- Joint Program Report
Wind power generation has doubled in Australia in the last 5 years, and is expected to grow rapidly in the coming decades. It now meets 3.4% of Australia’s energy demand, and this percentage is predicted to increase to 12% by 2030. But expanding the nation’s wind power capacity in a way that maximizes reliable power generation is a major challenge.
In this report, researchers at the MIT Joint Program studied the viability of different geographical regions for wind farms in Australia. They established the distribution of the wind resource across the continent, measuring its strength, variabilty and intermittency, using a number of relevant measures that have not been used before to assess the regional-scale wind resource. The analysis used data from MERRA, a NASA project that integrates data from satellites and other observations, to reconstruct the wind resource from 1979 to 2009.
They then used the wind distribution data to determine if wind power could be aggregated, or spread over several farms across many locations. Aggregating wind power in this way creates a more reliable power source, because when wind dies down at one wind farm, another farm where the wind is still blowing can continue to provide power.
The reconstructions of the wind resource show the strongest winds in the western and southern parts of the continent. Although it is strong, wind in this area is intermittent and farms are far from population centers in the east. Further, the intermittency of the wind in the southwest of the continent is spatially distributed such that the aggregation of the wind resource over large areas will not result in a significantly more reliable wind resource. These factors combine to make this area of Australia a relatively unattractive location for large-scale wind farm development.
In comparison, in eastern Australia the wind resource is weaker at broad scales, but is more constant. Aggregating wind farms in this area produces a greater benefit in terms of mitigating intermittency of the wind resource, providing a more reliable and therefore more economically viable resource in eastern Australia.