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Wind-speed rebound calms 'global stilling' fear for turbines: study

Scientists say pick-up in winds over last decade reverses decline that threatened turbines' role in climate fight

Global wind speeds have picked back up over the last decade, in a rebound that an international team of scientists said calms fears that a trend called ‘global terrestrial stilling’ could hamper turbines' part in fighting climate change.

Analysis of 40 years of data from 1978 showed a dip in global annual wind speeds at a rate of 2.3% per decade in the years to 2010 – a trajectory that would have a big impact on the ability of the world’s turbine fleet to harvest power if it continued, according to research in Nature Climate Change.

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But global winds picked up sharply again from 2010 at a pace that outstripped by three times their previous rate of decrease and should keep rising for at least another decade, said the research team.

“This rapid increase in global wind speeds is certainly good news for the power industry,” said Adrian Chappell of Cardiff University’s School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, one of the study’s co-authors.

“The reversal in global terrestrial stilling bodes well for the expansion of large-scale and efficient wind power generation systems in these mid-latitude countries in the near future.”

The team led by a scientist at Princeton University, now based at Southern University of Science and Technology, Shenzhen, China, said complex changes in large-scale atmospheric circulation are behind the ‘global stilling’ and subsequent speed-up, warning that another fall-off can’t be ruled out.

Wind phenomena are high on the wind sector’s agenda, following Orsted’s recent announcement that wind-wake and blockage were having a bigger impact than expected on its offshore turbine fleet.

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