Impact of Spatio-Climatic Variability on Environment-Hosted Land-based Renewables: Microclimates

Lead Research Organisation: Rothamsted Research
Department Name: Sustainable Soils and Grassland Systems

Abstract

Many current or projected future land-based renewable energy schemes are highly dependent on very localised climatic conditions, especially in regions of complex terrain. For example, mean wind speed, which is the determining factor in assessing the viability of wind farms, varies considerably over distances no greater than the size of a typical farm. Variations in the productivity of bio-energy crops also occur on similar spatial scales. This localised climatic variation will lead to significant differences in response of the landscape in hosting land-based renewables (LBR) and without better understanding could compromise our ability to deploy LBR to maximise environmental and energy gains. Currently climate prediction models operate at much coarser scales than are required for renewable energy applications. The required downscaling of climate data is achieved using a variety of empirical techniques, the reliability of which decreases as the complexity of the terrain increases. In this project, we will use newly emerging techniques of very high resolution nested numerical modelling, taken from the field of numerical weather prediction, to develop a micro-climate model, which will be able to make climate predictions locally down to scales of less than one kilometre. We will conduct validation experiments for the new model at wind farm and bio-energy crop sites. The model will be applied to the problems of (i) predicting the effect of a wind farm on soil carbon sequestration on an upland site, thus addressing the question of carbon payback time for wind farm schemes and (ii) for predicting local yield variations of bio-energy crops. Extremely high resolution numerical modelling of the effect of wind turbines on each other and on the air-land exchanges will be undertaken using a computational fluid dynamics model (CFD). The project will provide a new tool for climate impact prediction at the local scale and will provide new insight into the detailed physical, bio-physical and geochemical processes affecting the resilience and adaptation of sensitive (often upland) environments when hosting LBR.
 
Description The main outputs of this project are, first, that intra-catchment variation of predicted attainable production (yield) of perennial crops cannot be found as they are robust against inter- and intra-seasonal drought. Variation between sites are dominated by management (establishment), not by soil type although yield gap is greater in (less favourable) clay soils.
We have published an article which links spatial modelling to on-farm survey data and remote sensing.
This article is very important for future work including Earth Observation data. We just submitted a proposal to the Technology Strategy Board - Innovate UK program to improve our understanding of spatial variation
Exploitation Route The relationship between Remote Sensing derived data (NDVI) and yield show that crop cover differences/variation lead to yield uncertainty/loss. This RS based method could be developed as a management/monitoring/planning tool.
A proposal to TSB has been submitted
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Environment,Financial Services, and Management Consultancy

 
Description The project outputs have been used in feedback activities within the farm survey community and collaborators (e.g. Natural England). Further activities with Satellite Applications Catapult were fed into a Follow-on proposal which unfortunately failed because of a lack of commercialisation and KEC support due to multiple commitments. A collaboration with Prof Martin Wooster will be picked up and expanded under the new ASSIST joint strategic program between NERC/CEH and Rothamsted Research (grant approved).
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Energy,Environment
Impact Types Economic

 
Description Biomass Value Chain Modelling
Amount £148,000 (GBP)
Organisation Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 01/2011 
End 12/2012
 
Description Evaluation of on-farm energy crop yields in collaboration with Natural England, European Space Agency and U of Edinburgh 
Organisation European Space Agency
Country France, French Republic 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution In the UK most of the biomass crops (Miscanthus and SRC) are administered through Natural England (NE) in the Energy Crop Scheme (ECS). Yield data out of the ECS present a unique asset to evaluate large scale modelling and estimate the yield gap. In collaboration with NE we selected sites to evaluate the process-based crop model for simulating topographic (climatic) effects on crop performance. To evaluate regional climatic effects we sent out a series of questionnaires since summer 2011 in two successive short-term appointments. We distributed a 1st draft report and invited NE for discussion in spring 2012 with the conclusion to intensify the survey. Since autumn 2012 we have upgraded the data base and a report is being drafted. Data from about 1000 ha of Miscanthus show a highly variable yield (9.3 +/-3 t/ha) in their 5th harvest year. These data are being compared to NDVI derived from Landsat data.
Collaborator Contribution Natural England organised the distribution of a series of questionnaires to farmers under the Energy Crop Scheme. Members of Natural England also organised some on-farm/field meetings to survey the planting/production success European Space Agency provided Landsat-5 TM scenes for September 2011 to derive NDVI for the on-farm experimental sites and farmers fields, for which a series of respective plant cover and yield data were available. University of Edinburgh (School of Geo Sciences) supervised a student (A Barker) in the pursuit of her MSc in Environmental Protection and Management, within which land cover and NDVI for fields within the Energy Crop Scheme were compared in 2011/12. On the basis of that MSc on-farm yield data and NDVI were compared later on in the project (2013).
Impact - report to Natural England - poster presentation at British Soil Science Society meeting in Lancaster in 2013 - Invited presentation at the 22nd European Biomass Conference and Exhibition in Hamburg, Germany, June 2014
Start Year 2011
 
