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Sensors 2015, 15(7), 14981-15005;

Observed Thermal Impacts of Wind Farms Over Northern Illinois

Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, SUNY at Albany, Albany, NY 12222, USA
Centre for Atmospheric Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, Hauz Khas, New Delhi 110016, India
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Assefa M. Melesse
Received: 9 April 2015 / Revised: 17 June 2015 / Accepted: 18 June 2015 / Published: 25 June 2015
(This article belongs to the Section Remote Sensors)
Full-Text   |   PDF [1797 KB, uploaded 25 June 2015]   |  


This paper assesses impacts of three wind farms in northern Illinois using land surface temperature (LST) data from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instruments onboard the Terra and Aqua satellites for the period 2003–2013. Changes in LST between two periods (before and after construction of the wind turbines) and between wind farm pixels and nearby non-wind-farm pixels are quantified. An areal mean increase in LST by 0.18–0.39 °C is observed at nighttime over the wind farms, with the geographic distribution of this warming effect generally spatially coupled with the layout of the wind turbines (referred to as the spatial coupling), while there is no apparent impact on daytime LST. The nighttime LST warming effect varies with seasons, with the strongest warming in winter months of December-February, and the tightest spatial coupling in summer months of June-August. Analysis of seasonal variations in wind speed and direction from weather balloon sounding data and Automated Surface Observing System hourly observations from nearby stations suggest stronger winds correspond to seasons with greater warming and larger downwind impacts. The early morning soundings in Illinois are representative of the nighttime boundary layer and exhibit strong temperature inversions across all seasons. The strong and relatively shallow inversion in summer leaves warm air readily available to be mixed down and spatially well coupled with the turbine. Although the warming effect is strongest in winter, the spatial coupling is more erratic and spread out than in summer. These results suggest that the observed warming signal at nighttime is likely due to the net downward transport of heat from warmer air aloft to the surface, caused by the turbulent mixing in the wakes of the spinning turbine rotor blades. View Full-Text
Keywords: wind farm impact; atmospheric boundary layer; land surface temperature wind farm impact; atmospheric boundary layer; land surface temperature

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Slawsky, L.M.; Zhou, L.; Roy, S.B.; Xia, G.; Vuille, M.; Harris, R.A. Observed Thermal Impacts of Wind Farms Over Northern Illinois. Sensors 2015, 15, 14981-15005.

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