NCAR is uniquely qualified to help support our nation's transition to renewable energy due to NCAR's breadth of atmospheric science knowledge, experience with technology transfer, and access to university researchers. These capabilities led NCAR to include a new research frontier in the 2009 NCAR Strategic Plan.
NCAR will develop methods to more accurately assess and predict wind and cloud cover (insolation) in support of renewable energy industries. Understand the impacts of biofuels and other renewable energy technologies on water resources and regional climate.
Shifting the nation's energy portfolio toward renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar power, and biofuels, is a national priority. Atmospheric science has a role in developing these resources: important meteorological and climatic factors influence the amount of energy available from these sources, and renewable energy developments themselves can have climate and environmental impacts.
Improved understanding of the atmospheric boundary layer and the interaction of flow regimes with variable topography is crucial for developing wind resources. There is now widespread recognition that poor characterization of the atmospheric conditions (e.g., wind shear, turbulence) in which wind turbines operate is hindering the development of their energy–generation potential: wind farms are under–producing by 15–20%, and turbines that are designed for a 20–year lifetime are failing in less than five years. The efficiency of future power grids can be substantially improved by using accurate and detailed short–term weather predictions to control renewable power generation systems. New sensors and weather prediction systems are needed for future grids that may include energy storage components. Finally, in the area of biofuels, cultivating new crops for scaled up production could significantly change land–use patterns, which, in turn, could negatively impact soil erosion, water resources, and regional climate. NCAR has significant expertise in all of these areas. We plan to work with collaborators to develop weather and climate research programs focused on:
- Infrastructure planning and management, such as boundary layer studies and characterization of land use interactions with regional climate
- Develop partnerships with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, commercial weather service providers, and industries that are investing in wind power systems to develop, evaluate, and improve sensor technology, observational systems, and short-term wind prediction systems
- Investigate the potential value of improved short–term and seasonal weather prediction for determining energy demands, management of energy supply, pricing and markets, system operations and regulatory compliance, and minimization of economic risk