Are wind farms a good way to solve the energy crisis and global warming?

Power from wind farms seems like it would be a very good solution to at least some of our energy needs. Wind, though unreliably fickle, is free, does not require min

Many people think that wind farms are one solution to the energy crisis and global warming. However, even wind energy can have a negative impact on the environment and wildlife.

Many people think that wind farms are one solution to the energy crisis and global warming. However, even wind energy can have a negative impact on the environment and wildlife.

ing, and is clean. Also, windmills and generators have been improving to make this technology more economical. Currently, wind power supplies about 0.1 percent of the world's electricity, but that is growing at a rate of about 30 percent a year.

There are problems with wind farms, however. For one thing, the giant windmills you find in places like southern California kill birds and other animals. Any hapless bird who flies near one is apt to be chopped into bits. Some conservationists are worried this could actually kill some birds on the endangered species list. A 2002 study conducted in Spain of its wind farms noted that 350,000 bats, 3,000,000 small birds, and 11,200 birds of prey were killed by windmills and associated power lines in just one year. The Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area near Palm Springs, California, which consists of 4,900 windmills, is responsible for the deaths of 4,700 birds annually (about one per windmill), including 1,300 raptors (birds of prey) such as burrowing owls and golden eagles. Because of increasingly limited land space, some countries are building wind farms offshore. For example, England is constructing a new wind farm that will cover 145 square miles (375 square kilometers) off the Kent, Essex, Clacton, and Margate coastlines. Such offshore farms, of course, now pose a threat to seabirds.

Another fact is that wind farms take up a lot of space. Situated on hillsides and open plains, they effectively destroy what could be wildlife habitat. Each windmill takes up about 1,600 square feet (144 square meters) of space. Furthermore, building the vast wind farms needed to power cities takes a lot of resources, including the steel, concrete, and other materials needed to build and maintain windmills and the oil and gasoline that is burned during construction.

Do wind farms affect the weather?

Yes, to a degree. A 2008 study showed that large wind farms actually have an impact on local weather and climate. When one thinks about it, this makes sense. Farmers have for years been using large fans to decrease humidity and warm crops when there is a risk of a freeze. Wind farms, too, cause a decrease in humidity and raise temperatures, especially during the morning hours. The question becomes, as we construct more and more wind farms, how many windmills will it take to make a worldwide impact on weather and climate?

Is global warming irreversible?

A report released in January 2009 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration asserted that, even if we stopped carbon dioxide and other emissions completely this year, it is too late to go back. So many global warming gases have accumulated in the atmosphere that we are now destined to experience a period of warming that will likely last over the next 1,000 years.

Do all scientists agree that global warming is caused by human beings?

In short, no, not every scientist believes people create global warming. Although more and more scientists are becoming convinced that we are seeing a significant change in our climate, there are those who argue that it has more to do with solar cycles. Some meteorologists have also noted that, historically, climate warming has preceded increases in carbon dioxide levels, not the other way around. This is because when the Earth warms up, it also warms the oceans, which hold much of the world's carbon dioxide in the form of carbonic acid. When the oceans get warm enough, the carbon dioxide is then released into the atmosphere.

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