Wind speed reductions caused by an upwind farm decreased electricity generation to its downwind neighbor by 5 percent

Reduced Wind Speed Could Be a Problem

By —— Bio and Archives--February 2, 2019

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Reduced Wind Speed Could Be a ProblemWind energy resources have been in sharp decline in regions all across the world, according to a study by Chinese researchers.

After analyzing data from more than 1,000 weather stations around the world, the researchers found that 67 percent had witnessed an extensive decrease in wind power potential over the course of nearly 40 years. The team, which also included a researcher from Purdue University, reached their findings after examining the changes of wind surface speeds from 1979 to 2016. 1


The results show that surface wind speeds were decreasing in the past forty decades over most regions in the Northern Hemisphere. Around 30 percent of locations in North America have witnessed a 30 percent drop or more in available hub-height wind power. Sites in Europe were worse, where about 40 percent experienced a similar decline. However, the effect was the most significant in Asia, where around 80 percent of sites on the continent saw a 30 percent drop in wind.

It’s not immediately clear what is behind the decline of wind across the Northern Hemisphere. Dr. Gang Huang, a corresponding author of the research, surmised that surface cover changes, such as fast expansion of cities in developing countries, could possibly be affecting wind speeds, but maintained that it’s just an assumption. 2

Another cause could be the expansion of wind energy technology itself. Wind speed reductions caused by an upwind farm decreased electricity generation to its downwind neighbor by 5 percent, costing the owner at least $3.7 million from 2011 to 2015. 3

Wind farms tend to cluster as project developers pursue sites with the best wind resources and access to transmission lines. According to researchers, nearly 90 percent of US wind farms are located within 25 miles of another wind farm. Said Daniel Kaffine, a study co-author and professor in CU Boulder’s Department of Economics: “What ‘s really exciting about this study is the fact that we were actually able to measure this using real-world data and simulate it using atmospheric data to confirm these wake effects are real and have real effects on energy production.” The study found that wake effects are much stronger and more prevalent at night. 4

Conversely, the wind is getting faster around the poles and in certain coastal areas. In a perplexing twist, ocean winds also appear to be accelerating

Other researchers have also reported near-surface wind speeds over land masses across the planet have dropped by as much as 25% since the 1970s. 5

In 2012 a research team compiled results from almost 150 regional studies showing reduced wind speeds were taking place across most of the world. 6

Conversely, the wind is getting faster around the poles and in certain coastal areas. In a perplexing twist, ocean winds also appear to be accelerating.

An obvious area of concern is the potential effects on wind power. However, this does not appear to be anything to worry about in the short term. Stilling, which is the term used for this phenomenon, has so far been detected only at heights up to 10 meters, while turbines harvest their energy 50 to 150 meters above the ground., 6

Experts warn to use caution before reaching conclusions. In other words, the jury is still out on this issue.


  1. Qun Tian et al., “Observed and global climate model based changes in wind power potential over the Northern Hemisphere during 1979- 2016,” Energy, 167, 1224, January 2019
  2. Jason Hopkins, “A new study could spell trouble for the future of wind energy,” dailycaller.com, December 27, 2018
  3. J. K. Lundquist et al., “Costs and consequences of wind turbine wake effects arising from uncoordinated wind energy development,” Nature Energy, November 26, 2018
  4. Justin Gerdes, “Wake effect cost downwind wind farm millions in reduced electricity production,” greentechmedia.com, December 7, 2018
  5. Michael Lucy, “The wind is slowing down,” cosmosmagazine.com, May 11, 2018
  6. Tim R. McVicar et al., “Global review and synthesis of trends in observed terrestrial near-surface wind speeds: implications for evaporation,” Journal of Hydrology, 182, 416-417, January 2012



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Jack Dini -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Jack Dini is author of Challenging Environmental Mythology.  He has also written for American Council on Science and Health, Environment & Climate News, and Hawaii Reporter.

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