Climate Change Won’t Affect Europe’s Electric Grid

By: | March 26th, 2019

This graphical abstract shows how researchers used different projections of climatic outcomes over the 21st century to assess how important key metrics of a highly renewable electricity system might be affected by climate change.

Credit: Kozarcanin et al./Joule from cell.com

The temperature rise across the planet will have devastating consequences on the biodiversity and human energy consumption in a couple of years. Researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark studied how unavoidable changes in climate affect weather-dependent electricity systems. 

Do Weather Extremes Cause the Electric Grid to Fail?

The team developed specific models that can “predict wind turbine and solar panel output for all European countries under the most common global warming scenarios through the year 2100.”

Scientists selected five key metrics to find out if weather-dependant electric grid works in the developed models:

  1. The need for dispatchable electricity
  2. The capacity for dispatchable electricity (which can be stored and used on demand by power grid operators)
  3. The benefit of electrical transmission,
  4. The benefit of electrical storage
  5. The variability of electricity production and consumption.

According to EurekAlert!, “these metrics measure the most important aspects of a large-scale renewable-heavy electricity system and are abstract enough that the team could use them to draw general conclusions without focusing on a specific technology mix.”

Smail Kozarcanin, a PhD fellow in the Department of Engineering and the first author of the study said that the team wants to “understand, for example, how climate change affects the system independent of which technologies are used to cover the demand that remains unmet by wind and solar. To the best of our knowledge, this technology-independent focus in combination with high-resolution data on climate change projections is unique to our study.”

The research was published March 6 in the journal Joule, suggests that the electric grid should work well in European climates in the future, despite constant change of the weather patterns.

How Electric Grids Will Work in the Future

Kozarcanin added that “future wind turbines may require new types of storm protection and solar panels could need protection against super hailstorms, but their study shows that large-scale infrastructure choices, such as back-up power plant capacity, are relatively unaffected by the level of climate change.” European electric grids will, however, need tweaks to operate smoothly in the future.

Bianca Van der Watt

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