Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research

Less reliable wind energy production in Europe due to climate change?

Figure: Robust changes for the end of the 21st century (2071-2100) for mean annual wind energy production (Eout, in %), for intra-annual variability of wind energy production (in GWh), and the occurrence of low wind speed events (in 3-hourly dates per year).

In recent years, renewable energies started to play a key role for the energy supply sector in Europe. Moreover, the EU plans to further increase their share as part of the energy transition and thus reduce our carbon footprint. Within this context, wind has emerged as an important renewable energy source with high potential benefits. Since wind energy production is strongly influenced by the local weather and climate conditions, it may also be affected by climate change, both in terms of mean values and variability. Regional climate projections are a useful tool to quantify climate change impacts on the wind energy production in Europe.

Our study (Moemken et al., 2018) uses a spatially and temporally highly resolved multi-model ensemble based on nine global and regional climate model chains of the EURO-CORDEX initiative. The results show only marginal changes (mostly a slight decrease) in the projected average wind power production on the continental scale for Europe, within the range of +/-5% by the end of the 21st century compared to recent climate conditions. However, these changes can reach up to +/-20% for individual countries, and large seasonal differences were identified. Furthermore, the study reports an increased variability of wind energy production on different time scales (from a few hours to several years) for large areas in Northern, Central and Eastern Europe. In particular, the results indicate an increased occurrence of low wind speed events (wind speeds < 3 m/s) over the European continent, while at the same time the optimal wind conditions for electricity production (wind speeds between 11 and 20 m/s) decrease over the sea areas.

The projected changes pose a major challenge for the wind energy management in Europe. However, suitable countermeasures and the adaptation of planning strategies, e.g. the decentralized distribution of wind farms and the expansion of a pan-European electricity distribution network, could mitigate the impact of climate change on wind energy production in Europe.

Reference: Moemken J, Reyers M, Feldmann H, Pinto JG (2018) Future changes of wind speed and wind energy potentials in EURO-CORDEX ensemble simulations. Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, 123, doi: 10.1029/2018JD028473

[Working group: Regional Climate and Weather Hazards]