Energy

American, Asian and European wind farming could take a serious hit from climate change

American, Asian and European w...
Blue areas represent a drop in wind power between 2020 and 2040; wind farming in the Northern hemisphere may see reduced yields in the coming decades due to climate change
Blue areas represent a drop in wind power between 2020 and 2040; wind farming in the Northern hemisphere may see reduced yields in the coming decades due to climate change
View 2 Images
Potential global wind power in coming years. Top images represent the next 40 years, bottom images represent the next 80 years. Left images represent lower emissions, right images represent higher emissions scenario. Red areas are wind power hotspots, blue areas are reductions. White areas are uncertain.
1/2
Potential global wind power in coming years. Top images represent the next 40 years, bottom images represent the next 80 years. Left images represent lower emissions, right images represent higher emissions scenario. Red areas are wind power hotspots, blue areas are reductions. White areas are uncertain.
Blue areas represent a drop in wind power between 2020 and 2040; wind farming in the Northern hemisphere may see reduced yields in the coming decades due to climate change
2/2
Blue areas represent a drop in wind power between 2020 and 2040; wind farming in the Northern hemisphere may see reduced yields in the coming decades due to climate change

According to new climate modeling data, the Northern hemisphere's wind farms could see a dramatic downturn in productivity over the next hundred years, as climate change disrupts some of the key drivers that shape the world's wind patterns. The news is better down South.

Wind power generation is increasing at an average of 22 percent per year, much of it in the Northern hemisphere. But a climate researchers out of Boulder, Colorado, have warned that wind farm investors should pay heed to what climate change will mean for their power yields.

According to a paper released by Kristopher Karnauskas, Julie K. Lindquist and Lei Zhang, warmer temperatures at the North Pole will reduce the temperature difference between the arctic and the equator, a key driver of the strong winds that wind farms have relied on in the mid-latitude Northern hemisphere.

The team sees possible declines in wind energy production in key areas: Northern America, Japan, Mongolia and the Mediterranean moving toward the end of the century. "Europe is a big question mark," says Karnauskas. "We have no idea what we'll see there. That's almost scary, given that Europe is producing a lot of wind energy already."

Potential global wind power in coming years. Top images represent the next 40 years, bottom images represent the next 80 years. Left images represent lower emissions, right images represent higher emissions scenario. Red areas are wind power hotspots, blue areas are reductions. White areas are uncertain.
Potential global wind power in coming years. Top images represent the next 40 years, bottom images represent the next 80 years. Left images represent lower emissions, right images represent higher emissions scenario. Red areas are wind power hotspots, blue areas are reductions. White areas are uncertain.

The forecast for the Southern hemisphere changes depending on how carbon dioxide emissions are managed in the intervening years. The group's research suggests that if carbon emissions remain high, areas like Brazil, West Africa, South Africa and Australia could be in for significantly more wind.

This is because there's vastly more ocean than land in the southern hemisphere, and land heats up much faster than the sea. This temperature gradient is good news for wind farms.

If carbon emissions are kept low, however, the group believes it's likely that wind farms in the Northern hemisphere will lose power without any rise in power in the Southern hemisphere.

The group sees its initial research as a roadmap for further study, which could assist countries in deciding where to invest in wind technology as they try to meet their renewable energy goals.

Source: Nature Geoscience, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences

6 comments
EcoLogical
Was this wind farm doom and gloom prophecy funded by the fossil fuel industry?
Douglas Bennett Rogers
The reduction in wind shear will mean a reduction in severe storms. This is good news for wind energy and the economy in general.
Kpar
This would be very interesting, if one actually believed it.
Nik
All of the existing wind farms will be junk by the end of this century, so a drop in wind energy will be irrelevant to them by then. Maybe by then however, someone will have the wit to start investing in geothermal electricity production, which is the only long term dependable energy source.
ljaques
OHMIGODITSGLOBALWARMING/CLIMATECHANGE/TIPPINGPOINT! ANDWEREALLGONNADIE! Those computer modeling data sets are both incomplete and falsified in many cases, and the future trends have never been correct. Each new IPCC report contradicts the last. Many of the old supporting (skeptical) videos have mysteriously vanished from places like Youtube as the Crusaders (Alarmists) cleanse the Internet of any resistance. How'd you get roped into doing this piece, Loz?
F. Tuijn
The average wind speed is not very important for the usefulness of wind power. What is important is the amount of time that the wind speed is to low or too high to generate power. So look at the expectation for the wind speed over the next twenty or thirty year, the life span of a wind turbine, and choose the design wind speed to be used for the turbines to be built - new ones or replacements for the turbines whose life has expired.