Climate change implications for wind power resources in the Northwest United States

David J. Sailor, Michael Smith, Melissa Hart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

137 Scopus citations


Using statistically downscaled output from four general circulation models (GCMs), we have investigated scenarios of climate change impacts on wind power generation potential in a five-state region within the Northwest United States (Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming). All GCM simulations were extracted from the standardized set of runs created for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Analysis of model runs for the 20th century (20c3m) simulations revealed that the direct output of wind statistics from these models is of relatively poor quality compared with observations at airport weather stations within each state. When the GCM output was statistically downscaled, the resulting estimates of current climate wind statistics are substantially better. Furthermore, in looking at the GCM wind statistics for two IPCC future climate scenarios from the Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (SRES A1B and A2), there was significant disagreement in the direct model output from the four GCMs. When statistical downscaling was applied to the future climate simulations, a more coherent story unfolded related to the likely impact of climate change on the region's wind power resource. Specifically, the results suggest that summertime wind speeds in the Northwest may decrease by 5-10%, while wintertime wind speeds may decrease by relatively little, or possibly increase slightly. When these wind statistics are projected to typical turbine hub heights and nominal wind turbine power curves are applied, the impact of the climate change scenarios on wind power may be as high as a 40% reduction in summertime generation potential.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2393-2406
Number of pages14
JournalRenewable Energy
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Climate change
  • Renewable energy
  • Statistical downscaling
  • Wind power

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment


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