Objective and Background
Australia is a country with significant wind wind power potential with wind energy accounting for 33% of renewable electricity, and a 5% share of total electricity generation. As wind energy relies greatly on the variability of the weather, for future wind energy sites there is a gap in the understanding of wind generations vulnerability to climate change. For current wind energy sites, resource assessment and planning has focused on numerical modelling or long term measurements taken at a site, in effect looking to past behaviour of the resource. For future developments, we should also be taking into account any future changes in climate to determine the reliability of the resource in the future. It is therefore of great importance to determine if the sites we are choosing now will still be both optimal and economically viable in 20 years’ time due to changes in the climate.
In order to assess the future economic viability of wind energy we have run a 12-member ensemble of high-resolution regional climate simulations forced by Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP) output over Australia. We looked at the impact climate change had on Extractable Wind Power (EWP) based on a VESTAS V90-3 MW for the recent past, near future and far future. The Levelised Cost of Energy (LCOE) was used as a measure to ascertain the risk with continuing investment in future wind energy.
Our results show that the LCOE increases negligibly in the future in regions with significant existing installed capacity. We also find projected small reductions in wind energy, but with technological developments taken into account the LCOE decreases by around 30%. These results confirm the viability for existing wind farms, and enhance the economic viability of proposed wind farms in Western Australian and Tasmania.
Wind energy is therefore a resilient source of electricity over most of Australia and technological innovation entering the market will open new regions for energy production in the future. The projected changes in wind due to changes in climate are small compared to the benefits from expected technological innovation, and show that wind energy is a resilient source of electricity over most of Australia. The most ideal regions for wind energy production will remain similar in the future, but regions in the South of Australia such as Tasmania and parts of Western Australia, already possible locations, will provide particularly good future opportunities. In contrast, proposed developments in the North - North East of Australia will remain less viable, one key reason being the risk associated with tropical cyclones in these areas.