Wind turbines' efficiency boost could compensate for reduced wind resources
Climate Change Wind farms Wind turbines

Wind turbines' efficiency boost could compensate for reduced wind resources

Dr. Lindy Whitehouse
Dr. Lindy Whitehouse

In 10 seconds? Recent findings suggest that the efficiency of wind turbines could be ramped up by a quarter which could combat the decline in global wind resources that we are expected to see in the 21st century because of climate change.

Ok, so what did they find? Two scientists at the University of Freiburg used global climate models and information on the latest technology developments to assess both regional and global wind turbine efficiency now and in the future. They found that even though wind resources are expected to decline, the advancement in turbine technology could counteract this and ensure that wind power is still a viable renewable energy source.

Ok, but how does climate change impact wind power? Climate change not only affects global temperatures but can also have an impact on weather patterns and wind. Research suggests that wind speeds are expected to reduce as the climate continues to change, especially in historically windy places like Inner Mongolia in China and areas of India. In addition, periods of stagnant high atmospheric pressure can cause prolonged low wind conditions such as those experienced in Central Europe in 2021. While these changes in wind speed are small, they could lead to large changes in power generation.

How did they find this out? The researchers used climate models and techno-projections to estimate the wind decline and turbine efficiency that we could expect right through 2060. More specifically, the team used past trends in wind turbine fleet development combined with the expected development of wind turbine technology to describe four scenarios which ranged from no development through to a scenario that described an ambitious development of the fleet. This information was then combined with data from climate models to create 12 techno-climate change scenarios, which they used to calculate the efficiency of wind turbines on both a regional and global scale.

So what, get ready for even less windpower? On the contrary. The results show that if the wind turbine fleet is developed in line with advances in technology, then we will see an increase in capacity factor, and therefore energy production under all 12 scenarios. This demonstrates that developing technology will enable wind power production to increase despite declines in wind resources.

Horizontal Axis Wind Turbine Blade Design Methodologies for Efficiency Enhancement—A Review
Redesigning wind turbine blades can improve efficiency. Source: Rehman, Alam, Almens, et al, 2018

Ok, so how can this information be used? Wind power is one of the fastest growing areas in the renewable energy sector and people are always looking for the best places to build onshore wind farms. In addition to their calculations, the researchers also identified the best regions for harnessing wind power under future climate conditions. Not only are these regions easily accessible but they also represent areas where we can efficiently use these resources. This information can be used to decide where best to place individual wind turbines as well as larger wind farms.

What can be done next? Upgrading the wind turbine fleet could help increase energy production and increase the contribution of the wind turbine fleet to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change climate projection goals. However, it’s not as simple as it seems. A lot of wind turbine development plans often don’t make it past the planning stage due to social issues surrounding the projects, such as the fact that many people regard turbines as ugly so people don’t want them near their houses. There are also some concerns regarding their effect on the environment including both noise pollution and their impacts on wildlife, especially birds, bats, and insects.

Wind power is one of the fastest growing sources of renewable energy in the world …

Global cumulative wind power capacity reached approximately 837 gigawatts in 2021.

In 2021, solar and wind combined produced roughly 10% of the world’s annual energy.

China is the leading global producer of wind energy ….

And together, China and the United States account for about 79% of global wind energy production.

Lindy has distilled 10 research papers saving you 35 hours of reading time.

The Science Integrity Check of this 3-min Science Digest was performed by Dr. ASM Mainul Hasan.

Try Sparrow today

  • Read the latest science updates in just three minutes
  • Get five Digests emailed to you every week—100% free
  • No angle. No agenda. Just the facts.
  • Premium subscribers get access to the complete Sparrow library