Climate change conditions set to benefit wind farms in South India

The looming threat of climate change is likely to cast a shadow over the renewable energy ambitions of various states across the country due to increasing cloud cover and decreasing high-velocity winds.

A recent study by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Ministry of Earth Sciences, Pune, reveals that seasonal and annual wind speed is likely to decrease over northern India and increase along from South India. On the other hand, it is estimated that solar radiation will decrease (10–15 Wm–2) over the next 50 years in all seasons.

As part of the study, researchers created climate simulations for the past 55 years and future projections for 55 years from six analysis models. The model indicates that the wind potential above the onshore regions shows an increasing trend, while the offshore regions show a decreasing trend for non-monsoon months.

The southern coast of Odisha and the states of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu show promising potential for wind power under the climate change scenario. The seasonal analysis indicates that the southern and northwestern regions of the country will have higher wind speeds during the winter and monsoon months when the wind potential is greatest. The regional wind potential analysis also indicates that the frequency of high-energy producing wind speeds will decrease, while low-energy producing wind speeds are expected to increase in the future, according to the study.

Solar energy to take a hit

Solar projections for the future, however, indicate that solar radiation will decrease during all seasons in most solar active agricultural regions of the country, including Kerala. For future investments in the solar energy sector, central and south-central India should be considered during the months preceding the monsoon, as the potential loss is minimal in these regions.

Future projections also predict a shift in the frequency of solar radiation in the negative direction, implying that solar energy production will decrease in the immediate future. This can be attributed to the increase in total cloud cover, according to the study.

R&D impulse call

Talk to The Hindu IITM’s Dr Parthasarathi Mukhopadhyay, who is part of the study with researchers TS Anandh and Deepak Gopalakrishnan, said aerosol pollution will increase in the atmosphere and pollution improves cloud life , which would interfere with incoming solar radiation. “The projection we made indicates that there would be a reduction in solar radiation of 10 to 15% in the next 50 years. What we highlighted in the study is that research and development (R&D) should be targeted to reduce the possible impact of climate change on the renewable energy sector with increased efficiency of solar cells, etc. said Mr. Mukhopadhyay.

To overcome the anticipated loss, more solar and wind farms and highly efficient technologies than currently available should be experimented with, he added.

This takes on significance in the context of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement at CoP-26 (26th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)). Mr Modi announced that the Union government is striving to reach 500 GW of installed capacity from non-fossil fuels by 2030. The cumulative installed capacity of solar power is currently 57,705 MW. Kerala has the potential to generate 6.11 Gwp of solar power and Tamil Nadu can produce 17.67 Gwp, while the two states have an installed capacity of 465.13 MW and 3995.87 MW, respectively.

Teresa H. Sadler