regions will fall, causing weaker winds. And as winds strength decreases, wind power also falls. According to the study, it is expected that for a rise of 2-4 degrees Celsius of Global temperature, it could cause a reduction of 4-12 percent in wind power. This means in order to produce the same level of wind power, one will need to invest more in wind power turbines. In short, you will pay more for the same energy solution.

Another way to look at this research, from economic perspective, is that due to the global warming effects, countries that use today polluting energy but also use, and will use in the future, wind power to harness its energy towards wind power turbines, are in effect taxing themselves in the future. This is because they will have to invest more in wind power turbines to produce energy then they would have used had they not polluted causing a rise in global temperature. This process is called in economic jargon internalizing externality or external adverse effects – big phrase for simple wisdom. The most common example for such a process is when a factory pollutes its adjacent environment as a result of its production process. In order to limit the factory’s pollution the state fines the factory for it. By fining the factory, it’s claimed that the factory will have some reason to pollute less as it internalize its adverse effects on the environment, i.e. it pays for its pollution which maybe motivate the factor to find ways to be less polluting. Without going into the details about the pros and cons of such a solution, suffice it to say that in this case, this research could serve as an example to illustrate (or at least try…) what will countries have to pay in the future due to their current polluting actions. This isn’t a great illustration as this adverse effect on wind power will only be in the future, not all countries currently use wind power and it’s common knowledge that policy makers find it hard to see further then their own term.

Nevertheless, this research should be looked as another warning sign about the adverse effects of global warming, which could come from directions that we didn’t expect.

The article was cited from:

American Institute of Physics. “Global Warming Reduces Available Wind Energy, New Research Finds.” ScienceDaily, 10 November 2010. Web. 15 November 2010.