Rising temperatures will not affect the production of wind energy in the U.S. over the next 30 to 50 years, according to Indiana University Bloomington (IU Bloomington) scientists.
‘The greatest consistencies in wind density we found were over the Great Plains, which are already being used to harness wind, and over the Great Lakes, which the U.S. and Canada are looking at right now,’ says Sara Pryor, a professor of atmospheric science and the project's principal investigator. ‘Areas where the model predicts decreases in wind density are quite limited, and many of the areas where wind density is predicted to decrease are off limits for wind farms anyway.’
The findings of the study appear in this week's early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Co-author Rebecca Barthelmie, also a professor of atmospheric science, says the study begins to address a major dearth of information about the long-term stability of wind as an energy resource. Questions have lingered about whether a warmer atmosphere might lead to decreases in wind density or changes in wind patterns.
Pryor and Barthelmie examined three different regional climate models in terms of wind density changes in a future U.S. experiencing modest but noticeable climate change (warming of about 2 degrees C relative to the end of the last century).
The scientists found the Canadian Regional Climate Model did the best job modeling the current wind climate, but included results from Regional Climate Model 3 (created in Italy but now developed in the U.S.) and the Hadley Centre Model (developed in the U.K.) for the sake of academic robustness and to see whether the different models agreed or disagreed when seeded with the same parameters.
Comparing model predictions for 2041-2062 to past observations of wind density (1979-2000), most areas were predicted to see little or no change, according to the study. The areas expected to see continuing high wind density – and, therefore, greater opportunities for wind energy production – are atop the Great Lakes, eastern New Mexico, southwestern Ohio, southern Texas and large swaths of several Mexican states, including Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas, Chihuahua and Durango, according to the report.