Research led by a team at Princeton University shows that wind speeds in northern mid-latitude regions have increased by roughly 7% since 2010.
The team examined the potential causes underlying global terrestrial stilling and its reversal. While changes in urbanization and vegetation have been proposed as contributors to global terrestrial stilling, these trends have not reversed since 2010, said Zhenzhong Zeng, who led the study as a postdoctoral researcher working with Eric Wood, Princeton’s Susan Dod Brown Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Emeritus.
The analysis showed that in each region of the globe, specific large-scale ocean-atmosphere oscillations, which are driven by many factors including the uneven heating of the Earth’s surface in different regions, were likely explanations for the observed trends in wind speeds.
Extending their findings to wind power generation, the researchers calculated that a typical wind turbine receiving the global average wind would have produced about 17% more energy in 2017 than in 2010. And using climate indices to project future wind speeds, they predicted a 37% increase by 2024.
“We predict that the increasing wind speed trend will continue for 10 years, but we also show that because this is caused by ocean-atmosphere oscillations, maybe a decade later it will reverse again,” he said. And since the lifespan of a wind turbine is usually 20 years at most, having reliable projections of wind speeds at particular locations could be crucial to making smart investments in wind power and increasing the global share of renewable energy.
The research, which looked only at regional averages, did not examine how the uptick in wind speeds might affect the severity of storms, which also has been increasing.