Washington, Nov 13 : A new study has suggested that generating wind power at sea may alter ocean currents and marine ecosystems, bringing nutrient-rich waters up from the depths, which marine life can thrive on.
Extracting energy from wind changes regional air currents, which can in turn affect how the nearby ocean circulates, Goran Brostrom of the Norwegian Meteorological Institute in Oslo, told Discovery News.
Brostrom has shown in a model that winds swirling at five to 10 meters per second (11 to 22 miles per hour) downwind of large farms are uneven.
As they blow over the ocean they can roil the waters, causing upwelling.
The change in currents seems small - a nudge of just one meter (3.3 feet) per day - and the wind farms have to be around five square kilometers (1.9 square miles), which only the biggest do.
But, Brostrom said that the effect is enough to bring nutrient-rich waters up from the depths, which marine life can thrive on.
"I think you will see a large effect over time," he said. "You will get more plankton blooming, and you will see more vibrant life overall at that place," he added.
Plankton blooms are infamous for causing toxic red tide and for sucking oxygen out of the water. But, they can also be food sources for larger animals.
"Whether or not this is a good thing is a matter of debate," Brostrom said. "I think this could be beneficial to local fisheries," he added.
According to Michael Dvorak of Stanford University, Brostrom's study raises a point no one in the wind power industry had yet considered.
"People have looked at the climate effects of wind farms on land, but this is the first to bring up the question of ocean currents," he said. "This is something we should be looking at," he added.