Vulnerability of wind power resources to climate change in the continental United States

Paul B. Breslow, David J. Sailor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

120 Scopus citations


Renewable energy resources will play a key role in meeting the world's energy demand over the coming decades. Unfortunately, these resources are all susceptible to variations in climate, and hence vulnerable to climate change. Recent findings in the atmospheric science literature suggest that the impacts of greenhouse gas induced warming are likely to significantly alter climate patterns in the future. In this paper we investigate the potential impacts of climate change on wind speeds and hence on wind power, across the continental US. General Circulation Model output from the Canadian Climate Center and the Hadley Center were used to provide a range of possible variations in seasonal mean wind magnitude. These projections were used to investigate the vulnerability of current and potential wind power generation regions. The models were generally consistent in predicting that the US will see reduced wind speeds of 1.0 to 3.2% in the next 50 years, and 1.4 to 4.5% over the next 100 years. In both cases the Canadian model predicted larger decreases in wind speeds. At regional scales the two models showed some similarities in early years of simulations (e.g. 2050), but diverged significantly in their predictions for 2100. Hence, there is still a great deal of uncertainty regarding how wind fields will change in the future. Nevertheless, the two models investigated here are used as possible scenarios for use in investigating regional wind power vulnerabilities, and point to the need to consider climate variability and long term climate change in citing wind power facilities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)585-598
Number of pages14
JournalRenewable Energy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Canadian Climate Center
  • Climate change
  • GCM
  • Hadley Center
  • Wind power

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment


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