Present and Future Wind Energy Resources in Western Canada




Daines, Jeffrey Thomas

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Wind power presently plays a minor role in Western Canada as compared to hydroelectric power in British Columbia and coal and natural gas thermal power generation in Alberta. However, ongoing reductions in the cost of wind power generation facilities and the increasing costs of conventional power generation, particularly if the cost to the environment is included, suggest that assessment of the present and future wind field in Western Canada is of some importance. To assess present wind power, raw hourly wind speeds and homogenized monthly mean wind speeds from 30 stations in Western Canada were analyzed over the period 1971-2000 (past). The hourly data were adjusted using the homogenized monthly means to attempt to compensate for differences in anemometer height from the standard height of 10m and changes in observing equipment at stations. A regional reanalysis product, the North American Regional Reanalysis (NARR), and simulations conducted with the Canadian Regional Climate Model (CRCM) driven with global reanalysis boundary forcing, were compared to the adjusted station wind-speed time-series and probability distributions. The NARR had a better temporal correlation with the observations, than the CRCM. We posit this is due to the NARR assimilating regional observations, whereas the CRCM did not. The NARR was generally worse than the CRCM in reproducing the observed speed distribution, possibly due to the crude representation of the regional topography in NARR. While the CRCM was run at both standard (45 km) and fine (15 km) resolution, the fine grid spacing does not always provide better results: the character of the surrounding topography appears to be an important factor for determining the level of agreement. Multiple simulations of the CRCM at the 45 km resolution were also driven by two global climate models (GCMs) over the periods 1971-2000 (using only historic emissions) and 2031-2060 (using the A2 emissions scenario). In light of the CRCM biases relative to the observations, these simulations were calibrated using quantile-quantile matching to the adjusted station observations to obtain ensembles of 9 and 25 projected wind speed distributions for the 2031-2060 period (future) at the station locations. Both bias correction and change factor techniques were used for calibration. At most station locations modest increases in mean wind speed were found for most of the projected distributions, but with a large variance. Estimates of wind power density for the projected speed distributions were made using a relationship between wind speed and power from a CRCM simulation for both time periods using the 15km grid. As would be expected from the wind speed results and the proportionality of wind power to the cube of wind speed, wind power at the station locations is more likely than not to increase in the 2031-2060 period from the 1971-2000 period. Relative changes in mean wind speeds at station locations were found to be insensitive to the station observations and choice of calibration technique, suggesting that we estimate relative change at all 45km grid points using all pairs of past/future mean wind speeds from the CRCM simulations. Overall, our results suggest that wind energy resources in Western Canada are reasonably likely to increase at least modestly in the future.



Dynamical downscaling, global climate model, NARR, North American Regional Reanalysis, Canadian Regional Climate Model, CRCM, ECHAM5, CGCM3, Western Canada, British Columbia, Alberta, bias correction, change factor, wind energy resources, electrical power generation, quantile-quantile matching, calibration, wind speeds, airport weather stations, GCM, RCM, simulation, wind power density, relative change, A2 emissions scenario