Recent maps indicate an above average wind-power production is likely in the first quarter of 2011 across much of the continental U.S. due to a strong La Niña. In addition to foreshadowing a boon for wind power operators, these Seattle-based 3TIER’s analysis demonstrates that the long-term climactic variability of wind power can be anticipated and factored into the long-term financial planning for a project.
“For the prediction, we performed a historical analysis of La Niña impacts on weather across the U.S. for the past 40 years,” says 3TIER’s VP of Advanced Applications Pascal Storck. “Our data show that if the La Niña persists, as is forecasted by the global-climate modeling community, many wind projects across the country should have a very good first quarter. This is a nice change from the first quarter of 2010 when many U.S. wind projects experienced below average wind speeds due to a strong El Niño effect.” The maps plot the probability as a percentage that wind speeds will exceed their long-term averages. The company released maps for the fourth quarter of 2010 and the first quarter of 2011. They are available at:
Unfortunately, the map also portends a low probability of higher wind speeds throughout the important wind corridor of west Texas, across a wide swath of the upper Midwest extending deep into Canada, and along the northeastern seaboard.
Things change significantly in Q1 2011. Deep, saturated reds dominate the map across much of the country, indicating an increased probability of above average wind speeds. The only parts of the country that do not have an increased probability of higher than average winds speeds are sections of southern Arizona, Nevada, and California and pockets near the Canadian border from Minnesota to Montana.
The La Niña phenomena is characterized by a cooling of surface water in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, while El Niño creates an opposite, warming effect. Both are phases of a larger weather pattern known as ENSO (El Niño / Southern Oscillation).
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