Prospects for generating electricity by large onshore and offshore wind farms: Letter

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The decarbonisation of energy sources requires additional investments in renewable technologies, including the installation of onshore and offshore wind farms. For wind energy to remain competitive, wind farms must continue to provide low-cost power even when covering larger areas. Inside very large wind farms, winds can decrease considerably from their free-stream values to a point where an equilibrium wind speed is reached. The magnitude of this equilibrium wind speed is primarily dependent on the balance between turbine drag force and the downward momentum influx from above the wind farm. We have simulated for neutral atmospheric conditions, the wind speed field inside different wind farms that range from small (25 km2) to very large (105 km2) in three regions with distinct wind speed and roughness conditions. Our results show that the power density of very large wind farms depends on the local free-stream wind speed, the surface characteristics, and the turbine density. In onshore regions with moderate winds the power density of very large wind farms reaches 1 W m−2, whereas in offshore regions with very strong winds it exceeds 3 W m−2. Despite a relatively low power density, onshore regions with moderate winds offer potential locations for very large wind farms. In offshore regions, clusters of smaller wind farms are generally preferable; under very strong winds also very large offshore wind farms become efficient.
Original languageEnglish
Article number034022
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number3
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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