While many may knock giant wind turbines as eyesores, researchers from Ames National Laboratory and the University of Colorado have conducted a study that indicates wind energy could help with crop development. The team’s preliminary research indicates that wind turbines aid in the growth of certain crops due to measurable effects upon the climate surrounding the fields.
Speaking about their discovery, Ames Laboratory associate and agricultural meteorology expert Gene Takle said, “We’ve finished the first phase of our research, and we’re confident that wind turbines do produce measurable effects on the microclimate near crops.”
Takle, who is also a professor of agricultural meteorology and director of the Climate Science Program at Iowa State University, said that the team’s research revealed that the slow-moving blades of the wind turbine not only generated electricity, but also channelled air downwards. Across farmland, this essentially had the effect of ‘bathing’ crops in a swifter and cooler air current.
While nothing is set in stone, and the findings have not definitively established whether wind turbines will increase crop health and yield potential, the findings remain an interesting discovery.
“The turbulence resulting from wind turbines may speed up natural exchange processes between crop plants and the lower atmosphere,” Takle said. “For example, the increased flow of air could help speed up the natural heat exchange and allow the crops to stay slightly cooler on hot days and slightly warmer at night. In this case, we anticipate turbines’ effects are good in the spring and fall because they would keep the crop a little warmer and help prevent a frost. Wind turbines could possibly ward off early fall frosts and extend the growing season.”
The research team also believes there could be other benefits from having wind turbines near farmland. Air from the blades could also reduce moisture levels and in turn, decrease the time in which fungi and toxins can grow on plant leaves. It would also keep crops dryer and reduce the need for artificial drying after the crops are harvested – an energy intensive process.
“We anticipate the impact of wind turbines to be subtle. But in certain years and under certain circumstances the effects could be significant,” said Takle. “When you think about a summer with a string of 105-degree days, extra wind turbulence from wind turbines might be helpful. If turbines can bring the temperature down below 100 degrees that could be a big help for crops.”
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