Assessing climate change impacts on European wind energy from ENSEMBLES high-resolution climate projections


Climate change may alter the geographical pattern and intensity of near-surface winds which are the “fuel” for wind turbines. In a context of fast current and planned development of wind power worldwide, investigating the impacts of climate change on wind power generation is necessary. This study aims at assessing future changes in the potential for wind power generation over the whole Europe and in the effective wind power production from national wind farms operating at the end of 2012 and planned by 2020. For this purpose, a simplified wind power generation model is applied to an ensemble of 15 regional climate projections achieved from 10 Regional Climate Models downscaling six Global Climate Models under the SRES A1B emission scenario from the ENSEMBLES project. The use of a relatively large multi-model ensemble allows the identification of robust changes and the estimation of a range of uncertainties associated with projected changes. We show with a high level of confidence that, under the A1B scenario, over most of Europe, changes in wind power potential will remain within ±15 and ±20 % by mid and late century respectively. Overall, we find a tendency toward a decrease of the wind power potential over Mediterranean areas and an increase over Northern Europe. Changes in multi-year power production will not exceed 5 and 15 % in magnitude at the European and national scale respectively for both wind farms in operation at the end of 2012 and planned by 2020. Therefore, climate change should neither undermine nor favor wind energy development in Europe. However, accounting for climate change effects in particular regions may help optimize the wind power development and energy mix plans.

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We thank the three reviewers for helping us clarify the manuscript. This research work has received funding from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007- 2013) under the project IMPACT2C: grant agreement n° 282746. The ENSEMBLES data used in this work was funded by the EU FP6 Integrated Project ENSEMBLES (Contract number 505539) whose support is acknowledged. We are grateful to Ole Christensen for providing additional information regarding the ENSEMBLES database. Results also used the methodology and expertise developed within the CLIMIX DSM-Energy project from the Commissariat à l’Energie Atomique et aux Energies Alternatives (CEA).

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Correspondence to Isabelle Tobin.

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Tobin, I., Vautard, R., Balog, I. et al. Assessing climate change impacts on European wind energy from ENSEMBLES high-resolution climate projections. Climatic Change 128, 99–112 (2015).

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  • Wind Speed
  • Wind Turbine
  • Wind Power
  • Wind Energy
  • Wind Farm