A group of Canadian and American scientists has modelled the effects of introducing massive amounts of wind farms into North America and have come up with surprising results.

A group of Canadian and U.S. scientists reported Tuesday that computer simulations show that a large-scale use of wind farms to generate electrical power could create a significant temperature change over Earth’s land masses.

While the precise tradeoff between the climate changes from wind farms versus that from carbon-based power systems is still a matter of contention, the fact that wind power isn’t climate neutral leaps out of the simulations.

“We shouldn’t be surprised that extracting wind energy on a global scale is going to have a noticeable effect. … There is really no such thing as a free lunch,” said David Keith, a professor of energy and the environment at the University of Calgary and lead author of the report, which appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Specifically, if wind generation were expanded to the point where it produced one-10th of today’s energy, the models say cooling in the Arctic and a warming across the southern parts of North America should happen.

The exact mechanism for this is unclear, but the scientists believe it may have to do with the disruption of the flow of heat from the equator to the poles.

Depending on how much energy is ultimately generated by wind power, the study’s simulations say these changes could range from one-third of a degree to 2 degrees Celsius.

More here.