Article

Regional climate model simulations indicate limited climatic impacts by operational and planned European wind farms

Received:
Accepted:
Published online:

Abstract

The rapid development of wind energy has raised concerns about environmental impacts. Temperature changes are found in the vicinity of wind farms and previous simulations have suggested that large-scale wind farms could alter regional climate. However, assessments of the effects of realistic wind power development scenarios at the scale of a continent are missing. Here we simulate the impacts of current and near-future wind energy production according to European Union energy and climate policies. We use a regional climate model describing the interactions between turbines and the atmosphere, and find limited impacts. A statistically significant signal is only found in winter, with changes within ±0.3 °C and within 0–5% for precipitation. It results from the combination of local wind farm effects and changes due to a weak, but robust, anticyclonic-induced circulation over Europe. However, the impacts remain much weaker than the natural climate interannual variability and changes expected from greenhouse gas emissions.

Additional access options:

Already a subscriber?  Log in  now or  Register  for online access.

References

  1. 1.

    The Wind Power, (2013).

  2. 2.

    & Assessing climate change impacts on the near-term stability of the wind energy resource over the United States. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 108, 8167–8171 (2012).

  3. 3.

    , & Probabilistic downscaling approaches: ‘Application to wind cumulative distribution functions’. Geophys. Res. Lett. 36, L11708 (2009).

  4. 4.

    , , , & Regional changes in wind energy potential over Europe using regional climate model ensemble projections. J. Appl. Meteorol. Climatol. 52, 903–917 (2013).

  5. 5.

    & Impacts of wind farms on surface air temperatures. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 107, 17899–17904 (2010).

  6. 6.

    et al. Impacts of wind farms on land surface temperature. Nat. Clim. Chang. 2, 539–543 (2012).

  7. 7.

    et al. Diurnal and seasonal variations of wind farm impacts on land surface temperature over Western Texas. Clim. Dynam. 41, 307–326 (2013).

  8. 8.

    et al. Crop Wind Energy Experiment – Observations of surface layer, boundary layer, and mesoscale interactions with a wind farm. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc. 94, 655–672 (2013).

  9. 9.

    Simulating impacts of wind farms on local hydrometeorology. J. Wind Eng. Industrial Aerodyn. 99, 491–498 (2011).

  10. 10.

    , & Can large wind farms affect local meteorology? J. Geophys. Res. 109, D19101 (2004).

  11. 11.

    , & Experimental study of the impact of large-scale wind farms on land–atmosphere exchanges. Environ. Res. Lett. 8, 015002 (2013).

  12. 12.

    et al. Local and mesoscale impacts of wind farms as parameterized in mesoscale NWP model. Mon. Weather Rev. 140, 3017–3038 (2012).

  13. 13.

    et al. In situ observations of the influence of a large onshore wind farm on near-surface temperature, turbulence intensity and wind speed profiles. Environ. Res. Lett. 8, 034006 (2013).

  14. 14.

    , & 2011: Estimating maximum global land surface wind power extractability and associated climatic consequences. Earth Syst. Dyn. 2, 1–12 (2011).

  15. 15.

    & Are global wind power resource estimates overstated? Environ. Res. Lett. 8, 015021 (2013).

  16. 16.

    & Weather response to a large wind turbine array. Atmos. Chem. Phys. 10, 769–775 (2010).

  17. 17.

    et al. The influence of large-scale wind power on global climate. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 101, 16115–16120 (2004).

  18. 18.

    & The effect of a giant wind farm on precipitation in a regional climate model. Environ. Res. Lett. 6, 045101 (2011).

  19. 19.

    & Potential climatic impacts and reliability of very large-scale wind farms. Atmos. Chem. Phys. 10, 2053–2061 (2010).

  20. 20.

    , & Parameterization of wind farms in climate models. J. Climate 26, 6439–6458 (2013).

  21. 21.

    et al. A description of the Advanced Research WRF version 3. NCAR Tech. Note 1–125 (2008).

  22. 22.

    & Development of an improved turbulence closure model for the atmospheric boundary layer. J. Meteor. Soc. Jpn 87, 895–912 (2009).

  23. 23.

