Wind power, a favorite source in the “green” movement, is facing a problem: there is less wind to harness. The cause, ironically, may be global warming – the very problem wind power seeks to address.
A first-of-its-kind study suggests that average and peak wind speeds have been slowing noticeably since 1973, especially in the Midwest and the East.
There’s been a jump in the number of low or no wind days in the Midwest, said the study’s lead author, Sara Pryor, an atmospheric scientist at Indiana University.
Wind measurements plotted out on U.S. maps by Pryor show wind speeds falling, mostly along and east of the Mississippi River. Some areas that are banking on wind power, such as west Texas and parts of the Northern Plains, do not show winds slowing nearly as much. Yet states such as Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Kansas, Virginia, Louisiana, Georgia, northern Maine and western Montana show some of the biggest drops in wind speeds.
“The stations bordering the Great Lakes do seem to have experienced the greatest changes,” Pryor said last week. That’s probably because there’s less ice on the lakes and wind speeds faster across ice than it does over water, she said.
The findings are preliminary. The full study will be published in August in the peer-reviewed Journal of Geophysical Research.