- Joint Program Report
Abstract: Under the ambitious low-carbon goals set forth by the recent Paris Accord as well as the prospects for large penetration of renewable energy-generation technologies, the need for advances in quantitative insights and foresights into the current and future availability of renewable energy resources is greater than ever. We have analyzed the changing risks in worldwide wind-power resource availability using large-ensemble simulations that span a range of human-forced climate scenarios. To enable this analysis, we construct estimates of wind power density (WPD) via a hybrid method that combines the emerging patterns of change in near-surface winds from climate models with the large-ensemble, probabilistic projections of the MIT Integrated Global System Model (IGSM). Globally speaking, at a “75% consensus” threshold criterion (at least 3 out of every 4 members agree in the sign of change), by mid-century under an emissions scenario that assumes no further actions to limit emissions, an increase of about 2% in annual-averaged WPD is expected. Under the most aggressive mitigation scenario considered associated with a global climate warming target of 1.5˚C, the expected increase is reduced to 0.5%. There is a notable seasonality to these expected global changes, with global WPD increases during December-February, and decreases across all remaining seasons. Salient and coherent geographic patterns are also found, however, there is a strong sensitivity of these results to the strictness of model-trend consensus applied, particularly in the spatial extent of the results that exceed the consensus criterion. At 90% consensus (at least 9 out of every 10 ensemble members must agree in sign of change) only 5%-8% of globe passes this threshold in the ensemble of WPD changes. When contrasting the global-scale trends with respect to onshore and offshore regions, annual WPD will increase slightly offshore (median and average less than 1%) but slightly decrease onshore (-1% in the median), yet the seasonality of these WPD changes is more pronounced.