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Could/will climate change impact wind energy resources?

Presentation Date
Thursday, December 16, 2021 at 8:05am
Convention Center - Room 208-210

Global wind resources exceed current electricity demand and the last decade has seen large reductions in the levelized cost of energy from wind turbines. Accordingly, wind energy installed grew at an annualized rate of about 14% during the last two decades and wind turbines now provide ~6-7% of global electricity. Wind is thus already playing a key role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the energy sector, and many countries now see large scale expansion of wind installed capacity as a key component of net zero emissions from the energy supply. However, wind is also a weather and climate dependent source of electricity generation thus it is important to consider whether/how/where global climate non-stationarity might impact our ability to cost-effectively harness the power of the wind.

A critical, but under-appreciated, aspect of this application of regional climate science is that the energy content of the wind scales with the third power of wind speed and the electrical power produced by a wind turbine typically scales with the wind speed squared. Thus, accurate depiction of the current and possible future wind resource is critically dependent on fidelity in the upper tail of the wind speed probability distribution. Equally wind resources vary spatially and are dictated by processes that act on scales not resolved by current generation global models. This presentation provides: (i) An overview of research to date designed to develop ‘global wind futures’ with a focus on evaluation of the credibility of projections made with different methods and synthesis of commonalities in projections for given areas. (ii) An analysis of how wind energy technology trends are evolving the types of regional climate projections needed by the industry.

Funding Program Area(s)