A pair of American renewable energy researchers published a controversial study in Environmental Research Letters last month, suggesting that there may be a fine line between beneficial wind power generation and an overuse of the technology. The two scientists contend that some wind farms may be too large and inefficient to justify millions of dollars in investment.
According to a press release published by Harvard University, David Keith and Amanda Adams have been developing their thesis for over a year. By their calculations, once a wind power-generating facility becomes too big, it creates what the team dubbed a "wind shadow." This dead space can detract from the total amount of electricity that the array of turbines is capable of producing.
At the heart of the group's argument is the idea that wind power might not be the energy panacea that some believe it might be. However, in a press statement, Keith stressed that his and Adams' research is meant to foster a conversation about diversified energy solutions as opposed to ones focused on a particular technology.
"Our findings don't mean that we shouldn't pursue wind power – wind is much better for the environment than conventional coal – but these geophysical limits may be meaningful if we really want to scale wind power up to supply a third, let's say, of our primary energy," Keith said.
At this time, it's tough to say what impact this research will have on the wind energy industry, which, according to U.S. News, is expected to build up to 4 million new turbines by 2030. However, the study suggests that renewable power sources need to be thoroughly examined before a serious level of investment is made in them, either by the private sector or the U.S. government.
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