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Global Warming Won’t Change Wind Power Potential, Indiana Researchers Say


Wind power is the most used form of clean energy that nations around the world are now harnessing as one of their most valuable asset. It has been speculated, though, that power extracted from wind will decrease while global temperatures will rise during the next decades.

A study performed by Indiana University Bloomington researchers proves this theory is wrong, and encourages decision makers to pursue their existing plans.

The most intense areas for wind power in the U.S. are over the Great Plains and the Great Lakes, of which the first is already being used and the second is being looked at by the U.S. and Canada. “Areas where the model predicts decreases in wind density are quite limited, and many of the areas where wind density is predicted to decrease are off limits for wind farms anyway,” says Provost’s Professor of Atmospheric Science Sara Pryor, the project’s principal investigator.

Significant decreases in wind density or wind patterns over these important areas are out of the question, the study says.

“We decided it was time someone did a thorough analysis of long term-patterns in wind density,” said coauthor Rebecca Barthelmie, also a professor of atmospheric science. “There are a lot of myths out there about the stability of wind patterns, and industry and government also want more information before making decisions to expand it.”

They used three different regional climate models for academic robustness, and after the results were summed up with one of the four atmospheric-ocean general circulation model, most of the areas they studied showed little or no change in wind density or pattern. “There was quite a bit of variability in predicted wind densities, but interestingly, that variability was very similar to the variability we observe in current wind patterns,” Pryor said.

Although these results are preliminary, and climate models are getting modified all the time, the authors pledge to keep updating the study, so decision makers rest assured of its top scientific quality.

Companies that build wind turbines usually recover their investment in as little as three months for each turbine. Bigger and taller turbines are envisioned, with some of them lasting for 30 years. Pryor says they could last for longer, but by that time they’ll be technologically outdated and will have to be changed.

There’s place for everyone in the wind power business, since only 2 percent of the United States’ energy is provided by wind, although there’s plenty of space and potential around the country. Grids will also have to be updated, so that one windy area to be able to power other that have less, along with energy storage technologies. The development and maintenance of all these will surely create significant amounts of new jobs in the following years and will change the shape of the energy industry as we know it today.

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