28 April 2016 15:24

Newly published research has shown that the action of wind turbines has a measurable effect on the local climate.

Researchers from Lancaster University, the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, National Centre for Atmospheric Science, the University of Glasgow, and the University of Leeds placed a grid of more than 100 temperature and humidity sensors around wind turbines at ScottishPower Renewables’ Black Law Wind Farm in North Lanarkshire.

Over six months, the scientific team took readings from the air every five minutes and from the surface and soil every 30 minutes, including during a period when the turbines were switched off for maintenance.   

They found that when the turbines were operational at night the temperature around the turbines increased by nearly 0.2 °C and absolute humidity increased fractionally. The turbines also increased the variability in air, surface and soil temperature throughout each 24-hour cycle.

Dr Alona Armstrong, lead author of the paper, now at Lancaster University, said: “Even though we could measure the effects, the changes were relatively small and these effects decreased rapidly with distance from the nearest wind turbine.”

Professor Nick Ostle, Lancaster University, said: “In this research we wanted to know whether the wind turbines affected ground temperatures. We found that there was small detectable difference in temperature produced when turbine blades scoop up and mix warm and cold air. But this effect was tiny and far smaller than the differences in temperature that you would see naturally as a result of the seasons, different vegetation types or even moving from one field to the next.”

The study was supported by funding from the UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), and access to Black Law Wind Farm was provided by ScottishPower Renewables.

The paper, titled "Ground-level climate at northern peatland wind farm is affected by wind turbine operation", is available on open access in the journal Environmental Research Letters

The research was featured by the BBC.