Description Evaluation of on-farm energy crop yields in collaboration with Natural England, European Space Agency and U of Edinburgh 
Organisation Natural England
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution In the UK most of the biomass crops (Miscanthus and SRC) are administered through Natural England (NE) in the Energy Crop Scheme (ECS). Yield data out of the ECS present a unique asset to evaluate large scale modelling and estimate the yield gap. In collaboration with NE we selected sites to evaluate the process-based crop model for simulating topographic (climatic) effects on crop performance. To evaluate regional climatic effects we sent out a series of questionnaires since summer 2011 in two successive short-term appointments. We distributed a 1st draft report and invited NE for discussion in spring 2012 with the conclusion to intensify the survey. Since autumn 2012 we have upgraded the data base and a report is being drafted. Data from about 1000 ha of Miscanthus show a highly variable yield (9.3 +/-3 t/ha) in their 5th harvest year. These data are being compared to NDVI derived from Landsat data.
Collaborator Contribution Natural England organised the distribution of a series of questionnaires to farmers under the Energy Crop Scheme. Members of Natural England also organised some on-farm/field meetings to survey the planting/production success European Space Agency provided Landsat-5 TM scenes for September 2011 to derive NDVI for the on-farm experimental sites and farmers fields, for which a series of respective plant cover and yield data were available. University of Edinburgh (School of Geo Sciences) supervised a student (A Barker) in the pursuit of her MSc in Environmental Protection and Management, within which land cover and NDVI for fields within the Energy Crop Scheme were compared in 2011/12. On the basis of that MSc on-farm yield data and NDVI were compared later on in the project (2013).
Impact - report to Natural England - poster presentation at British Soil Science Society meeting in Lancaster in 2013 - Invited presentation at the 22nd European Biomass Conference and Exhibition in Hamburg, Germany, June 2014
Start Year 2011
 
Description Evaluation of on-farm energy crop yields in collaboration with Natural England, European Space Agency and U of Edinburgh 
Organisation University of Edinburgh
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution In the UK most of the biomass crops (Miscanthus and SRC) are administered through Natural England (NE) in the Energy Crop Scheme (ECS). Yield data out of the ECS present a unique asset to evaluate large scale modelling and estimate the yield gap. In collaboration with NE we selected sites to evaluate the process-based crop model for simulating topographic (climatic) effects on crop performance. To evaluate regional climatic effects we sent out a series of questionnaires since summer 2011 in two successive short-term appointments. We distributed a 1st draft report and invited NE for discussion in spring 2012 with the conclusion to intensify the survey. Since autumn 2012 we have upgraded the data base and a report is being drafted. Data from about 1000 ha of Miscanthus show a highly variable yield (9.3 +/-3 t/ha) in their 5th harvest year. These data are being compared to NDVI derived from Landsat data.
Collaborator Contribution Natural England organised the distribution of a series of questionnaires to farmers under the Energy Crop Scheme. Members of Natural England also organised some on-farm/field meetings to survey the planting/production success European Space Agency provided Landsat-5 TM scenes for September 2011 to derive NDVI for the on-farm experimental sites and farmers fields, for which a series of respective plant cover and yield data were available. University of Edinburgh (School of Geo Sciences) supervised a student (A Barker) in the pursuit of her MSc in Environmental Protection and Management, within which land cover and NDVI for fields within the Energy Crop Scheme were compared in 2011/12. On the basis of that MSc on-farm yield data and NDVI were compared later on in the project (2013).
Impact - report to Natural England - poster presentation at British Soil Science Society meeting in Lancaster in 2013 - Invited presentation at the 22nd European Biomass Conference and Exhibition in Hamburg, Germany, June 2014
Start Year 2011
 
Description Biomass and Energy Crops V Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact There were talks and discussion over two days and an open panel discussion and interviews on the second day, see link below
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZCMCCAkmtgV5TsNaBCpdIQ/videos
 
Description ETI-Bioenergy Research Focus 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact These discussions shaped two major research project of national (UK) importance

We subsequently competed and contributed to two project proposals which eventually got continued in an on-going EPSRC-funded project (Bioenergy value chain optimization, led by Imperial College)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010,2011
 
Description EU Biomass Conf and Exhibition 2014, Hamburg/Germany 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Type Of Presentation paper presentation
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact As session chair and presenter I had a good visibility and had a good discussion afterwards

Invited Paper contribution to Biomass & Bioenergy to combine on-farm yield monitoring, modelling and remote sensing to develop a resource tracking tool
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014