Impacts of accelerating deployment of offshore windfarms on near-surface climate


The European Union has set the ambitious goal of becoming climate neutral by 2050, which has stimulated renewable energy production and accelerated the deployment of offshore wind energy in the North Sea. Here, a high-resolution regional climate model was used to investigate the impact on the sea surface climate of large-scale offshore wind farms that are proposed for the North Sea. The results show a significant reduction in the air-sea heat fluxes and a local, annual mean net cooling of the lower atmosphere in the wind farm areas down to more than 2.0 Wm−2, due to a decrease in 10 m wind speed and turbulent kinetic energy and an increase in low-level clouds. Mean surface winds decreased by approximately 1 ms−1 downstream of wind farms. Furthermore, an increase of approximately 5% in mean precipitation was found over the wind farm areas. At a seasonal timescale, these differences are higher during winter and autumn than in other seasons. Although the offshore wind farms reduce the heat transport from the ocean to the atmosphere in the region of large wind farms, the atmospheric layers below the hub height show an increase in temperature, which is on the order of up to 10% of the climate change signal at the end of the century, but it is much smaller than the interannual climate variability. In contrast, wind speed changes are larger than projected mean wind speed changes due to climate change. Our results suggest that the impacts of large clustered offshore wind farms should be considered in climate change impact studies. Moreover, the identified offshore windfarm impacts on the sea surface climate and the introduced spatial pattern in atmospheric conditions, in particular the modeled wind speed changes, suggest potential impacts on local ocean dynamics and the structure of the marine ecosystem. This should be considered in future scenarios for the North Sea marine environment and taken into account as a structuring influence in the offshore environment.
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