Temperature keeps rising and extreme weather events keep coming; the telltale signs of climate change. To keep it contained, many people have switched their source of energy to the renewable ones like solar and wind. Researchers have been helping with the innovation, too.
But will things be the same in the future, when the climate changes?
Researchers investigate whether the power generated by solar and wind farms would differ between current and future climates. Their paper has been published in the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy, by AIP Publishing.
Australia was the focus of the researchers, since the country is an ideal case study with extreme weather events, such as bush fires and windstorms. Specifically, selected sites were Adelaide in South Australia and in southern New South Wales
In those places, there are variable renewable generators and they’re likely to be located in the future based on the Australian Energy Market Operator’s system plan. The researchers then analyzed key weather variables, such as temperature, surface solar irradiance and wind speed, in 30-minute intervals for the years 1980 to 2060.
“We found that the general temporal trends in annual solar and wind power generation due to climate change are small, being at the order of 0.1% of its average production per decade,” said Jing Huang, one of the authors.
However, during the five hottest days of every year, there’s a significant effect of climate change on renewable energy production.
During these peak temperature days that coincided with peak energy demand and peak prices, solar power production was down 0.5%-1.1%, and wind farm production decreased between 1.6%-3% per decade.
The purpose of these findings is to inform the electricity sector about the reliability of interconnected power networks in different temperature conditions. Central power operators, for instance, need to plan for all contingencies to avoid power blackouts.
Questions may rise because the researchers chose only two sites in Australia. But, quantifying temperature impacts on renewable energy generation can be generalized to other areas beyond this country.
Huang said, “For different regions, there are different effects of climate change.” He added that it would be important to conduct more case studies in other areas and climate regions to examine spatial climate variability and couple the findings with other aspects of energy systems, such as load and transmission infrastructure.
So basically, things will be different in the future if the climate changes, making solar and wind power more limited. But one of the authors stated that further studies are necessary, so we shouldn’t think that our planet is doomed yet.
Global warming connection to hydropower
There’s also a new study with a similar note, which is connecting the impacts of global warming to hydropower. Researchers from International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) and China investigated it.
In the future, when things become mostly sustainable and less carbon-intensive, hydropower will play an increasingly crucial role as an important source of renewable and clean energy in the world’s overall energy supply.
Hydropower generation has doubled over the last three decades and is projected to double again from the present level by 2050. Unfortunately, global warming is threatening the world’s water supplies.
This, in turn, poses a significant threat to hydropower generation and that’s a problem because there will be an increase in energy demand (due of population growth and socioeconomic development) as opposed to a decrease.
Published in the journal Water Resources Research, the study was conducted by researchers from IIASA in collaboration with colleagues at several Chinese institutions.
Together, they employed a coupled hydrological and techno-economic model framework to identify optimal locations for hydropower plants under global warming levels of 1.5°C and 2°C and they also considered gross hydropower potential, power consumption, and economic factors at the same time.
According to the authors, determining the effects of different levels of global warming has become a hot topic in water resources research. But, there are still relatively few studies on the impacts of different global warming levels on hydropower potential.
The researchers looked at the potential for hydropower production under the two different levels of warming in Indonesia, specifically in Sumatra and one of the Sunda Islands of western Indonesia.
They chose Sumatra because it’s vulnerable to global warming (due to sea level rise) as well as the island’s environmental conditions that makes an ideal location for developing and utilizing hydropower resources.
Additionally, the researchers also modeled and visualized optimal locations of hydropower plants using the IIASA BeWhere model, and discussed hydropower production based on selected hydropower plants and the reduction in carbon emissions that would result from using hydropower instead of fossil fuels.
Surprisingly, the results show that global warming levels of both 1.5°C and 2°C will have a positive impact on the hydropower production of Sumatra. However, hydropower production ration to power demand provided by 1.5°C of global warming is greater than the 2°C of global warming under a scenario.
These results were caused by a decrease in precipitation and the fact that the south east of Indonesia observes the highest discharge decrease under this scenario.
Also, the reduction in CO2 emissions under global warming of 1.5°C is greater than that achieved under global warming of 2°C. This reveals that global warming decreases the benefits necessary to relieve global warming levels.
Moreover, the findings also illustrate the relation and tension between greenhouse gas-related goals and ecosystem conservation-related goals by considering the trade-off between the protected areas and hydropower plant expansion.
Study lead author Ying Meng concluded, “Our study could significantly contribute to establishing a basis for decision making on energy security under 1.5°C and 2°C global warming scenarios.”
“Our findings can also potentially be an important basis for a large range of follow-up studies to, for instance, investigate the trade-off between forest conservancy and hydropower development, to contribute to the achievement of countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement.”
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