CHAMPAIGN, Ill., 7/17/20: The Midwest is a particularly promising region for future wind energy development out to 2100 when accounting for climate change, according to a new study at the University of Illinois (U. of I.).
“Climate change will influence wind resources in the future; in the central U.S., there are a lot of uncertainties in terms of changing variability of wind speed and atmospheric circulations due to climate change,” said research climate scientist Liang Chen at the U. of I.’s Illinois State Water Survey.
Renewable wind resources are harnessed to provide energy without producing greenhouse gas emissions. In 2016, wind turbines provided 8 percent of the U.S. electric generating capacity, according to Chen. To benefit from wind turbine-produced energy, strong, reliable winds are necessary.
Wind speed has been changing as a result of human-induced climate change and is projected to continue this course in the future.
Using high-resolution climate simulations, Chen found that if greenhouse gas emission rates are high, wind speeds are expected to decrease over most of the western U.S. and the East Coast by the end of the century. However, the central U.S., especially the Southern Plains, will experience increased wind speed in some seasons.
Chen investigated regional seasonal variations to determine the areas with the most potential for future development of wind energy.
Findings showed that in the central U.S., the strongest average winds are found in the winter and spring and the weakest are in the summer. Particularly in the Midwest, a slight increase in wind speed is projected for the winter and spring, with weaker winds in the summer and fall. This same pattern was found for the Northern Plains.
In the Southern Plains, particularly Texas and Oklahoma, wind speeds are expected to increase by 5 to 10 percent in the spring and as much as 20 percent in the summer.
The western U.S., including California where wind farms are now prevalent, is expected to experience decreased wind speeds throughout the year, with the strongest drop in the summer and fall.
Where wind energy is reduced, solar energy can possibly become more prominent in the future. In a preliminary study using state-of-the-art climate models, Chen found that solar radiation is expected to increase over some regions of the United States in the future.
The wind energy study was published in the journal Renewable Energy.
Media contact: Liang Chen, 217-300-3770, firstname.lastname@example.org