On the interaction of wind energy with climate and weather

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This study focuses on the interaction of large-scale wind energy with the atmosphere; namely, the impact that a substantial development of the wind resource may have on climate and weather as well as the impact that anthropogenic global warming (AGW) may have on the amount of available energy in the wind.

A large downstream climate response to wind turbines distributed throughout the central United States is shown in model results from the Community Atmosphere Model (CAM). The mean response takes the form of a stationary Rossby wave. Furthermore, a case study is shown where the wind turbines altered a storm system over the North Atlantic. The resulting magnitude of the anomalous 500 hPa geopotential height field is comparable to the range of forecast uncertainty, which indicates that impacts induced in weather systems may be forecastable

Building on this work, a thorough examination of wind farm and atmospheric parameters, including wind farm size, position, and parameterization as well as atmospheric static stability and jet strength is carried out using an idealized version of the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model. Downstream impacts were found to grow in magnitude as wind farm size and the value of damping used to parameterize the wind turbines was increased. Altering the position of the wind farm with respect to the westerlies and synoptic disturbances revealed that the interaction between baroclinic instabilities and the wind farm enables downstream propagation and growth of the wind farm impacts. However, far downstream impacts were observed to be somewhat independent of the wind farm position, i.e., similar downstream effects were noted for model runs initialized with wind farms 20° of longitude from each other. By increasing atmospheric static stability, a fast saturation of wind farm-induced anomalies was observed throughout the atmosphere. This observation is surprising in light of the increased phasing between surface and upper atmospheric anomalies when static stability is low. Anomalies were able to propagate farther downstream over a shorter period of time when jet strength was increased.

To study projected climate change impacts on the wind resource, data from the third phase of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP3) and the North American Regional Climate Change Assessment Project (NARCCAP) were studied. The results are dominated by substantial intermodel variability; however, many of the models project an increase in wind speeds and energy over the central United States. This increase in wind energy is related to an increase in low-frequency, high-speed transient wind speeds, which have a high power density due to the cubic relationship between wind speed and power.