Wind turbines may improve growing conditions, study finds

An Iowa State University study of a 200-turbine wind farm between Radcliffe and Colo found that turbulence from the structures have a positive effect on growing conditions. (jonbgem/flickr)
Jenna Ladd | December 22, 2016

Recent research from Iowa State University found that wind turbines may improve growing conditions for Iowa crops.

Gene Takle, a climate scientist at the university, and his team measured several factors including temperature, humidity, precipitation, as well as wind speed and direction on a 200 wind turbine farm in central Iowa. The researchers collected data from 2010 through 2013 using research towers.

Overall, the study shows that wind turbines have a positive impact on several factors that affect growing conditions. Turbulence generated by the turbines prevents the formation of dew and dries the crops, which can keep fungi from growing, researchers say. Wind turbines also alter the temperature around them. The turbulence increases nighttime temperatures by a half-degree to a full degree and cools daytime temperatures by a half-degree. Data shows that the wind produced by the turbines rustle up plants situated above cropland as well, allowing the sun to shine through.

Takle said, “That’s beneficial. It allows light to move deeper into the canopy.”

Iowa sources nearly 36 percent of its total energy from wind turbines, more than any other state. In all, energy companies have invested $12 billion in wind production in the Hawkeye state, and landowners earn $20 million each year in lease payments for wind farms.

The study is a part of a $20 million, five year grant from the National Science Foundation. Moving forward, Takle said that he is interested in researching the effects wind turbines might have on regional weather patterns.

He said, “If you had warm, humid air rising and cooling over a wind farm, it could lead to more cloud formations, possibly even enhance or influence … rainfall patterns.”

Takle added, “We’ve been measuring changes on the wind farm, but this would measure effects outside the wind farm.”

On the Radio: New Facebook Data Center

Photo by user vanhookc; Flickr


This week’s On the Radio segment covers the new Facebook data center that will be opening in Altoona, and their wind energy plan. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

Continue reading

Iowa named as leader in wind energy

Photo by K Ali; Flickr
Photo by K Ali; Flickr

According to a newly released report by the U.S. Department of Energy, Iowa is among the nation’s leaders in wind energy. Over twenty percent of Iowa’s in-state electricity generation can be attributed to wind power, the highest percentage in the country — and the DOE says that number could grow to twenty-five. Continue reading

Iowa still second in wind energy

Wind-turbines blades manufactured at a Siemens Energy factory in Port Madison, Iowa, are off-loaded from trains in Pasco, Wash. Photo by Puget Sound Energy, Flickr.

According to a new report by the U.S. Department of Energy, Iowa is still number 2 in wind energy production behind Texas.

Iowa installed 647 megawatts of new wind power last year, increasing the state’s total wind power capacity to over 4,300 megawatts.

For more information, read the full article at The Gazette.

Spirit Lake school district receives renewable energy award

Photo by Amy Dianna, Flickr.

The University of Iowa isn’t the only Iowa school to receive recognition for using renewable energy.

The Spirit Lake, Iowa, Community School District also made one of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Partnership lists for its on-site generation of green energy.

The Spirit Lake Community School District receives 46% of its electricity from green power sources including on-site wind turbines.

Read more here.

Deceased Pella engineer’s donation helps fund renewable energy at state parks

Photo by iamuday, Flickr.

Chris Desjardins’ post-mortem donation to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources will help fund green-energy projects at some state parks.

Desjardins was an engineer for Pella Corporation who passed away in 2009.

With the help of the Iowa Economic Development Authority, IJOBS and the Resource Enhancement and Protection Fund, Desjardins’ donation will fund a $1.1 million project that includes renewable energy sources such as wind turbines and geothermal systems.

Read more from the Des Moines Register here.

Study investigates cause of bat deaths at wind farms

Wind turbines are associated with the deaths of increasingly high numbers of migrating bats, with some wind farms estimating tens of thousands of bat deaths annually. The widely-held assumption was that the turbines kill bats by generating rapid changes in air pressure in the animal’s lungs – an effect known as “barotrauma” – as they enter the low-pressure field generated by the turning blades.

However, a research team at Illinois State University, which included University of Iowa  scientist David Meyerholz, used forensic pathology to determine the exact cause of bat deaths at wind farms.

The team’s study suggests that barotrauma might not be responsible – but rather that the bats are actually colliding with the active turbine blades.

“This study raises some serious questions about the foundation of barotrauma theory in wind farm bats and simultaneously demonstrates by multiple lines of evidence that the collision theory is the basis for most of these deaths,” said University of Iowa scientist David Meyerholz.

For more information, read the full University of Iowa news release.

Petition hopes to lower bird collisions with wind turbines

Photo by Changhua Coast Conservation Action, Flickr

The American Bird Conservancy petitioned the U.S. Department of the Interior to establish a permitting system that will lower the number of birds colliding with wind turbines.

An estimated 400,000 birds die each year after colliding with wind turbines, and that number will increase as more wind turbines are built around the nation.

Although Iowa is the second leading producer of wind energy in the nation, bird collisions have not been a major issue in our state. Many of Iowa’s turbines are planted in crop areas, which see little avian activity.

For more information on the petition, and on the risk posed to birds by wind turbines, read The Gazette’s article here.

ISU research looks to increase turbine factory productivity

Iowa State engineers, left to right, John Jackman, Vinay Dayal and Frank Peters use the Wind Energy Manufacturing Laboratory to find better ways to make components for wind turbines. Photo by Bob Elbert. Courtesy of ISU News Service.

Some Iowa State University professors are looking to increase the growth of wind turbine manufacturing across the state.

Read more from an ISU news release below:

 A laser in Iowa State University’s Wind Energy Manufacturing Laboratory scanned layer after layer of the flexible fiberglass fabric used to make wind turbine blades. Continue reading

On the Radio: UI to adopt wind energy education program

Photo by David Hoffman, Flickr.

 Listen to this week’s radio segment here or read the transcript below.  It discusses a new educational oppertunity that the University of Iowa is creating to assist in wind energy development. 

With the help of a recent grant, the University of Iowa hopes to educate the next generation of wind energy experts. Continue reading