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Wind power is critical to reducing fossil fuel emissions and mitigating the impacts of global climate change but recently, scientists found that changes in climate may make wind a less reliable energy source. For example, one study found that a weakening land-sea temperature gradient due to rising temperatures is making historically windy regions, like Inner Mongolia in China, less windy.
But to what extent will wind power decline in the future? Answering this question is critical as more and more countries commit to decarbonization through renewable power.
Now, Harvard researchers have evaluated the potential change for on- and offshore wind power in China and India as a result of human-induced climate change. They found that while wind power potential in both China and India will decrease in the future, the reduction is small -- only about a 1% change in China and 2% in India.
The researchers found that regions with a decrease in potential are projected to have less diurnal and seasonal variabilities, which could actually allow for easier grid integration of wind power.
The research was published in Environmental Research Letters.
“Overall, there will still be enormous potential for wind power in China and India in the future and climate change should not present a major concern for its availability,” said Peter Sherman, a graduate student in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences and first author of the paper.
The research team used high-resolution climate models under historical and future emissions scenarios to determine if and how regional climate changes could impact plans for wind power growth.
“Our research has important bearing on future electricity systems planning,” said Michael McElroy, the Gilbert Butler Professor of Environmental Studies at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and senior author of the paper. “While wind may go down a little, it’s not enough to impact wind power integration and expansion, which must play a major role in carbon neutral aspirations.”
Next, the researchers aim to extend this work to other regions, including Europe and the US, which recently faced multifaceted grid issues in Texas.
The team will also explore whether there are detectable changes to the solar power potential over these regions, which may be more sensitive to emissions changes as air quality can directly affect incoming solar radiation.
The research was co-authored by Shaojie Song and Xinyu Chen. It was supported by the Harvard Global Institute.
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