Too Many Big Wind Farms may end up Slowing Each Other Down

Although there is still much to done, the world has come a long way in terms of renewable energy over the past few years. We are becoming less dependent on fossil fuels every day, and advances in wind and solar technology allow some countries to driven by renewable (sometimes more than once). One of the best sources of renewable energy in the world is wind power – and one of the best sources of wind energy is offshore wind farms. 

That is why the industry has exploded over the past decade, doubling since 2010. The Biden administration recently took the lead for the first U.S. beach air farm, and Denmark is even building a wind farm island in the North Sea. However, according to a team from the Institute of Coastal Systems at Helmholtz-Zentrum Hereon, this dramatic increase in the number of wind farms may not necessarily translate to the same dramatic increase in power output. In German waters, where wind farms are now responsible for the equivalent power output of about eight nuclear power plants, researchers have found that farms are producing 25 percent less energy than expected – and now they know why. “Our results show that large wind farm clusters have the potential to significantly improve those atmospheric dynamics,” the team said in a research report published this week.

“[It] could lead to a decrease in wind speed locally that could extend up to about 25 kilometers from the farm.” In their survey, the team looked at current and planned wind farms in the North Sea. Using a sophisticated computer modeling system, they then calculate the wind speed that can expected with the collection of these farms. “Our simulations show that the wind climate of large clustered OWFs [offshore windfarms] significantly affects renewable energy generation efficiency at the regional level.”

The team discovered that the atmospheric effect follows a cyclical pattern throughout the year, with the largest decrease in wind speed occurring in March or April when the weather is relatively calm. At the other end of the year, in November and December, stormy, unpredictable weather results in the effect of a small awakening from the farms. The authors explain that “the [range] of awakening varies,” depending on wind speed and atmospheric stratification, and can extend up to 70 km downwind.”