Long-term climate changes can influence green energy’s supply.

Photo by Appolinary Kalashnikova on Unsplash

One of wind power’s challenges is that it varies greatly day by day. A new study by Columbia’s Earth Institute’s David Farnham found that the same could be true across all green energy sources for decades to come.

According to an article by Phys.Org, “long-term climate patterns such as El Niño could change where the wind is blowing and where the sun is shining for one to ten years at a time.” These longer-term patterns could shift renewable energy’s regional availability.

David Farnham, the study’s author, based his report on U.S. data from the past 50 to 70 years. “One of the main findings is that these variations in year-to-year and decade-to-decade electricity generation can be very large,” he said. His research found that within ten years, wind power could meet 61-98% of an area’s heating and cooling demands, but could provide 129-200% in the decade that follows. The study found that these expected changes in green power availability are related to “long-term climate patterns such as the El Niño Southern Oscillation, the North Atlantic Oscillation, and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation.” These findings are helpful because they shed light on green energy’s future variance. This means that climate change will make proper green energy estimation more unpredictable. This can be problematic for government officials and business owners who want to make long-term plans for solar, wind, and other green energy availability.

Farnham’s study also discovered that clean energy’s demand will be difficult to predict because it will shift with decades to come. His research found that climate change is expected to affect power grid’s demands due to expected temperature changes, which will influence the need for heating and cooling of people’s businesses and homes. If climate change causes “weather whiplash” as expected, more extreme weather conditions will cause an increase in demand needs.

Phys.Org reports that predicted energy demand and supply will not always align. For example, if there is a prolonged wind decrease to an area during wintertime, then there will be a decrease in wind power availability as energy demand for heating remains stagnant. Governments and energy companies need to understand how climate change will affect green energy supply and demand in order to strategize effectively for the future. Phys.Org advises governments to invest in smart planning and interconnected systems which can “balance out the fluctuations by spreading generation facilities over areas that are impacted differently by the same climate phenomena.” The article also explains that utilizing multiple types of green energy in the same region could help balance out these fluctuations.

Many regions in the U.S. are incorporating more green approaches to fulfill their local energy needs. In order for these green initiatives to be successful, having a full understanding of climatic impacts “will become more and more important to consider,” says Farnham.