This past Friday the House of Representatives passed the Energy/Climate Bill, otherwise known as the Cap and Trade or Cap and Tax Bill. This bill attempts to deal with "Global Warming" and energy consumption. The bill hopes to alter behaviour by taxing fossil fuel energy, and subsidising "clean" or "green" or "alternate" sources of energy such as wind turbines and solar panels, amongst an array of other "energy saving" initiatives. The bill assumes that domestic jobs will be created, energy independence will be achieved, and planet warming will be stopped or at the very least the USA will set an example for the rest of the world to follow.
Here's a scenario that could result from this kind of economic and weather tinkering. The winds that wrap around the world in the higher latitudes, between 35 and 65 degrees and called Westerlies, blow, in the northern latitudes, from the southwest to the northeast, and in the southern latitudes from the northwest to the southeast. Wind dynamics are discussed at length here: http://userpages.umbc.edu/~tokay/chapter9.html . It is our society's desire to have energy without either fossil fuel pollution or the nuclear solution, hence windmills... and to a lesser degree solar panels.... will proliferate both the land and seascape. Imagine building millions and millions of wind turbines and installing them coast to coast as well as offshore. As an aside, most of them will be built in China.
Here, the Laws of Thermodynamics (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laws_of_thermodynamics) tell us that the energy "created" by the windmills will simply be energy taken from the wind. In other words, the energy of the wind is less in the lee of the windmill than it is on the windward side. There is only so much wind on Earth and any alteration of wind energy, having been converted to electricity, will eventually be felt in areas we have no or limited understanding of. As the wind to windward passes by our windmill it is converted to heat and electricity, the wind to leeward the turbine is lessened by that same degree. Those winds normally blow obliquely toward the polar regions and carry with them heat picked-up from the warmer latitudes. It can be safely assumed that since it has been agreed, at least by those in the Human Caused Planet Warming Camp, that humanity's quest for power and earthly dominance has and is altering weather patterns, we must assume that those converted warming breezes will to some degree be lessened, thus causing polar regions to cool. Those Westerly winds also push ocean currents in the same direction, toward the poles, bringing with them warm mid-latitude water which further moderates polar cooling. All of that oceanic and atmospheric action will slow down and as it slows we will begin to enjoy even less energy conversion to each windmill. Since the wind will lessen as it moves across the planet, we will need ever more turbines just to stay even!
As we sleep, with our Government Motors Chevy Volts securely parked in our garages and plugged into our trickle chargers, a monster will be slowing growing .... at the Poles. Ice. As the wind and ocean heat is sapped, even ever so slightly, the Polar Regions will react in a directly portionate manner. Our heat, our cooling, our locomotion, our electricity, stolen from the wind, will be replaced by the cold from whence the heat was extracted, at the Poles! The great irony here is that in man's effort to control Planet Warming he will have created the worst of all climates..... a man induced Ice Age.
Now we're not yet finished with our little scenario, it has a way of affecting other vital interests. It is well known that wind farms have an associated bird kill quotient: The National Wind Coordinating Committee (NWCC) in a study of wind farm avian mortality http://www.nationalwind.org/publications/wildlife/avian_collisions.pdf concluded that "data collected outside California" (this last is important because the data did not include one of our largest wind farms, Altamont, which has a very much higher bird kill rate) http://www.wired.com/science/planetearth/news/2005/10/69177 indicates an average bird kill of nearly 2 birds per turbine each year. Multiplication is easy: The USA uses some 5 Trillion kW, roughly half from coal alone. A state of the art turbine in a good turbine location will produce perhaps 1.5 Million kW. Millions of wind turbines will be needed to eliminate just coal powered homes and plants, not even mentioning powering-up all those Chevy Volts! You do the math. You tell me, what impact will the loss of millions of birds - the exponential loss due to the loss of breeding pairs - have on the planet? Similarly bats and insects are adversely impacted. Here is an article addressing Indiana bats and their problem with turbines: http://indianalawblog.com/archives/2009/06/environment_ind_37.html. With the birds, bats, insects, and cold, one can easily see the domino effect taking place.
Where are we so far? Let's see....Ice, Birds, Bats, and Insects. What else is waiting in the wings of the Wind Turbine World of the Future.... coming to a theater near you! Here is a recent article describing the health impact of wind turbines on humans... not to mention farm animals, http://www.theepochtimes.com/n2/content/view/16774 . I personally have tried to sleep with a nearby turbine operating.... forget it. And we have yet to consider the overall impact on food production. With a cooling planet farm production will fall. With encroaching ice arable acreage will shrink. With dying winds, dying birds and dying insects, plant pollination will lessen. To me, that all adds up to the ultimate solution to our problem, that being, no, not a lack of energy, but one of too many human beings. As we shift from a warm and windy place to a cold and still one we will simply die off too...... did I mention the fossil fuel and other natural resources required to manufacture all those turbines?