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

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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.

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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


  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


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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

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    Supplementary Information

    Supplementary Figures 1-10 and Supplementary Tables 1-2


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