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

Lead Research Organisation: University of Reading
Department Name: Meteorology

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 Weather typing was used to develop an improved understanding of UK wind-power resource during periods of extreme winter electricity demand. On average, the coldest daily temperatures in southern Great Britain (strongly associated with very high demand) were found to be associated with easterly winds from the European continent. This suggests that a moderate amount of wind resource could be available during the periods of most extreme demand (with a many-year return period). The lowest UK-average winds were also associated with cold UK-average temperatures and a high-pressure system over the UK, but the temperatures were typically milder than the easterly wind situation. This provides a qualitatively different picture to the "low wind cold snap" described in the scientific and grey literature.
Exploitation Route UK energy industry
Sectors Energy

 
Description The specific research findings of this award have been used primarily within the "Microclimates" project consortium. However, the broader research area and collaborations that this award initiated and helped to develop have found much greater exploitation in the energy sector. For example: - Meteorological "reanalysis data" was used in National Grid's "generation capacity assessment" process (2012) - National Grid's operational wind-power forecasting team (through separate projects funded by National Grid, 2012-present) - Use of month-ahead ensemble forecast data and understanding year-to-year variability for energy trading (provision of consultancy, research projects, training courses to commercial companies - including a NERC CASE student and a PURE associate placement) - Advice to consultancy companies and the International Energy Agency on climate change impacts on energy sector (including contribution to IEA publication "Redrawing the Energy Climate Map").
First Year Of Impact 2011
Sector Energy,Financial Services, and Management Consultancy
Impact Types Economic,Policy & public services

 
Description CASE partnership on NERC quota student
Amount £6,000 (GBP)
Organisation Centrica 
Sector Private
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2010 
End 01/2014
 
Description NERC PURE
Amount £19,590 (GBP)
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Department NERC PURE programme
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2014 
End 04/2014
 
Description National Grid
Amount £1 (GBP)
Funding ID NGET00016 
Organisation The National Grid Co plc 
Sector Private
Country United Kingdom
Start 08/2012 
End 07/2015
 
Description Wind generation's contribution to supporting peak electricity demand in the UK 
Organisation Durham University
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Research which was developed through the project (and related sub-projects) has been presented to a wide variety of audiences - both academic and industrial. This began before, occurred throughout, and has continues after the project timespan. On specific collaboration/partnership was with Durham and Heriot-Watt Universities - facilitated by participation in workshops at the Isaac Newton Institute, Durham Uni and Strathclyde Uni. This led to the work on the "UK wind resource during peak electricity demand" problem and was published in the Journal of Risk and Reliability (see Outcomes). Collaboration with these researchers (and ongoing participation in associated workshops) is continuing.
Start Year 2010
 
Description Wind generation's contribution to supporting peak electricity demand in the UK 
Organisation Heriot-Watt University
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Research which was developed through the project (and related sub-projects) has been presented to a wide variety of audiences - both academic and industrial. This began before, occurred throughout, and has continues after the project timespan. On specific collaboration/partnership was with Durham and Heriot-Watt Universities - facilitated by participation in workshops at the Isaac Newton Institute, Durham Uni and Strathclyde Uni. This led to the work on the "UK wind resource during peak electricity demand" problem and was published in the Journal of Risk and Reliability (see Outcomes). Collaboration with these researchers (and ongoing participation in associated workshops) is continuing.
Start Year 2010