Will Climate Change Affect Wind Speeds?

When my firm built the first turbine in 2002, I asked my wind expert the question.  Will climate change have an impact on wind speeds?  It is important to know the answer, as it could have an impact on revenues over the 20-30 year operation of a wind turbine.  His response was that there had been no detectable changes in wind speeds as a result of climate change.

North American Windpower has an article this month with an interesting update.  Four of the computer models used by the International Panel on Climate change were run, for two different scenarios.  One scenario had a business as usual approach, and the other a carbon constrained approach.  Both studied the impact on expected winds in 2046-2055.  The outcome of the models did not have full agreement, but where they did, the results are interesting.

The models are forecasting a modest increase in wind speed – about .05-.1 m/sec in central North America running from Texas, through the US midwest, Ontario, and Quebec.  A larger increase of up to .2 m/sec increase was forecast for James Bay and the eastern side of southern Hudson Bay.  The Yucatan Peninsula is forecasting a similar increase.  The rest of the continent will see very little change, or very small decreases.  Generally, the storm tracks are expected to be further north, so areas above 40 degrees will see more storms and winds.

Interestingly, there is some seasonal variance expected.  In Ontario, and the US midwest, the consensus among the models is strong.  Winter winds will increase, and summer winds will decrease.  In Texas along the coast, it will be the opposite, with an increase in summer winds (hurricanes?), and a decrease in winter winds.

These studies will increase the confidence of lenders in the wind business, in a small way.  What they basically say is that climate change does not going to have a significant impact, even by mid century, which is long after any debt levels are paid off.   And the forecast of the impact of climate change is slightly positive for most of the continent.

But keep your wind farm away from Greenland.  It has the largest decrease forecast in the models.

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