As the climate warms, it is expected that the amount of wind available for converting into electricity will decrease in the Northern Hemisphere. The study, published this week in Nature Geoscience, finds that this projected decline will particularly affect the central United States, the United Kingdom and Ireland, the northern Middle East, and central, northern and far eastern Asia. In contrast, it predicts a robust increase in the wind available to convert into energy for tropical and Southern Hemisphere regions under high-emissions scenarios.
Wind farms are composed of groups of wind turbines in the same location, used to produce electricity. The capacity to generate power from wind farms is growing rapidly around the globe, as a clean and low-impact alternative to fossil fuels. Global installed wind power cumulative capacity has grown on average by 22% per year since 2006. However, regional studies have indicated that the amount of wind available for converting into energy using said turbines can be subject to change in a changing climate.
Kristopher Karnauskas and colleagues at the University of Colorado Boulder, USA, combined global climate model simulations with an industry wind power turbine curve to derive the impact of projected changes in climate on future wind power capacity. The team found that wind power averaged over the central US, for example, is projected to decrease by 8-10% by 2050 and 14-18% by 2100, depending on the emissions scenario. This decline in wind power may be explained by the rapid warming in the Arctic, which reduces the temperature difference between the Arctic and the tropics that ultimately drives the intensity of storms.
Moreover, the team found that “established features of climate change can explain these patterns: polar amplification is implicated in the northern mid-latitude decrease in wind power, and enhanced land–sea thermal gradients account for the tropical and southern subtropical increases.”
Given that many countries are including wind power as part of their Paris climate agreement emissions reductions, it is evident that we need to factor in how the future climate may change energy resources.