    European Commission. Energy, Action Plans and Forecasts, (2013).

  24. 24.

    et al. The simulation of European heat waves from an ensemble of 1 regional climate models within the EURO-CORDEX project. Clim. Dynam. 41, 2555–2575 (2013).

  25. 25.

    , et al. EURO-CORDEX: New high-resolution climate change projections for European impact research. Regional Environ. Change doi:10.1007/s10113-013-0499-2 (2013).

  26. 26.

    et al. Evaluation of WRF model performance in different European regions with the DELTA-FAIRMODE evaluation tool. Int. J. Environ. Pollution 50, Nos. 1/2/3/4, 201283–97 (2012).

  27. 27.

    & Improving the representation of resolved and unresolved topographic effects on surface wind in the WRF model. J. Appl. Meteorol. Climatol. 51, 300–316 (2012).

  28. 28.

    et al. Differences between downscaling with spectral and grid nudging using WRF. Atmos. Chem. Phys. 12, 3601–3610 (2012).

  29. 29.

    , , & The impact of turbulence intensity and atmospheric stability on power deficits due to wind turbine wakes at Horns Rev wind farm. Wind Energy 15, 183196 (2012).

  30. 30.

    , , , & Northern hemisphere atmospheric stilling partly attributed to an increase in surface roughness. Nat. Geosci. 3, 756–761 (2010).

  31. 31.

    & . (2013).

  32. 32.

    & Convective parameterization for mesoscale models: The Kain-Fritsch scheme. The representation of cumulus convection in numerical models. Meteor. Monogr., Amer. Meteor. Soc. 24, 165–170 (1993).

Download references

Acknowledgements

All simulations have been carried out on the CCRT-TGCC supercomputer centre. The evaluation framework of the model wind speeds, together with the application of the wind power generation calculations over the European fleet were supported partly within the FP7 IMPACT2C project (grant FP7-ENV.2011.1.1.6-1) and the Commissariat à l’Energie Atomique et aux Energies Alternatives (CEA/DSM) internal research programme on energy. We are thankful to T. Peterson who provided us access to the ISD-LITE data base, and to P.F. Back for collecting, formatting and making accessible the wind production data.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement, IPSL, laboratoire CEA-CNRS-UVSQ Orme des Merisiers, 91191 Gif sur Yvette Cedex, France

    • Robert Vautard
    • , Isabelle Tobin
    • , François-Marie Bréon
    •  & Pascal Yiou
  2. I-Tésé, Institut de Technico-Economie des Systèmes Energétiques CEA/DEN/DANS Centre de Saclay Batiment 125 F-91191 Gif sur Yvette Cedex, France

    • Françoise Thais
    •  & Jean-Guy Devezeaux de Lavergne
  3. Institut National de l’Environnement industriel et de RISques, Parc Technologique Alata, BP2, Verneuil-en-Halatte 60550, France

    • Augustin Colette
  4. ENEA Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development; UTMEA-CLIM Energy Environment Modeling Unit—Climate & Impact Modeling Laboratory, via Anguillarese 301, I-00123 Roma, Italy

    • Paolo Michele Ruti

Authors

  1. Search for Robert Vautard in:

  2. Search for Françoise Thais in:

  3. Search for Isabelle Tobin in:

  4. Search for François-Marie Bréon in:

  5. Search for Jean-Guy Devezeaux de Lavergne in:

  6. Search for Augustin Colette in:

  7. Search for Pascal Yiou in:

  8. Search for Paolo Michele Ruti in:

Contributions

R.V. designed the experiments with his team and carried out the simulations. F.T. participated in the experimental designing and designed the 2020 wind energy scenario. I.T. carried out the evaluation of the model wind. F.-M.B. collected the wind energy-output data and carried out the evaluation of simulated power outputs. J.-G.D.d.L., P.Y. and P.M.R. participated in designing of the experiments and the interpretation of results. A.C. contributed to the modelling chain construction. All authors participated to the article writing.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Robert Vautard.

Supplementary information

PDF files

  1. 1.

    Supplementary Information

    Supplementary Figures 1-10 and Supplementary Tables 1-2

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.