Cost-effective expansion of the wind energy industry benefits from robust estimates of wind resource and operating conditions. Extreme design loads contribute to wind turbine selection and cost, and are determined in part by the fifty year return period sustained wind speed (U50). Here we derive a global, homogenized and geospatially explicit digital atlas of U50 and associated confidence intervals based on ERA5 reanalysis output at wind turbine hub heights. U50 estimates derived using ERA5 output and four different methods are shown to lie within an average of 9–13% of those from point measurements. The reference wind speed (Uref) derived using five times the mean wind speed as specified in the wind turbine design standards is generally a conservative estimate of U50. Particularly after application of additional safety factors, this may result in over-engineering of wind turbines and excess capital expenditures.
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ERA5 data are available from https://climate.copernicus.eu/climate-reanalysis. Netcdf files containing the digital atlas are available for download from ZENODO (https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.4306822). An Excel spreadsheet containing U50 estimates from in situ observations is given as Supplementary Data 1.
Matlab code used to compute Uref and U50 estimates can be downloaded from ZENODO at https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.4306822.
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This work is supported by the US Department of Energy (DE-SC0016438 and DE-SC0016605). The research used computing resources from the National Science Foundation: Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (allocation award to S.C.P. is TG-ATM170024). We gratefully acknowledge the European Center for Medium Range Weather Forecasts staff who generated and support dissemination of the ERA5 data set, and the comments from four external reviewers.
The authors declare no competing interests.
Peer review information Nature Energy thanks Andrew Clifton, Julia Gottschall, Xiaoli Guo Larsén and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
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Pryor, S.C., Barthelmie, R.J. A global assessment of extreme wind speeds for wind energy applications. Nat Energy 6, 268–276 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41560-020-00773-7