Research Says Wind Farms May Be Making Earth Warmer

June 8, 2012

Unlocking Word Meanings
Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

1. complement (v.) – to complete something
Example: The woman’s jewelry complements her dress.

2. turbine (n.) – machine with blades that move because of air, water, or steam
Example: Strong winds make the turbine spin faster.

3. disturb (v.) – to change the usual arrangement or position of something
Example: Global warming disturbs the weather, making one area have too much rain and another have too little.

4. settle (v.) – to move downward or fall to reach a surface
Example:  He watched the stone settle to the bottom of the river.

5. drought (n.) – a long period of time with no rain
Example: Farmers and their crops suffered the most because of the drought.

Read the text below.
Wind farms provide clean energy. They work best at night when winds blow the strongest, complementing solar panels, which absorb energy during the day. But one study suggests wind farms may actually warm the earth’s surface up.

According to the study, wind turbines disturb the natural flow of cool and warm air. At night, cool air normally settles on land and helps cool the earth’s surface. However, wind turbines mix cool and warm air together, reducing the cooling effect.

Researchers studied data from 2003 to 2011 satellite readings taken over certain wind farms in Texas, which is home to the four largest wind farms in the world. Results showed a total increase of 0.72 degrees Celsius in the said areas.
Professor Liming Zhou, author of the study, explains that as the numbers and sizes of wind farms increase, their impact on local weather conditions also increases.
In Texas, where the number of turbines has jumped from 111 to 2358 in eight years, farmers have experienced severe droughts. The droughts have created a significant threat to Texas’ economy, in which agriculture contributes $80 billion.
However, Zhou admits there might be some errors in the satellite readings. He hopes to improve the study by observing wind farms in other parts of the world.
Meanwhile, many other scientists believe using wind turbines is not harmful. They say a large number of wind turbines could slightly change air patterns, but would not create global warming effects similar to those of dangerous gases.

Viewpoint Discussion
Enjoy a discussion with your tutor. 

Discussion A

·         After reading the article, did your opinion about wind power or clean energy change? Why or why not?
·          Is finding alternative or clean sources of energy an important issue in your country? Please explain your answer.

Discussion B

·         Have you noticed strange weather changes in your country over the years (e.g., increasing rain in the summer, warmer winters, etc.)? Please explain your answer.
·         How do you think global warming affects the local community where you live?


June 8, 2012