Impact of climate change on wind energy generation in the UK
Cradden, Lucy Catherine
The release of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels for energy is thought to be one of the main contributors to increasing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. This increase is reported to be causing irreversible changes to the earth’s climate, giving rise to temperature increases and other consequent alterations in weather patterns. Amid growing concern about climate change and its impact on the world, targets have been set through agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol and via European Union and government legislation to force countries to work towards decreasing their greenhouse gas emissions. Increasing the contribution that renewable sources make to energy production is a major part of most countries’ strategies to meet these targets. The UK has arguably the greatest potential for wind power generation in Europe and the government is seeking to build upon this strength by exploiting the resource further. The liberalised electricity market infers a requirement for private investment in order to develop the wind portfolio and this in turn requires financial and economic feasibility. Given the changes in weather patterns that are projected to occur over the course of the coming century, the possibility that this could change the UK’s wind resource, and hence the financial viability of wind power developments, must be addressed. Other aspects of how changes in the wind resource could impact on the operation of the fragmented electricity system ought also to be considered in this context. This thesis attempts to understand how the current generation of climate models project surface wind climate to change, and seeks to make the model information relevant at a site level by using statistical and physical modelling techniques. The projected changes indicated by the models are small, and it has been assessed that potential impacts on the electricity system, from project feasibility to the potential for inclusion of wind in the generation mix, will be limited.